In Gethsemane, after agonizing prayer, Jesus came looking for his friends whose prayerful attentiveness would have been such a comfort to him. But he found them sleeping. What he said to them was gracious but firm: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
We understand what it means to have weak flesh, don’t we?
But we also find our weak flesh to be powerful, opposing our willing spirit’s intentions and resolve to follow Jesus in the obedience of faith (Galatians 5:17; Romans 1:5). Fighting it is a daily struggle. What do we prayerfully watch for to escape the power of our weak flesh?
Our Weak Flesh Is a Powerful Enemy
It’s a paradox that we often experience the weakness of our flesh in the strength of its sinful cravings and compulsions. It’s maddening because our flesh frequently demands to think or do things other than what we should be thinking or doing at the moment. These range from mildly distracting to disturbingly dark:
When, like the disciples, we should be watching and praying, our flesh really wants to sleep.
When we should be sleeping, our flesh finds Facebook browsing fascinating.
When we should be diligently teaching our children (Deuteronomy 6:7), our flesh would love to watch a relaxing, even family-friendly movie.
When we should be meditating on Scripture, our flesh becomes a fountain of ideas for reorganizing the room, improving the yard, or critiquing the political candidate.
When we should be focusing on our work, our flesh brings up that focus-dominating fear.
When we should be cutting our calories, our flesh demands a sugar-laced snack.
When we should be eating because we’ve become undernourished due to believing lies about how our weight relates to our value, our flesh screams shame-filled things to stop us.
When we should be relishing the joy and freedom of sexual purity and fidelity, our flesh desires to imagine or view defiling, lewd images.
When we should be humbly resisting premature conclusions regarding a potentially offensive concern or comment, our flesh immediately turns defensive and suspicious, proposing fantasy scenarios that will indulge sinful anger with a feeling of righteous indignation.
The exasperation of this experience made Paul cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). And if it weren’t for God’s grace toward us, our flesh would hold us enslaved (Romans 6:20; Ephesians 2:3).