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Principles from Plutarch (6) – Overcoming Weakness of Will

In my last message I wrote about how we should set our hearts upon and pursue eternal things. This week I am going to write about overcoming weakness of will.

While discussing Marc Antony Plutarch wrote, “It is common enough for people, when they fall into great disasters, to discern what is right, and what they ought to do; but there are but few who in such extremities have the strength to obey their judgment.”

This is a truth we would rather not acknowledge. How many times do we fail to do what we know needs to be done, or fail to say what needs to be said, out of sheer moral cowardice? How often do we lie to others, and even worse, to ourselves, and say that we didn’t know, that indeed, we couldn’t have known? How often do we know we need to correct our child or push him or her to work through a difficulty, but we know it is going to be a fight, a struggle, so we take the easy way out? How often do we justify giving ourselves over to sinful indulgence by trying to convince others (and ourselves) that we need some “me time” or that we need to “recharge our batteries”?

It is very rare that we don’t know what we ought to do; most of the time we do know what we ought to do, but we fail to do it. I think this is one place among many where the Gospel can show its great power.

First, because we are saved by grace and not our works we don’t need to hide or lie about our failures—we can be completely honest about them because they do not have the power to damn us!

Second, God’s Spirit empowers us to live lives of moral beauty and strength.

Third, when we fail, as we so often do, we can again find rest in the fact that Christ not only forgives our sins, but also that He lived the perfect life on our behalf and imputes His righteousness to us. We never stand as failures before God; we are His beloved sons and daughters. 

It is in the peace of the Gospel, in the confidence that our acceptance by God is not dependent on our failures or successes, that we can seek to grow in strength and character not out of fear or condemnation, but out of the freedom that Christ’s blood bought for us.