Falling Is Not Failure Until You Quit Fighting
Resist sin! Fight it and never give up! And even in those times when you might fall, stand up and fight again. Falling is not failure until you quit fighting. To fight and to lose is not failure. Re-enter the arena and fight again. You fell to the same old temptation again. And it sure feels like failure… So now what? Give up? Give in? Surrender to sin? Absolutely not! Stand up! Fight again! Fighters are never failures until they quit fighting.
“We fall down, but we get up. Fall down seven times, stand up eight—that is the requirement of a righteous man.” –Rev Run
I was recently speaking with a friend who is a smoker. He desperately wants to quit and has wanted to for years. But he just cannot seem to kick the habit. As we talked, I had an idea: I asked him, “How many times a day do you smoke a cigarette?” He said about six times a day. I asked him about how long he spends each time, from start to finish—he said about ten minutes.
I said, “that’s an hour of your day. An hour of your day, broken up into six slots of ten minutes each.” Then I said, “what if you invited the Lord to go on your smoking breaks with you… What if you dedicated your smoke-breaks to the Lord, and spent those moments throughout your day in prayer and communion with God?”
My friend’s work requires him to go outside to smoke. Most often he is alone when he does it… This presents the perfect opportunity to be alone with Jesus! I can’t imagine how alive my soul would be if I dedicated six blocks of time to Jesus all throughout my day—every single day!
My smoker friend, who deeply loves the Lord, felt quite inspired by the idea of having six daily devotional moments alone with Jesus. But then he said (with a smile), “I don’t think I would really enjoy my cigarettes very much if I was trying to smoke them with Jesus.”
And that got me to thinking, what would happen if I invited Jesus to join me in my compulsive and even sinful behaviors? How might I respond differently in those moments when I want to make choices that no longer support my wellbeing, to return to habits that are comfort mechanisms, or to embrace destructive behaviors, if were to invite Jesus to join me in those times?
My friend was right; I won’t enjoy my unhealthy habits, self-destructive decisions, and sinful compulsions as much when I imagine doing them in the presence of Jesus. Since I am tempted many times all throughout my day, I am engaged in much more constant conversation with the Lord than when I exclude Him from those times in my day.
By God’s grace, I have now turned the tables on sin. Its result is separation from God. Now, by inviting Jesus’s presence when I am tempted, I let it drive me closer to Him! The temptation becomes a cue to pray. The compulsion to sin becomes an occasion to speak with my ever-present Savior.
Do I still fall to temptation? Yes. Far too often. May I fall less and less frequently by God’s grace. But am I closer to Jesus than ever? Absolutely! He is right there (as He always was anyway), only now I am far more aware of it and receptive to it because I am practicing the Presence of God, even in my moments of temptation and compulsion to sinful habits.
When I fight and win, I am able to celebrate with Him immediately, because I’ve been engaged in prayer with Him already. And when I fight and fall, I am able to cling to His grace right away, repent of the sin immediately, and ask for His continued grace to redeem and transform my compulsions, habits, and decisions.
It used to be that when I would fall, I would struggle through remorse and regret alone, and then eventually coming around to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and restoration. Now, I am able to pour out my lament directly to Him, in the moment. He was there all along anyway; the only difference is now I am learning to acknowledge His Presence and nearness more and more.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit, where can I flee from Your Presence? If I go up to heavens, You are there! If I make my bed in the depths—You are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8). Oh how often I make my bed in the depths. And oh how many hours have I wasted wallowing in self-loathing and shame before crawling my way back to God, who seemed a long way off from my sinful activity at the time. But in truth, He was right there with me—in the depths where I made my bed—with me all along.
His Spirit was showing me ways out and offering me an escape from sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). He was my ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He was present and available to be my strength for me when I was weak (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He was right there all along! Now I am learning to engage with His Presence—even in the very process of fighting temptation, and even in momentarily losing that fight to sin—taking His hand to stand back up to my feet again, to re-enter the arena, to re-engage the fight, to never give up, to never give in, to never ever surrender to sin, no matter how many times I fall.
You make me a victor, Jesus (1 Cor 15:57)! Though I fall seven times, I am not a failure if I stand up eight times by Your grace and continue the fight. To quote a song from Kyle Matthews: “We fall down, we get up. And the saint is just the sinner who falls down—and gets back up.” Though I may fall 10,000 times, Lord, please strengthen me to stand up 10,001. By Your grace, and by the power of Your Spirit who dwells within me. And may I never ever give up the fight against my sin.