C.S. Lewis has a quote in Mere Christianity that resonates with my own personal understanding of the role of trying harder in an effort to reach some level of goodness or perfection. The often stated adage that ‘practice makes perfect’ may work in skills such as sports or music but not in morality. Our base nature morally has been corrupted by the Fall. Man is born with a sinful inclination. Given the chance, man will sin. It is inevitable.
The problem is that sometimes we teach that all God wants is for us to try harder to live a good moral life. We attempt to muster up some remnant of moral fiber and give it our best. We often fail but we are told to just try harder next time. Over time, and under our effort, we will overcome those temptations. My question to you is how is that working for you? Have you noticed that those temptations start going away as you struggle to just try harder the next time? Probably not. Within ourselves we don’t have what it takes to overcome. We may experience small victories but they are short lived and possess no real transformative power. They are but obstacles in themselves because they create the illusion that we have obtained some victory on our own.
Lewis makes this observation:
“Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, or trying harder and harder. But in another sense, it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t.'”
AMEN! I personally fell under the false teaching that trying harder makes a difference. Let’s face it. If we could just keep doing better then the expected outcome over time is that we would achieve some mastery over our sins. If this were the case, then Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would be obsolete. But the reality is just the opposite. When we attempt this transformation on our own, we fail. It is not in trying harder but in giving up and letting God do what we haven’t the power in ourselves to do.
So when temptation comes your way, don’t muster up your own strength, rely on His! Let Him fight the battle. He is the only one who can. Submission is the Key. What we need is salvation not a moral reformation!