Have you ever felt completely incapable of completing a task you were assigned? I can distinctly remember one particular moment in my life when this was the case. The setting? Jr. high athletics. The assignment? Climbing a rope.
Now, I have never been (nor will I ever be) a terribly athletic person. Climbing a rope, however, seemed particularly cruel to my 14 year old self endowed with a dismal amount of upper body strength. I can remember just looking at the rope and thinking, “This is insane. I am going to look like a complete dork when I inevitably fail.” I felt a terrible sense of helplessness in that moment as I gazed at the task before me and came to terms with my inability to complete it. I was under no illusion that I could make it up that rope and gleefully hit the rafter of the gym like some of my more athletic classmates.
I didn’t have the strength or the know-how. I didn’t have any practice or training. I was completely unprepared and ill-equiped.
When the dreaded time came for me to humiliate myself, I tried my hardest, made it up a couple inches (which felt like a mile!), and then as the burning sensation in my muscles assured me I was about to die, I gave in and fell to my doom on the mat below.
In that moment, I was very aware of my inability to complete the task assigned to me–and for good reason! I wasn’t prepared and the results were devastating.
Now let me tell you about a task that I tend to overestimate my ability to accomplish: the pursuit of holiness. I come to a passage like Titus 2:3-5 which tells me to love my husband and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to my husband and think, “That sure is a lot to accomplish… I better get to it!” I somehow think I can meet these monumental standards through sheer determination. My motivations aren’t necessarily bad–I truly want to please the Lord and serve my family–but my attempts are futile because I am relying on my own strength and not the grace of God which flows freely down from the cross onto my poor, helpless frame. My attempts often go something like this:
I set my mind to obedience and decide to tackle the first command: loving my husband. I flutter about the house doing little things I know will make him happy. I even go the “extra mile” and write a sweet love note which I hide in his freshly ironed dress shirt pocket for him to find when he gets to work the next day. Things go pretty well for a while and I start to feel good about my ability to love my husband until an unexpected phone call from him pulls me away from the important tasks I am accomplishing. My cheerful mood immediately dissipates when he asks me to do something for him that is just not a part of my plans for the day. I quietly mutter that I will see if I can get to it and hang up the phone perturbed. My anger festers until it is eventually replaced by guilt at my all-too-easily failed attempt to love my husband (not to mention submit to him!). Once again, my sinful flesh has won out. I’m quickly brought to a place of humility as I recognize my utter inability to walk in holiness in my own strength. Ironically, this is the place where I should have begun my attempt to obey God.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Perhaps you too have struggled with seeking to please the Lord in your own strength, constantly overestimating your own ability to achieve holiness apart from God’s grace. Perhaps you too have felt the overwhelming defeat that accompanies failure and wondered how it is that you will ever make progress in your fight against the flesh. If so, I have some good news for you: You are not meant to do it alone, nor can you!
Today, as we continue to dwell on the gospel message found in Titus 2:11-14, we come to an extraordinary and liberating truth. Not only does God, in his grace, save us from the penalty and reign of sin, but he also trains us to live the new life we have in Christ Jesus. Take a moment to meditate on this next verse:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (Titus 2:11 & 12)
This is the good news we must cling to as we seek to please the Lord with our lives. This is what we must remind ourselves of when we come to passages like Titus 2:3-5 which call us to such high standards of holiness. We who have been [intlink id="12441" type="post"]ransomed and redeemed[/intlink] by the blood of Christ are weak and incapable women to be sure, but God, in his grace, has not left us to pursue holiness in our own strength. Like a father who lovingly disciplines, trains, and equips his children for life, our Holy God promises to train our souls in the ways of godliness. He knows our weakness and commits to daily, moment by moment, supplying us with his precious, powerful grace–without which we would never be able to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.
When we come to commands like “be submissive to your own husband” or “be kind” or “be pure,” when we set out to be ”Titus 2 Women,” we must remember that it is God who is training us through the power of his Holy Spirit to do such things. We must recognize our utter dependence upon him to produce such virtues in our lives and rejoice in his grace when he does. The pursuit of holiness begins and continues with us admitting our inability to make any progress apart from our union with Christ and his strength empowering us. We must daily seek the Lord and beg for his grace to bring about the transformation he has promised to accomplish in us.
“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13, ESV)
Remember the story I shared with you about my 14 year old self? As I looked up at the infinitely high ceiling I was asked to climb to, I felt utter despair. We can be tempted to feel the same way as we find ourselves struggling with the same sins over and over seemingly making no progress on the road of sanctification. But there is one imperative difference that we must not forget: we are not alone. No one was going to help me get up that rope, but there is One who is helping me every day to resist sin and pursue holiness.
Our God is with us, training us and providing the grace we so desperately need to live according to his will. This is the gospel that both [intlink id="12441" type="post"]saves[/intlink] and sanctifies.