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They Never Gave Up
by Pam Leskowyak

March 17 – Tuesday – Psalms 97, 99, [100], 94, [95]; Jeremiah 17:19-27 Romans 7:13-25; John 6:16-27

In the mini-series John Adams, this founding father of America stands amid the opulent, indulgent, and licentious French leaders begging for French naval support for America’s battle for independence. He cannot pry French attention from pleasure seeking to his cause and replies to their utter apathy with, “France is the very region of happiness if human nature could be made happy by anything that pleases the senses.”

In direct contrast, in Romans 7:13-25 we find Paul in utter distress over how he cannot bring rule his senses and do what pleases God. He wrestles against his flesh and cannot find happiness. He recognizes wisdom that the French did not-what pleases the senses does not lead to God.

I’ve often wondered what exactly Paul struggled so deeply over. Did his thought life betray him? Is he in some habit of sin he cannot escape? Why can’t he shake this thing that plagues him? This secret sin? After all, isn’t he given to us as an example from God of conversion and repentance with his persecution of Christians to zeal beyond measure for Christ?

Yes, yes he is our example, and I am glad of it. Here’s why. I remember believing I could live entirely without regrets in my young adult days, because I had within me the strength of Christ. I woke up every day and set out to do good as I intentionally lived in Christian community and worked with “the least of these.” As time went by, I began to fail in both ministry and at home. Mostly I faltered in relationships: harsh words, not listening well, thinking I knew best, arrogance. When I look back I have more regrets than perhaps accomplishments.   Thank God for Paul’s experience, so I may understand my own shortcomings. I’ve lived what Paul mourns in verse 15, “For what I am doing, I do not understand for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

Likewise, I find comfort in In Psalm 94:19 as David proclaims, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul.” Why would the giant slayer, the very chosen king of God have anxious thoughts? I wonder if there is any person who does not skirmish with anxiety? I do.

I’m therefore thankful for the gritty honesty of Paul and David within scripture. I believe in John Adam’s wisdom that pleasing my senses will certainly not make me happy in the end. I’m grateful for the simple humanity and imperfection of all three men, which allows me the same. When I can’t seem get a handle on my journey to holiness, I look to them.   I have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story in which they never gave up.

Image by el Padawan (used by permission via Creative Commons).