God’s blessings of peace and joy from sunny, chilly Minnesota, where the leaves are a riot of color in the golden light, but you can see your breath if you’re out before sunrise. October 2021 might go down in my memory as the month where God started to take me up a notch. I’ll try to explain, but it will take a bit of context.
We’ve all heard, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Some may even recall that these were Jesus’ words to Peter, James, and John in the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was sweating blood and the disciples were… sleeping. Apart from the Biblical meaning, the expression is used to describe good intentions thwarted by a lack of self-discipline. But lately, I’m seeing this phrase from another angle.
A few weeks ago in my prayer time, I heard, “Stop talking about healing and start doing it.” Don’t laugh, but my first reaction was, “God? Is that you?” He immediately reminded of the time several years ago when he told me to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. So yes, this was clearly from God, and furthermore it wasn’t the first time he’d said it to me. It was around this same time that I got my new perspective on this phrase. Please bear with me as I share my thought process.
Jesus described the Spirit as rivers of living water flowing from believers. Water takes the path of least resistance, so if I want the Spirit to flow through me (for instance, in order to bring healing to someone) I need to get the obstacles out of the way. Ideally, I would simply be the empty vessel through which Holy Spirit flows to encounter those around me. I realized that the Holy Spirit is willing to work through me, but my flesh, my unrepentant self, is weak.
For me, one obvious hindrance to the flow of the Spirit is pride. When I’m being led to get outside my comfort zone, I immediately wonder: What will someone think of me? Even as this becomes less of a problem for me, there are many, many more ways that I’m not fully yielded. When I asked the Lord to show me how I was blocking the flow of life-giving water, he pointed to John 14:15 where Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” It didn’t take me long to find a whole mess of Jesus’ commandments that I struggle to obey.
- Turn the other cheek
- Take up your cross and follow me
- Love one another as I have loved you
- Bless those who curse you
- Forgive as you have been forgiven
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength
- Let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no
- Love your enemies
- Give to the one who asks you
- Be perfect as your Father is perfect
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
- Watch and pray
- Do not judge
- Do not worry about tomorrow
- Do not be afraid
I could go on and on, but you get the point. Don’t get the wrong idea; there was no condemnation in this revelation of how incredibly short I fall. Jesus isn’t beating me up; he’s just answering my question. I don’t have to be perfect for the Spirit to use me. Coming to grips with the true weakness of my flesh is a good thing!
My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Knowing how weak I am in my flesh helps me to both appreciate and to rely on the grace God has deposited in my spirit. I don’t have to summon up the courage to reach out. I don’t need to manufacture the power to heal. It’s not even my job to fashion the right words to pray for someone. I believe Holy Spirit will work powerfully as I yield, and he is able to do far more than I could even imagine. I’ve always loved the Dwight L. Moody quote, “The world has yet to see what God can do with someone who is fully consecrated to him.” To that I reply, “The flesh is weak, but the Spirit is willing!”
Somehow this process of re-learning what is my responsibility and what is God’s has brought me great hope for the coming season. I’m not sure I’ve conveyed it well, but I’ll pray that the Spirit fills in the gaps I’ve left. Please, share your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39)