|“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” –Matthew 26:41
Why did Jesus advise His disciples to pray? Why is it important for us as believers to do the same? For a long time, I often read the verse above, but only focused on the first part, but as I meditated on it this morning, the second part was illuminated. The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
I had ACL surgery on my knee a little under a year ago, and it was strongly recommended that I began therapy immediately after the surgery. I went to physical therapy for about two weeks and then I just stopped going for months because I did not enjoy it and I did not see much value in it. Nearly six months after my surgery, I tried to run, and I literally fell flat on my face because my knee gave out on me. A few minutes later, I stared down at my knee, and it was so swollen that walking became very uncomfortable. I went to see the orthopedic doctor, and his first comment to me was, “You haven’t been going to therapy, have you?” I told him the truth, and he responded saying, “It may seem pointless and frustrating, but your muscles and ligaments need to be strengthened if you are ever going to be effective at anything physical. You may not notice huge changes immediately, as these things take time, but I assure you that you will, so it is important that you discipline yourself and take therapy very seriously.” Guess where I am going this week?
I believe that Jesus would have said something similar to what my doctor said to His disciples if they asked what He meant about the body being weak. In my head, I was okay and could do anything I wanted to do, but when it came time to test this, I realized how weak my body (knee) really was. When Peter spoke to Jesus in Matthew 26 and declared that he would never fall away from Him and was willing to die with Him, I believe that he meant every word of it and strongly believed it in his mind and Spirit. However, when the time of testing came, he denied Jesus three times. Why was this? I believe his spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. Perhaps that was why Jesus emphasized the importance of practicing the disciple of watching and praying.
Practicing spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting, abstinence, guarding the tongue, self-control, giving, worship, Bible study, etc serve to prepare us for the life we are called to live in Jesus. Jesus knew the kind of persecution that His disciples would face and for three years, He disciplined them in different areas. For example, He called them away from their families and friends, they wandered with him, not knowing where their next meal would come from, they faced persecution together, He taught them to pray, He taught them to study the word, He showed them how to care about the needs of others, etc. Though the disciples may not have understood why they had to do all those things while Jesus was still with them, but eventually they did. When the time of testing came, I believe they said, ‘Aha! So that was why he told us to do this and that.’
Dear friends, I challenge you today to begin to consider areas in your lives that could use more discipline. Seek the Lord concerning them and begin to practice the disciplines that will grow you in those areas. The enemy is not going to attack us in areas of our lives that we are strong in, so it is important that we limit his options by strengthening as many areas as possible. If you constantly fall into the same sin, then that area in your life could probably use some discipline. Confess your weakness to a mentor or trustworthy friend that is spiritually grounded and ask them to hold you accountable. These disciplines are not an end in themselves, they simply prepare us to live the spiritual lives that we are called to have as believers.
I leave you with the words of a man that realized the importance of spiritual discipline in his life: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 1:5-8
Grace and peace be with you.
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