“The Spirit Is Willing, But
The Flesh Is Weak.”
In his book
Erroneous Zones, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer writes, “Look over your shoulder. You
will notice a constant companion. For want of a better name, call him
Your-Own-Death. You can fear this visitor or use him for your personal
gain. The choice is up to you.”
power of death and the power of life are present in every step we take in
life. Realizing Your-Own-Death is your constant companion
Dr. Dyer challenges us to ask ourselves some sobering questions. “Should I
avoid doing the things I really want to do?” “Are things important to
accumulate?” “Is putting it off the way to live?” (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Your
Erroneous Zones, Avon Books, New York, New York, pg. 17.) Life and death
are wrapped up in each of these questions.
We have grown
up in a culture that has convinced us that we are not responsible. We are
convinced that something or someone outside ourselves is responsible for
our actions. Think about how we seek to defend ourselves. We have used
these statements over and over.
“You hurt my
“You make me
“I can’t help
the way I feel.”
“I just feel
angry, don’t ask me to explain it.”
“He makes me
turns me on.”
“You made a
fool of me in public.”
Every one of
these statements is a statement about Your-Own-Death. It leaves you
believing you have no choice in the way you act. To adapt this approach to
life is to sign Your-Own-Death warrant. Of course, Dr. Dyer encourages us
to take charge of our own lives, but the Bible encourages us to put God in
charge of our lives, after all God has the power of life and death.
There is a
part of us desirous of doing the right thing, then, there is that part of
us wanting to take the easy way out. The easy way is seldom the best way.
Jesus faced this decision as he confronted the cross.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a
place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over
there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with
him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them,
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and
keep watch with me."
39 Going a little farther, he fell with
his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this
cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40 Then he returned to his disciples and
found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?"
he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into
temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body [flesh] is weak." NIV
revelation of Jesus’ humanness was never more evident than in Gethsemane
when he was called upon to relinquish his life to overcome his-own-death.
The touching thing in this scene is that Jesus’ spirit cried an
agonizing prayer for God’s will to be accomplished with his life, but the
flesh threw him face down to the ground. Jesus says, “The spirit is
willing, but the body [flesh] is weak.” Jesus’ spirit was willing to obey
the Father’s will to the point of death, but his flesh sought to escape
the ordeal as he cried out, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be
taken from me.” The call of the flesh was so strong that Jesus’ sweat was
as drops of blood falling to the ground.
said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” “Peter
declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And
all the other disciples said the same” (Matthew 26:35 NIV). But they
denied him in almost the same breath (Matthew 26:69-75). Their spirit was
willing, but their flesh was weak.
The Flesh Is Weak
you noticed that life starts out with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude?
Children start out this way, they are selfish. By the way, this attitude
A man walked
into a service station to have his car worked on. There he saw a mechanic
thoroughly scrub his hands and begin cleaning the upholstery in a blue
truck. The man changed the oil, tested the motor, checked the air pressure
in all the tires, including the spare, and buffed over some rust spots on
the rear bumper. The customer walked over the service manager, and pointed
to the energetic mechanic, hoping to get him to work on his car. "I’ve
been watching that guy, and he certainly looks like a good mechanic." "He
is," laughed the service manager, "especially when he’s working on his own
seems more exciting to just live for self, but it is the way of death.
When Absalom, David’s son, was seeking to dethrone him, David cried out
“My own flesh is trying to take my life.” In the same way it seems as
though the weakness of our own bodies tries to squeeze the very life out
difficulty is the flesh’s appetite is insatiable—even when it gets what it
wants, it doesn’t want it anymore. It leads us to want more of something
else. This is why Paul admonishes, “. . . do not think about how to
gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” The reason is they cannot be
disquieting battle between the spirit and the flesh it is often difficult
to tell which one is winning—the body or the spirit. The flesh is very
deceitful. We may convince ourselves the spirit is winning only to
discover we have been deceived by the flesh. Paul stated he had lived in
all good conscience before God and man (Acts 23:1), but while living in
all good conscience he was murdering Christians.
Corinthians were caught in this trap. They thought they were spiritual
minded, but their flesh was in complete control.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as
spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not
solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not
ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling
among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? NIV
the problems in the church today are due to spiritual immaturity.
Often, the more immature and less knowledgeable a person—the stronger
their will. Such a person may misinterpret a strong will for a strong
faith. Even the ones who know the most must fight against fleshly
immaturity, for knowledge in and of itself is not spiritual wisdom. Listen
to what Paul says in the following verses. Paul writes, “I beat my body
and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself
will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV).
Sometimes we have to beat our own bodies to keep it from squeezing the
very life out of us. Even Christ cried out “Not my will . . .”
This must be the cry of every Christian. It is the cry of a spirit wanting
to overcome the flesh.
18 I know that nothing good lives in me,
that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good,
but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do;
no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what
I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in
me that does it. NIV
Thy Will Be Done
biblical concept of flesh is what we call ego today. The acronym
for Ego is Edging God Out. Edging God Out is Your-Own-Death.
Your-Own-Death desires to edge God out. The fundamental mistake today is
that we begin with ourselves instead of God. Our ego becomes the center of
our lives. This is the root cause of every moral problem in our society.
Abortion is considered because of what is best for us, not the unborn.
