(Matthew 26:40-41) Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In Jesus most desperate season of prayer, on the night before His death; His sweat became as red drops of blood on the ground. More than once He came to find His disciples too tired to pray with Him. His instruction “watch and pray that you do not enter temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”, was not just for the three disciples with Him in the garden for that particular night.
Jesus instruction was to guard and guide the rest of their lives; His command was to guard and guide the life of every child of God until He comes! As Jesus was under continual attack from the kingdom of darkness, so too are those truly invested in following the Savior with all their hearts. In fact, Peter Himself sounds this warning again in 1 Peter 5:8-10 where we read “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”.
Clearly, we see suffering and devilish temptation will not cease or diminish as Jesus return nears. In fact the more we grow in Christ, the more intense and powerful temptation will become. This does not mean that temptation is always like a bull in a china shop or a tidal wave; for it can be overwhelming in its subtlety.
Mature saints understand that their Christian strength, comes not from gaining sufficiency in their practice, but by daily recognizing their utter dependence on Christ by faith. True saints of God live with an unspoken inner understanding of “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”; the more mature we become, the more inwardly aware we are of the weakness of our flesh; or shall we say the potential of our flesh to pull us into a lack of sobriety, and away from the will of God.
THE SPIRIT IS WILLING
Jesus words in Matthew 26:41 “The spirit indeed is willing” are not in reference to the Holy Spirit. He is referring to one of the realities of our tripartite being (the three equal realities of our humanity). The Lord reveals this clearly in I Thessalonians 5:23 “Now may the very God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ”. It is that order, in which God works to bring redeemed souls into a holy and sanctified life.
Because God is Spirit, we must relate to Him first by our spirit. The problem is that our being born into sin (after the nature of Adam), leaves our spirit like cut off from God. This sad reality means it is impossible for us to understand God’s word, ways or have any relationship to Him. Without God miraculously restarting our spiritual man (born again), we would be without hope. Yet even before a man looks to the Lord, in His mercy He will bring life (John 3:1-6, 16:8-11).
This regenerative act makes it possible for us to understand the word of God; encountering conviction of sin, judgment and righteousness. At which point we can see and enter the kingdom, if we do so through faith and repentance. Once our spirit has been enlivened by God, we can become “willing” as Jesus stated. The disciples, even though still unbelieving to a point (although professing belief Jesus rebuked them for unbelief in Mark 16:14), were alive and awakened and willing; even though their flesh was weak.
THE FLESH IS WEAK
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Jesus is saying, mind the weakness of your flesh. Understand the weight of its weakness physically, intellectually and emotionally. Understand the proneness of the flesh to put off for tomorrow what should be done today. Understand the proneness of the flesh to overestimate its ability to carry out righteous desires. Understand how our flesh underestimates the power of the temptation, the strength of our enemies and the expediency of the hour. In the case of the disciples, they lacked this crucial understanding at every turn.
THE FLESH AN ENEMY OF OUR REVIVED AND REDEEMED SPIRITS
The flesh, as Jesus speaks of in Mathew 26:41 in the context of “spirit, soul and body” (I Thessalonians 5:23), is combination of soul and body. Before God enlivens our spirit, through regeneration, our soul leads our life, with our body at is beck and call. Having this combination ruling us long before Jesus became Savior and Lord, can override even our most sincere spirit desires for God.
For those who are in Christ, this scenario is heightened for our flesh is not only weak, but the seat of our “old man” and its old patterns. As we are in Christ, the “old man” the “flesh” has been put to death at the cross; but it is used by Satan to war against our spirit being in union with the Holy Spirit. In this, its desires and power appear to have life of its own (Galatians 5:16-17).
(Galatians 5:16-17) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
The “flesh” does not refer to the soul and body of the individual, but is term which refers to the indwelling principal of sin of the “old man” or “flesh”—or the remnant of remaining patterns of the old life. Although this is the old life principal has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:5-8), and counted as dead at the cross, its practical influence dies slowly. This principal of sin, attacks our body and soul, to disjoint our spirit’s union with the Holy Spirit.
So long as we give in to “the lusts of the flesh” and its pattern, it can weary us further and weaken our spirit, soul and body resolve to yield to the Holy Spirit. In fact, the flesh lusts or desires so much for its old ruler-ship, that it is at war against the Holy Spirit. It is this war, that often wears us out, and causes discouragement “so that you do not do the things that you wish”. It is this war, with its subsequent victories and temporary defeats, which tax our resolve, and weaken us.
Here Jesus’ words ring true for us; “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation, your spirit is willing, but your flesh is weak” and working against you. As much as it is a blessing to understand this truth and live it by faith in Christ’s finished work, it will not cease in its attempt to discourage or weaken.
What are we to do when battles, temptations, failures, victories, confusing attacks from the enemy, seem to pummel us without relief. How do we respond when its seems confusion reigns, our flesh is screaming, and we are being drawn into insensitivity and hopelessness? We need three things, lest we fall… REALITY, REFOCUS and REVIVING.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.
REALITY, REFOCUS AND THE NEED FOR REVIVAL
Psalm 119 happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible and quite a piece of work for a shepherd. David was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen a psalm of God’s law and testimony, God’s instruction for life, and how to live in it. There are three elements we need to discuss to understand this passage of scripture…
- Reality; as the psalmist who knows he has need and asks God specifically for it
- Refocus; on the 8 practical truths revealed
- Revival; This can only come from God Himself
The word REVIVE in the Hebrews means to be made alive or restored to life and health, after a deteriorating experience of illness. Imagine if you will, being in a coma… alive… but not moving. Spiritually alive, but with no fruit, or strength to move in the will of God (even though you desire to). Therefore, we need God to REVIVE US. Please understand that this Psalm follows a very real N.T. command (Ephesians 5:18-19).
When beat up or down, tired from long spiritual struggle, whether in victory or defeat, how many of us have the strength for “speaking to ourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God?” None, for the “spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak”, unless they are being filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember this gift of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is not automatic.
Desire is not enough, we must recognize our REALITY of in at the end of ourselves. We must then to REFOCUS on those 8 essentials of the redeemed spirit, and plead with Abba for REVIVING. This truth is so important David uses forceful words to communicate his desperation; as he was asking God to do things, he was unable to do for himself at this point… TEACH, GIVE, MAKE, INCLINE, TURN, AND ESTABLISH.
Over the next seven days, I offer to you, my dear friends, devotions from Psalm 119:33-40, in and effort to strengthen our spirit, soul and body against burn out, temptation, and great spiritual attack. Until then “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”.