By Michael Todd Wilson
There are lots of things we can do when we realize we’re under attack by the enemy: make a healthier choice, quote Deuteronomy to the devil, phone a friend, sing a favorite hymn. All of these are good things to do. But if these are the first things we do, it will turn into more of a self-help maneuver than a biblical response.
James 4:7 says we’re to resist the devil. But notice the context: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Surrendering to the Lord first enables us to run into a strong tower for help in our time of need. Once we’re in his presence, the Lord can either equip us for the battle (Eph 6:10) or fight on our behalf (Ex 14:14). He’s the One who knows best if we should fight, run or stand our ground in a particular situation.
This approach, of course, requires us to be intimately connected with the Lord in order to receive his instruction. It’s just one more way he reminds us of our dependency upon him.
In the practical growth of our sanctification, we may find early on that we fail more often than we succeed as we’re learning to recognize negative emotional states and our need for his help. I often give a practical example to my sexual integrity recovery clients about how this plays out in the early goings of recovery. When we’re tempted on a particular day to engage sexual sin, we may not recognize our need for surrender until after we’ve given in to the temptation. When we come to our senses an hour later, it’s not too late to pray a prayer of surrender.
Just because it’s more beneficial to surrender before we sin (certainly in terms of avoiding the consequences) doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to surrender afterwards. It’s always appropriate to surrender to the Lord, since this is the whole point of salvation in the first place. Surrender after sin is still surrender, and provides significant training for our brain to more automatically act according to our values rather than our fallen impulses the next time we’re tempted.
It’s similar to the reason a football team watches video of the big game they lost the previous weekend. It’s too late to win the game, but it’s never too late to build the discipline of improving their game. That’s exactly how it is with the practical work of sanctification in the Christian’s life.
From Unburdened by Michael Todd Wilson, forthcoming from InterVarsity Press in September 2015. Copyright (c) 2015 by Michael Todd Wilson. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press.