Homosexuality is embraced because our fleshly ego convinces us perversion
is natural. Drugs are used because the flesh is looking for a high.
only edges God out, it edges everybody out of our lives. A
mortician at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California was asked, "What was the
most expensive funeral he ever had there?" The mortician didn't have to
search his memory. A man embittered at his ex-wife and children had left
them almost nothing, but had provided bountifully for his own final,
ostentatious farewell. He had assigned $200,000, about a half-million in
 dollars. First a bronze casket was bought for around $18,000, and a
beautiful rose window was created for $25,000. But after these and other
expenditures, the mortuary still had about $100,000. What next? Their
solution was orchids--one hundred thousand dollars worth! And how many
attended this $200,000 extravaganza? Exactly three. ("A Message From the
Publisher," Christianity Today, May 17, 1985, p. 12. Submitted by Ken
Newberger, Dallas, Texas.)
have changed over the last 2000 years since Christ died, but one thing is
definitely still true: We still need saving from ourselves.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the
end it leads to death."
our egos are so fragile that we can’t bear to tell ourselves no.
Our egos have convinced us we must never say no to self. We certainly
don’t want others telling us no. William V. Shannon in the Tampa
Tribune-Times wrote: "Many of our adolescents and young adults cannot
‘just say no’ …because their whole approach to life has been shaped by
television, the land where ‘no’ does not exist." (David Redick, Sense and
first century people are living out the old ‘70s dictum, "If it feels
good, do it" in ever greater numbers today with ever greater and more
destructive consequences. But you’d better not point it out to
them. God forbid that anyone would have the nerve to question the validity
of such so-called "freedom." Oh no! You can’t do that! (Adapted David
Redick, Sense and Sensuality,
the Corinthian church were weak and sickly, for they sought the glory due
God. They were naïve enough to believe they were actually seeking
God’s glory, when they were actually edging God out. Every problem the
church of Corinthian had can be traced to their desire to seek their own
way, their own glory. Today every problem in the home and in the church
can be traced to the same cause. Paul warns us not to “become conceited,
provoking and envying each other.”
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have
crucified the sinful nature [flesh] with its passions and desires. 25
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let
us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. NIV
Provocation, conceit and envy are egotistical responses. Ego will
only confine us to a self created prison. It’s a kill-joy, and produces
all sorts of problems.
Ego is an
attempt to steal the glory of God. When God gets the glory, we experience
his life giving power. God gets the glory when we allow his will to be
done in our lives to accomplish his purposes. When we steal
God’s glory we rob ourselves of his power—death overtakes us.
God his due is to wield a death blow to the devil’s power over our lives.
Jesus came in the weakness of the flesh, but he allowed God to direct his
life to destroy Satan’s death hold on him.
14 Since the children have flesh and
blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might
destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- 15 and free
those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For
this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order
that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to
God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those
who are being tempted. NIV
God’s Will through Prayer
purpose of prayer is to focus our lives on God. When Jesus was
torn between two worlds he focused on God’s will through prayer as he
prayed “Thy will be done . . .” This is the purpose of prayer.
A woman said
to a guest at dinner, "We say grace at dinner each day to remind us around
here that there is something bigger than our egos." Prayer can free us
from the gravitational pull of our egos and remind us of the goodness and
might of God. Prayer can move us from self-centered preoccupation to
wonder and awe. (Maxie Dunnam in Living the Psalms. Christianity Today,
Vol. 37, no. 4.)
Prayer is the only thing that can free us from the everlasting
burden of having to have our own way. We struggle with this kind
of prayer. Jesus asked repeatedly for this cup to pass. Paul prayed three
times for God to remove the thorn in his flesh. Abraham had to struggle
when he offered Isaac for a sacrifice. None of these prayers were answered
according to the will of the one praying.
initial prayer lives begin as we struggle with God’s will.
Initially we may beg, demand, or expect God to respond to our request
showering us with blessings. We major in instant solutions as we strive to
manipulate God for our purposes.
mature we begin to realize prayer is not to get our will done in our
lives. Prayer is for the purpose of relinquishing our wills, as we
cry as Jesus did, “Thy will be done . . .” The one thing God must do to
get us to pray this kind of prayer is to bring us to the end of ourselves.
We can only pray this type of prayer when we understand God’s way is the
only way. Jesus understood this; Paul’s thorn in the flesh brought him to
this realization; Abraham had to determine that God would provide a
sacrifice if all else failed.
most difficult thing in life is to be brought to a place where you must
abandon yourself. The book of Esther is a beautiful book. Esther
is brought to the end of herself as she faces her need to save the Jews.
To do so she must risk her own life. There is no other way out. She simply
says, “If I perish, I perish.” In doing so she allowed God to step into
her life in a powerful way.
brought to the end of himself when he was thrown into the Lion’s den. I
like to remind us that Daniel was probably around 65 years old when he was
thrown into the Lion’s den. This reminds me that it is not too late to be
brought to the end of myself.
If Jesus had
not suffered the cross he would have never experienced the resurrection.
When the disciples waited in the upper room in Jerusalem on Pentecost it
was the last place they wanted to be. But they were at the end of
themselves. They began to pray. They had no choice but to rely on God’s
power. This allowed God to come in a powerful way on Pentecost.
Salvation is about God becoming the center of all life. Without
him there is no way we can plot a true course for our lives. God enters
our lives to reveal the truth about ourselves. We don’t have to figure out
how we are made or how we are supposed to respond, God already has it
figured out. But we must come to the end of ourselves and accept his ways
for our lives.
Coming to the
end of self is a scary proposition for we must recognize no good thing
dwells in our flesh. When we come to the end of ourselves, the end of our
resources we may think God is out to destroy us, but he isn’t. He merely
desires to transform us into the image of himself. Paul states it in
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go
on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how
can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were
baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were
therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just
as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too
may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like
this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his
resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so
that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be
slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe
that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was
raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery
over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life
he lives, he lives to God. NIV
invites you to be crucified with him. Yes, the flesh is forever
resisting, but the power of the resurrection is awaiting your response.
Want you die the death of Christ in baptism, so that you can live him?