As I write these words, I am nine months pregnant. Those of you who have been there know that is a very "fleshy" season of life. That's true in a very literal sense (I'm talking to you, extra large maternity pants!), but I've also found it to be true in a spiritual sense.
When our flesh creeps into the driver's seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.
All the focus on the physical that is a natural part of pregnancy ("I'm so tired," "My feet are so swollen," "I need two scoops of ice cream STAT!") has unfortunately translated into a season where I am extra fleshy in my walk with the Lord. In this season, I've learned to pray this simple prayer daily: "Lord, let your Spirit rule over my flesh today."
You don't have to be pregnant to experience this fleshiness. In fact, catering to our flesh is something the Bible warns us against often. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus was frank about the internal tug of war between our flesh and our spirits:
"Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Paul wrote about doing battle with his flesh in Romans 7, proving that even the superheroes of the faith get fleshy if they didn't watch it. In Romans 8:5 Paul wrote that there are really only two options for each of us: we can live according to the flesh, or we can live according to the Sprit. We can't do both at the same time.
Romans 8:8 gives us the most dire warning concerning our flesh:
"Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
I want to please God, don't you? And since indulging my flesh makes it impossible to please God, I need to be on guard for those times when I am letting my flesh rule me and seek to be more Spirit-led.
With that in mind, I've learned to be on the lookout for signs that my flesh is ruling the roost. I've turned those signs into a little "feeling fleshy" assessment below. Let me encourage you to take the test yourself, and ask God to reveal pockets of fleshiness in your own life.
- Do you find it nearly impossible to control your appetite for things like food, affirmation, or stuff, or do you find that with the Lord's help, you are able to have regular victories over the things you most crave?
- Do you have to regularly force yourself to pray and read the Bible, or do you genuinely enjoy nurturing your Spirit in this way?
- Do you have a near constant desire to be entertained through things like your iPhone or TV, or are you okay with moments of quiet and reflection?
- Is serving others a chore or a delight to you?
- Do you find that you often "replay the tapes" of conflicts and disappointments with others, or are you able to readily forgive and let things go?
- Does going to church feel like an obligation or an opportunity for filling and fellowship?
- Are your emotions ruling you (including anger, sadness, or frustration), or are you able to choose contentment?
- Do you feel dependent on others to be "okay," or do you have a general feeling of security and peace?
- When it comes to sin, do you more often experience defeat or victory?
- Would a hard look at your schedule reveal you are most concerned with Kingdom priorities or earthly priorities?
The first statement in each question should send off alarm bells that your flesh rules in that area. The second statement is an indication that the Spirit has greater control. Obviously, these things aren't black and white. That's why Jesus spoke about the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit.
We will go back and forth between the two, sometimes daily and sometimes hourly. Only Jesus was able to master living by the Spirit at all times, so we need to heed His advice to "watch and pray." When our flesh creeps into the driver's seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.
In what areas of your life do you recognize the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit? What can you do the next time you're feeling fleshy?