Too often what keeps us from strength, is not an actual weakness, but discouragement
about the weakness.
I. How God Sees You
- At the Party. God's attitude is that of the Father in the Prodigal Son story: when we come back he celebrates with a party! (Luke 15.)
- The Cape Lie. We tend to see worthiness like a cape we put on—but that's a lie. Sin doesn't keep us from God, only unrepented sin. God's love is always with us, because of Christ.
- Comprehensive Coverage. Jesus died even for sins we've yet to commit, so no sins are a surprise to him (only a surprise to us).
- Refined Senses. We are more aware of our weaknesses when fighting them. C. S. Lewis: "we know the strength of the wind by walking into it, not from giving into it."
- Periodic Weeding. Some vices need periodic weeding. Relax. God allows them because: a.) We will never have a weed-less garden until Heaven. b.) Gardening muscles are strengthened. c.) Smaller weeds to grow where larger ones might grow. (E.g., Sometimes a struggle with lust may keep one from being proud.)
- The Paradox of Mercy. Unfortunately, sometimes the best way we know love is after mercy: "You are forgiven. Go in peace." Paradoxically, "where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Rom 5:20.) God: "I have no need of your strength; but I have great need of your weakness."
- His Perfection Over Ours. In Prayer of Jabez Bruce Wilkinson says "The most effective war against sin is to pray that we will not have to fight." Christianity is not about our being perfect as much as God's perfection. It's not about our love for God, as much as God's love for us.
God is Working Evil Into Good
- Satan's Double Standard. Before sin the devil wants us to take it lightly; after sin he wants us to feel condemned. By his standard, either way we're shafted.
- Conviction vs. Condemnation. The devil condemns; the Holy Spirit convicts. God points out sin to separate us from it; the devil to de-motivate us. God encourages, the devil discourages.
- Sense vs. Reality. After sin, a spiritual "muddiness" may result, even after repentance. But note that God may take away our sense of worthiness, but not our actual worthiness—that's His gift.
- Lending a Hand. God again turns evil into good by using our experience to help others with similar struggles. How would you counsel someone in the same situation? You would likely be a great encouragement, like Christ.
- Three Responses After Tripping. a.) Some want to stay on the ground. b.) Some want to get up, but feel unable. c.) Some get up. Note: the saint is the one in the third category, not the one who never falls! The key: keep getting up.
- Let it Go. During prayer repentance is usually the least amount of time, dwarfed by praise. Once you've sincerely repented, move on.
- God's Help. If we let our disappointment about our sin keep us from God, then the time we need God the most is the time we avoid his help.
- Diminishing Returns. After some point, we are less fruitful for God by worrying about how fruitful for God we are! Avoid paralysis of analysis and simply run through it, like an athlete.
- It's Really Self-Focus. Often disappointment about falling in sin is not because we've let the Lord down, but because of self-focus, otherwise we'd get back up more easily.
- Fresh Pampers. Sin is like a poopy diaper; once it's changed: be ready to party!