“…..be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2, NKJ)
In life, when you make godly choices, you put on display – or prove – for all to see how good, acceptable, and perfect the will of God is by exhibiting God’s character. Let’s take a look at those three words Paul uses to describe what you’ll look like: good, acceptable, perfect.
The purpose of suffering is always growth and glory and: our growth, God’s glory. Would He have those same purposes for allowing temptation to assault us? Yes and no. Yes, both suffering and temptation are tests (often intertwined) and His purpose in allowing either kind of test is always our growth and His glory. But a big difference exists between suffering and temptation. Sometimes we are to accept suffering as God’s will for us, but we can never accept temptation – we fight it! God’s good will is to overcome temptation. If we don’t, we neither bring credit to Him nor growth to ourselves.
When we yield to temptation, we grow weaker, less like Jesus, and that’s not God’s good will. We demonstrate God’s good will when we do His will. Victory is His good will; defeat is certainly not His will. Dennis and Brad came to me with a theory they found liberating. They were forever defeated by lustful temptations. “We’ve decided lust is the cross Jesus is calling us to bear,” they said. .
I explained that God’s good will is to nail our evil desires to the cross, not excuse them. God purposes to give victory over temptation, not that we give up in defeat. When continuing in lust, Dennis and Brad were demonstrating what the will of God is not. They brought dishonor to the Lord and more rapid descent down the spiral for themselves.
On the other hand, Cubby saw a positive demonstration of God’s good will. His business partner, Det, found Christ and was radically changed. Cubby said he’d never seen anything like this. Det was a big-time political operator and hard-driving businessman, but Cubby watched in amazement as a transformation took place. One day in a particularly difficult confrontation with competitors, Det responded calmly and graciously, not like the old Det. Cubby returned to his office, shut the door, fell to his knees and prayed, “Lord, whatever Det has, I want it!” Cubby had seen God’s good will on display in Det, and as a result something very good happened. Cubby became a Christian and transformation began.
Another word Paul uses to describe God’s will is acceptable, or as some translations have it, pleasing. Success in overcoming temptation is pleasing all right, but to whom? Bible scholars may debate which of those Paul had in mind, but I would say, all the above! To overcome temptation brings joy all around. It’s a victory celebration! To fail and not do the good will of God is pleasing only to unholy men and unholy spirits. To you, God, and all good people, surrender to temptation is distressing.
Paul’s meaning for perfect in describing God’s will worked out in your life would include, flawless, without defect, mature, adult, full-grown. It includes loyal, sincere, whole-hearted obedience to the known will of God. Perfect is the ability and readiness to meet all demands, outfitted. Those are indeed our ultimate goal, that we will one day be flawless, just like Jesus. His will is that we demonstrate maturity and obedience . When we demonstrate that, what a celebration of the glorious will of God! It’s perfect! And that’s very pleasing and very good!
Every plan to overcome temptation needs to be custom designed for the individual. It may change for each stage of life, whether the temptations and uncertainties of youth, the frustrations and failed dreams of middle years, or the regrets and anxieties of age. Where are you today in your spiral up toward likeness to Jesus? It’s time now for the big assignment: write out your own plan for overcoming the failure that most grieves the Holy Spirit and embarrasses you. This is for real, not just an idea to be pondered. Create your own strategic plan to overcome temptation. We will get into the specifics of a plan for overcoming temptation tomorrow. First pray and decide the temptation you need to develop a plan to overcome. Now pray, do you really want to overcome this temptation?
Your strategy will need revision as you put it into action. Let it be a developing plan. No matter how satisfied you are with your strategy, remember: success in the Christian life does not ultimately depend on a technique, a strategy, or your own activity. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit within is the overcomer. But the indwelling powerful One does not displace your personality with His. Rather, He is a personal companion. He prays for us when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26-27) and as we rely on Him, He enables us to pray effectively. God the Spirit gave us His Word and enables us to understand and appropriate that Word in the face of testing. He enables us to live in the kind of relationship with other Christians that will make us overcomers together. What a great God we serve!