So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18
Because our family is a bit crazy, we added a puppy to the chaos of our home. Everyone was on board with the decision, except for Tucker, our fourteen-year-old Labradoodle. Ever since the rambunctious fluff ball showed up, Tucker has had a perpetual "I'm a good boy...what did I do to deserve this punishment?" look on his face.
The yipping and the nipping never stops. She pulls at his ears or tail any chance she gets. Tucker never gets a moment of peace. And neither do we due to the growling, body-slamming and knocking over everything in sight. They remain in a constant wrestling match.
Even though their play fighting is all in good fun, it reminds me of another, more serious, conflict occurring within us. It's a vicious battle that is just as constant and unrelenting. Behind the scenes, two principles are waging war. In one corner is our flesh and in the other is our spirit.
What hangs in the balance is who gets to lay claim to our heart. These competing desires battle for control. They growl at each other and try to assert their dominance.
On a daily basis, we get a front row seat to them butting heads. A disagreement breaks out with a friend or family member. The flesh comes out swinging and shouting saying, "Let them have it! Fly off the handle! They hurt you...hurt them back!" The Spirit gets a reverse punch in by reminding us to love, forgive and fight for understanding.
Then there are those moments when feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and discouragement take over. Our flesh attempts to get the upper hand by enticing us to look to idols like food, drink, material possessions, and lust to numb the pain. It wants us to indulge and give in. The Spirit throws a body blow by warning us that these things will never satisfy.
And, when our flesh has us against the ropes, it pushes even harder, looking for the knockout. We give in to temptation – our words and actions don't reflect what we believe. Our flesh hovers over us while we're down on the mat and taunts us by telling us to throw in the towel. We're already defeated so we should give up. The Spirit starts to turn the tide of the fight by pushing back against the shame, guilt, and condemnation we feel. He gives us time to get up, dust ourselves off and try again by focusing our attention back on Christ and the forgiveness, grace, and mercy He extends to us.
Rather than be discouraged by the battle, we should take heart. Signs of a struggle are a strong indication that the Spirit is at work within us. Christ has already declared us victorious, but we still have to fight. We walk in the Spirit when we walk in His ways and depend on Him. We move forward in the power that only Christ provides.
Where are your flesh and spirit waging war against each other?
How can you stay engaged in the fight by walking in the Spirit?
God, You have won the war, but daily I face battles for my heart. I will remember that I have no obligation to listen or respond to my flesh. Instead, I will tune my ears to Your Spirit and allow it to guide and direct my steps. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.