Jul 17, 2014
A while back a woman in our home group shared that she was having a hard time being patient with her children.
The group rallied around her, loving her and encouraging her and pointing her to Christ.
Then she asked – “So how can I become more patient? What can I do?”
I mentioned that since sin is caused by unbelief, she could grow in patience by seeing which of Christ’s promises she was not trusting, and fighting the fight of faith to trust those promises.
She looked shocked, and said “Sin is caused by unbelief? Are you sure? I’ve never heard that!”
The Rash Will not Go Away
So the group discussed why it was important to understand sin’s cause.
We thought about doctors. Let’s say you went to a doctor because of a rash on your hand.
What if the doctor thought the rash was caused by a banana-allergy, when it was actually caused by touching a bush in your backyard which you did not know was poison oak?
If you stopped eating bananas, but kept touching the poison oak, the rash would not go away.
The same is true with sin. If we misunderstand the cause of sin, our solutions won’t work. The rash of sin will not go away.
What Causes Sin?
Then we looked at passages that explain sin’s cause, like James 2:17 –
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
If I’m impatient, then James would say I do not have works. And if I do not have works, then to some extent my faith is dead. And dead faith means unbelief — not trusting all that God promises to be to me in Christ. So my sin is caused by unbelief.
Which means that no matter what else I do, if I don’t deal with my unbelief, I will continue to sin.
What Overcomes the World?
Another helpful passage is 1 John 5:4-5 –
This is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
When John talks about the world, he’s talking about how the world pulls us toward sin – like the sin of impatience.
So what is it that overcomes the sinful pull of the world? John says it’s our faith – believing that Jesus is the Son of God — trusting all the God promises to be to us in him.
Which means that when we don’t overcome the sinful pull the world, the problem is lack of faith — we are not trusting all the God promises to be to us in Christ.
So again, what causes sin is lack of faith — unbelief.
What Shield Extinguishes Satan’s Darts?
One more. Look at Ephesians 6:16 –
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.
When we are tempted to sin, it’s like Satan is launching flaming darts at us.
But there’s good news – God has given us a shield which will extinguish every flaming dart.
What’s that shield? Faith. When we trust all that God promises to be to us in Christ, none of Satan’s temptations will hit us; they will all be extinguished by the shield.
But if a flaming dart hits me — like if I’m tempted with impatience and yield to the temptation — what’s the problem?
The problem is that I wasn’t using the shield of faith, which is another way of saying that I had unbelief in my heart, because I wasn’t trusting all that God promises to be to me in Christ Jesus.
How to Use This
We need to be careful how we use this. It’s not as simple as telling ourselves to trust Jesus more.
Since faith means trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ, then when we sin we need to discover what promises we are not trusting.
Then we need to pray over those promises until we once again experience the Holy Spirit changing our heart and strengthening our faith so we overcome that sin.
Let’s take the sin of impatience. When we are impatient, what promises are we not trusting?
The answer will vary from person to person, and situation to situation. But here are some possibilities —
Not Trusting Christ as Your Heart-Satisfaction
Maybe you are trusting affirmation from others, and not Christ himself, to satisfy your heart hunger (John 6:35) – so when your kids act up you think it makes you look bad to others and you respond with frustration.
In that case no amount of trying harder will give you patience — because the issue is unbelief, not lack of trying.
But imagine that earlier in the day you had prayed over John 6:35 and other Scriptures displaying Christ, and the Spirit had strengthened your faith so you experienced Christ satisfying your heart.
Then when your kids acted up your heart would have been filled with Christ, and you would have been able to respond with patient love.
Not Trusting Christ as Your Righteousness
Maybe you are not trusting Christ’s righteousness to make you acceptable before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Maybe you are trying to earn God’s acceptance by being a good parent — so when your kids act up you think God is displeased, and that pain makes you respond with impatience.
In that case no amount of effort will make you patient, because the cause is unbelief, not lack of effort.
But imagine that earlier you had taken time to pray over 2 Corinthians 5:21, and the Spirit gave you a fresh taste of God’s love and acceptance through faith in Christ alone.
Then when your children disobey you would know God’s love for you was unchanged, and your security in his love would enable you to respond with patience.
Not Trusting Christ As Your Provider
Maybe you are not trusting Christ for your finances (Matthew 6:33) – and are so full of worry that the slightest provocation makes you lash out with impatience.
In that case no matter how much you pray for patience or memorize verses about patience, you will still not respond with patience — because you’re not dealing with the root cause of your unbelief.
But imagine that you prayed over Matthew 6:33, and the Spirit strengthened your faith so you KNOW God will provide everything you need, and your heart is filled with peace. Your full heart will enable you to respond with patience.
Dealing with the Cause
If our rash is caused by touching poison oak, not by eating bananas, it will do no good to stop eating bananas. To get rid of the rash we need to stop touching the poison oak.
In the same way, our sin is mostly caused by unbelief, not lack of effort, or lack of accountability, or lack of devotion. So if we increase our effort and accountability and devotion, without dealing with our unbelief, nothing will change.
But if we target our unbelief, and fight the fight of faith until we once again trust all that God promises to be to us in Christ, the Spirit will change our hearts, and sin’s power will be broken.
The rash will be gone.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- Don’t Halfheartedly Resist Sin – KILL It
- Why Willpower Alone Can’t Produce Obedience
- The Right Way, and the Wrong Way, to Fight Sin
- How Can I Overcome Temptation?
(Picture is from everystockphoto by jessicafm.)