Doubts, Struggles, Sin…and Grace and Us
“I have doubts. But people just laugh them off. Does anyone care? I guess perhaps it is time to move on…”
“I am struggling with alcohol. I keep giving in, getting drunk…no one gets hurt, we can afford it and only affects me in the mornings when I have a headache. I want to break this, I know it is a sin. I try to get help in the church, but my church friends all tell me it’s not that bad, alcohol is not a sin, getting drunk is, you’re just too sensitive…”
“I am struggling with Porn. I need help. I grew up in the the church so I have an image to maintain. I am not supposed to struggle with this stuff. So I hide it. I should be able to go to the church with this, but people just won’t get it…”
“I don’t feel as though I belong in the church. I feel like everyone is holier than me. I keep failing…”
These are paraphrases of real hurts and concerns that I have heard. I am sure that most of you also know of someone going through something like this…or perhaps it is you who is struggling. Each of these individuals said something about overwhelming weakness in them. Even when they try harder to not lust, or not doubt, or not struggle, they still fail. Each of them has doubted their salvation. Each of them have feelings that they do not belong in the Church because of these things. Can I just say:
And please don’t stop trying, but also realize that you are not strong enough to do it. Are you struggling with doubt? With Porn? With Alcohol? With some sin that weighs you down and brings up thoughts that you are worthless and weak? That tells you to keep giving in to temptation, and you just know that there is no hope for you, so instead of getting help, or going to your elder or a trusted friend, you just keep smiling and pretending, all the while deep inside you are dying and screaming for help?
There is hope.
Don’t give up.
The gospel, the good news, is that while you were an enemy of God, while you were too weak to save yourself, while you were dead in your sin…Christ died for you.
Christ died for you….in your weakness,
Christ died for you…in your doubts,
Christ died for you…in your sin…
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
God did not send his son to die for you because you were good enough. God did not send his son to die for you because you were strong enough. Jesus did not suffer the wrath of God and die in your place because you were all right and going to heaven on your own merit. No. When you were at your weakest, at the appointed time, God rescued you. When you could not overcome that addiction. That alcohol. That lust. That adultery. That anger. That idolatry. That pride. When you were dead in your sin, Christ died for you.
This is the staggeringly beautiful good news of the gospel of Jesus.
So you are weak. Forgive me for being rude, but, So what? So am I. So was Charles Spurgeon. So was John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, John Wesley, and RC Sproul. So is your pastor. So are your elders. So was the apostle Paul and all the disciples. We are all weak. But there is the good news for you in your weakness. For me, when I finally believed that God justified me, adopted me, called me his own child, forgave my sins, imputed to me the righteousness of Jesus Christ poured out and resurrected… I eventually came to realize that I am not going to solve my weakness, my doubts, my rebellion or any of the problems in me. Why?
Because I am the problem.
Now what I’m learning to do is to lay everything before the Lord and ask for his help to believe, to strengthen me, to trust him and live out the gospel in my life. Paul says that he was chief of sinners, and that he continued to struggle against sin as an apostle, and even give into it often:
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~ Romans 7:16-20
I have tried the whole, ” I am going to try harder this time Lord, I will get better…” And I can’t do it. I fail. Even on the best of days, when I am standing on the mountain top of faith and feeling the fullness of my relationship with Jesus, when I feel strong, I will still fall painfully short of God’s expectation of me. And I do.
God has intervened on my behalf. In Him I find strength and mercy and grace and love. This also creates a sense of humility and should remove any arrogance from a Christian’s life.
You didn’t do anything.
You got saved by God.
You didn’t raise yourself to life. He did it. And if you do fall into arrogance, looking down on others for their weakness and sins, which I admit I have done, we need to look and see what we are standing on – our works or the works of Christ. We are no better than anyone else, believer or unbeliever. We must confess our sins to the Lord, and put them away in the strength he provides, and live a life of thankfulness in service to others.
So when you are weak, when you give in to sin, when your burdens are too much, when you just don’t feel worthy…don’t look at yourself. Don’t look at others. Look to Him. Run…
Don’t put yourself in the penalty box, like you have to pay some penance. No. The whole point of the cross is that we can’t do it! The cross was necessary because of us, but it also shows how much we are loved, in spite of us. When we fail miserably, when we strike out, when we make a mess of things, when we sin…we can go to him, immediately, in our filth, in our desperation, in our sin, and seek forgiveness and restoration and the strength to wage war against our sin.
And if you are struggling, if you are burdened, if there seems to be no hope, please also go to the church. We need to support each other, encourage each other, pray for and with each other, and build each other up in the Lord.
I implore my brothers and sisters in the church to put aside those things that hinder communion and fellowship – arrogance and indifference and fear and gossip and slander – and reach down to lift up our weaker brothers and sisters. Do you see your weaker brother or sister on the margins of the Church suffering alone? Reach out. There is grace enough for even the worst sinner. Be a tool in the hand of God to dispense some grace.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each will have to bear his own load.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6