Why Is it So Hard to Obey the Spirit?

Biblical Authority Devotional: The Spirit vs. the Flesh, Part 14

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We are involved in a constant battle, and the enemy is much closer than many realize. Chuck McKnight, AiG–U.S., explains.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:19, KJV)

Today’s big question: why is it so hard to obey the Spirit?

As we wrap up this devotional series on the flesh and the Spirit, it is my hope that you’ve gained a greater understanding of what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). We’ve seen how important it is to “live according to the Spirit” rather than “according to the flesh” (Romans 8:5). We know that we must be “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16) and “that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4).

But this is not easy to do, as Paul himself attested. Though we want to do what is right in the Spirit, we still struggle against our sinful flesh. A war is raging inside us that hinders us from doing God’s will (Romans 7:23). This conflict caused Paul to exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Thankfully, the answer to this quandary is found in the next verse—we are delivered “through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

While Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He observed the disciples repeatedly falling asleep. They were overcome by their flesh. Commenting on their struggle, Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). But He also provided the solution: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41, NASB).

Living righteously is something we simply cannot do on our own. Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are no longer slaves to sin; however, the temptation to return to our old master is ever present. “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” (Galatians 5:17). We must constantly rely on God to keep us from giving in to temptation.

I often hear people promoting the fruit of the Spirit as traits we should strive to develop, but that view misses the primary point of Galatians 5:16–26. The fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit as we walk in Him. By our own efforts, we can no more strive to develop love than a grapevine can strive to develop watermelons. The only way to bear spiritual fruit is to be filled with the Spirit. He produces in us love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control when we are filled with Him. It is hard to obey the Spirit when we fill our lives with anything other than Him.

Today’s big idea: when we walk in the Spirit, His fruit is produced in us.

What to pray: ask God to remove every other distraction from your life so that the fruit of the Spirit will be fully displayed through you.


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