Most of my readers know that Rachel and I have 6 children. Whenever someone asks me why we have 6 children, and that happens a lot, I usually tell people that, “Six children is a never ending supply of good sermon illustrations.” And, that is exactly where today’s post begins.
Last week, while I was at work, I received a frantic phone call from Rachel. It seems that Colby (5) and Ella (4) were down in the basement “playing” when Rachel called them upstairs for lunch. While Rachel was passing out stacks of PB& J sandwiches she noticed that Ella’s shorts were covered in hair. She hadn’t noticed at first, but when Rachel looked up she discovered that Ella, who had the most beautiful long hair, had multiple giant chunks of hair sheared off of her head. (Including right in the front of her head, below her barrette, only a few inches from her scalp.)
At first, when Rachel began to question what happened to Ella’s hair, there was a guilty silence. The silence continued for a little while when Ella finally spoke up.
Rachel: “I said, what happened to your hair?”
Ella: “Colby did it!”
When I got home I barraged Colby with a line of questioning that would have made Al Capone collapse under the pressure. My questioning, as you will see, followed around a common theme. Colby’s answers also followed a common theme, see if this one rings a bell.
Colby: (meekly) … I don’t know.
Dad: “Colby, are you allowed to play with scissors?
Dad: “Are you allowed to cut your sister’s hair?”
Dad: “Ok, let me ask you again, Why did you cut your sisters hair?
Colby: (helplessly) ….I don’t know.
In Romans, Chapter 7, the Apostle Paul explains Colby’s struggle and the battle that goes on inside many of us. Paul explains it like this:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For 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. 20Now 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.
A lot like Colby, I have repeatedly done and said things I didn’t want to. Paul, in this chapter of Romans, is not only explaining the purpose of the law of God but identifying the battle that is waged inside us. The battle between wanting to follow God’s commands and the sinful nature of man is one that we all should identify with. Like me, maybe you have been discouraged, at times, because you have promised to yourself, and God, that you weren’t going to get sucked into the trap of ________ (…anger, lust, lying, stealing, laziness, substance, jealousy, greed) ever again! Then, a week (day, hour, minute, second) goes by and you find yourself in the exact activity or emotion you promised, schemed, planned to avoid at all costs.
Paul’s conclusion is where I want to end today.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.24I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.’
Here is what Paul is saying, “When you can’t–God can!” My encouragement for us this morning is to remember that God can, and wants too, help you through the traps in your life.
The answer, to defeat the traps that seem to follow us around, is not just “more will power” or a “better plan” or to “make more promises”. The answer is to acknowledge that your father has already beaten the sin you are fighting against, through His Son on a cross, and wants deeply to “parent” us through those struggles. The question is, “Will you and I let him?”
Even with really short hair Ella is a cute as can be, and ultimately it was my fault that Colby cut Ella’s hair! Rachel warned me, on several occasions, to remove the hair-clipper set that was in the basement bathroom (The scissors were in the hair-clipper case) because something like this was going to happen. I emphatically insisted that our kids knew better than that. Ha!
Rachel, of course, asked me why I didn’t listen to her and move the clippers from the basement.
My answer: (embarrassingly) “…I don’t know.”
Do you have an “I don’t know” story? Do you relate to what Paul is saying about the battle that goes on inside us? Please leave a comment and if you want to get these posts delivered right to your reader or in-box become a subscriber today.