In Bible stories, believers often hold firmly to godly standards, despite the odds against them. The courage they displayed sometimes intimidates us. We wonder how we can faithfully follow our convictions to the same degree. But the Spirit who indwells us has the power and desire to bring about great change in our character and perspective. Only with His help can we honor the Lord with our lives.
A. The Fruit of Self-effort
As believers, we sometimes get the impression that we are responsible to live by godly values in our own strength.
- According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, what is the basis of our righteousness?
In our naturalness, we cannot produce holiness, no matter how much effort we put forth. This can lead to great frustration. It is necessary to understand that when we trust Christ as Savior, His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. As we yield to the Spirit, He produces godly fruit through us.
Note: “Flesh” refers not only to a person’s physical body but also to the part of our soul that wants to live independently of the Lord.
- Describe the typical fruit of the flesh (Gal. 5:19).
When people try to be holy in their own strength, they might find partial success. However, the by-products of such effort can include pride, selfishness, legalism, exhaustion, and judgmental attitudes.
- When have you realized you’ve tried to attain righteousness on your own?
- What were the results of your efforts to be holy?
B. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Part of fallen human nature is to desire control, to do things ourselves. However, when it comes to righteousness—whether for salvation or for living—we must allow God to do the work.
- Summarize what Galatians 2:20 and 3:3 say about the relationship between faith and living for God.
Faith, which is believing God will do as He promised, isn’t something we drum up inside ourselves. Our role is to go about our lives—making decisions, handling crises, raising our families, and so on—as if God will keep His word.
The story of David’s battle against Goliath is a wonderful illustration of faith. The giant had threatened the army of Israel, leaving them paralyzed with fear.
- What was David’s perspective (1 Sam. 17:26, 45-47)?
Notice that David did what he knew how to do, while trusting God to handle the rest.
- Think of a challenge or problem you face. What is your role?
- What is God’s part?
C. Responding in Faith
David walked into the valley in response to what he believed God would do, not in reaction to his circumstances.
- What previous experiences gave David confidence that God would deliver Goliath into his hands (1 Sam. 17:37)?
People either react to temptation or respond to it, based on God’s truth.
- When you are face to face with a “giant,” such as lust or jealousy, do you find yourself thinking something like this: Oh, God, I know walking away is the right thing to do. But I’m not sure I can do it?
If so, you may be trying to rely on your own ability to become righteous.
The answer is to pray something like this: Oh, God, this is too big for me to handle, but I trust You to help me respond properly. Faith is a signal for the Holy Spirit to go into action.
The time for deciding how to handle temptation is before we face it. Then we are more likely to stick to our convictions. No, we can’t predict every challenge. But most of us fight the same battles day after day, week after week.
- What are the temptations you face on a daily or weekly basis?
- Take time to plan how you can do your part to resist every choice that compromises biblical values.
Closing: To experience success over the specific giants in your life, start by declaring victory over them each morning. Think through the pressures you are likely to feel. Item by item, thank God for the victory (see the prayer below). In doing so, you activate your faith and avoid pursuing righteousness in your own power. Remember, Christ died not only to pay your sin-debt, but also to enable your success. With His help, you can become a believer who faithfully lives according to biblical principles.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask You to make me into a Christian who demonstrates godly values in every situation. I trust You to produce self-control in me. I cannot handle the challenges to come, but You can. When the pressure comes, remind me that the battle is Yours. Amen.