Shaking Stubborn Sins

All of us have them. Those pesky sins that hang like a massive sticky note on our lives. Try as we might, this particular sin seems super-glued to our soul. And, the tragedy is not just what those sins are doing to us, but what we are losing in the great agenda of God for our lives and the lives of others.

Paul’s young disciple, Timothy, was unwilling to suffer hardship. He wanted to be comfortable. It is why Paul kept telling his friend to join him in his suffering for the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:8,12; 2:9; 3:11-12; 4:5-7). I would speculate that he was a great young man that, if not corrected now, would be marginally used in the future because of his love of comfort and lack of boldness. But Paul saw great promise in him.

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul gives several admonitions that would help him be a strong, enduring leader. A leader that would make the tough choices, push through his comfort level, resist sin, and always go where he needed to go regardless of the circumstances. Look at the seven bullets he puts in Timothy’s gun to fight this battle against a comfortable, indulging, self-centered life.

Be strengthened

“Be strengthened by the grace of God.” (2 Timothy 2:1)

Our main complaint about besetting sins is that we lack the strength to resist. Grace is a power. It’s the dynamic quality of God that gives you the desire and the power to do what God is asking. Paul said, "I am what I am by the grace of God." It is not only favor but empowering that is gained by looking to the Spirit within you and relying humbly on him.

He is the Spirit that you have been given for “power, love, and discipline” which is the opposite of the spirit of the fear of hardship that keeps us from overcoming sin. (1 Tim. 1:7)

We gain grace by humility. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Want grace, which will strengthen you to endure? Then admit your sin, acknowledge your need, and turn in total dependency upon the Spirit who lives within you. And keep doing that at the face of every temptation.

God will give you all the grace you need, which means you will have all the STRENGTH you need. We are weak when it comes to our habitual sins. That’s why we need to depend on One with no weakness to provide the strengthening we need!

Be gripped by purpose

"What you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2)

There are 4 generations in this verse: Paul, Timothy, those Timothy would train and those men who would be trained by Timothy’s trainees! Quite a legacy. Paul is trying to motivate Timothy. He knew that if Timothy could ever get the bigger picture, he would be willing to throw away his petty sins and live for what mattered.

Passionate purpose drives us to do things we otherwise would not consider. If we have given that up (or never found it) then sinning seems to make no difference. Why give up my comfortable little vice? But if I know that the sin I’m indulging in is aborting the purpose I LOVE and LIVE for, then there is greater potential for real change.

You know the way NOT to take a bone away from the dog? By reaching down and trying to pull it out of his mouth. But the job can easily be accomplished by simply putting a steak beside the bone.

Embrace suffering.

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3)

When you sign up to be a soldier you know you are enlisting for trouble. But you are willing to present your body for the task ahead. You know you must be under the authority of a commander and you surrender your life into His hands.

The problem is, an enlistee doesn’t quite understand how much suffering he/she is going to face! In the military, they solve this problem by making sure you can’t run. AWOL has consequences. But those who don’t wash out in training are the ones who have daily presented themselves, in all kinds of hardship, and embraced suffering as a way of life.

One of the first commands you learn is “Present arms!” When the commander gives this order, you bring the weapon you have into a ready position, completely at his disposal. It’s a reminder that the weapons you have are his to use.

Paul reminds us that overcoming sin is a matter of such a presentation.

“…and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13)

“Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living and sacrifice, acceptable to Him, which is your reasonable service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

If we are not willing to suffer then we will wash out when it gets hard. You will not resist temptation but quickly cave to the path of least resistance. This is why the cause must be compelling and the presentation must be complete and continual.

Resist sideways energy

"No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." (2 Timothy 2:4)

A soldier that is caught buying tourist gifts at the market while his buddies are dying in the field would be court-martialed. Its no laughing matter to be carried away by our lusts. Most of us fall into our habitual sin when we are not paying attention to the seriousness of the hour and living on mission. We spend our time playing video war games while children are dying in the war on the streets.

Overcoming sin means saying “no” to minor things so we can say “yes” to major pursuits. It is realizing that time spent in the closet with my pet sin is time lost on what is of vital importance.

We don’t realize the magnitude of our choices. As believers, we must see our sin as a huge distraction that is taking us away from, not towards, what we long to pursue.

Don’t think you’re above the rules

"An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." vs. 5.

Our sin keeps hanging on because of rationalization. "Just this once" "It won’t hurt anything" "I’ll get back on track tomorrow" "Nobody else will know, I can hide it" "I can still be effective and maintain my little habit" “Everybody else is doing it” …and on and on. We even laugh about it, which is a subtle way of covering the depth of our pain and the seriousness of our choices. A judo-trick, a misdirection to take our minds (and others) off the magnitude of what we’re really doing to ourselves.

These are all LIES! Whispers from the father of all lies. They are the mental games we play to assure ourselves that …

1. This habit is not so bad,

2. We won’t get caught, and,

3. It won’t harm us or others.

We end up sacrificing our life and calling for temporary pleasure. Getting a bowl of stew but losing our birthright, like Esau (This was one of the first sins, by the way)

We must realize that nobody—and I mean nobody—is above the parameters that God has put in place. "The soul that sinneth it shall die" and "The wages of sin is death” are clear and never-changing laws God has put in place for a reason. We need to grieve the loss that our sin is really causing. Anybody can violate the Father’s leadership, but everybody who does will face the consequences of their choices.

Realize that hard work pays off

"The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops" vs. 6.

There is incredibly good stuff at the end if you pay the price every day along the way. Study how a farmer patiently plows, plants, protects, and provides for his crops. He does this when it’s hot or cold, wet or dry, easy or hard. But in the end, it is these very plants that provide a great reward for his labor.

We must understand the endgame and know that if we will embrace small suffering against the comfort of our sin now it will big rewards later. We must be encouraged to pay the daily, hourly price of choosing against these sins by realizing it’s not for nothing.

Keep Looking Up!

"Remember Jesus, Christ, risen from the dead…for which I am suffering…therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect…If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him." vs. 8-11

Christ did exactly what He is calling us to do and He now lives in us. He died and rose and so will we. He endured and reigned and so will we. The willingness to forego momentary sin will yield exponential rewards in eternity.

Continuing intimacy with Him will bring example, encouragement, and empowering that we need to shake off stubborn sins.


I have a dear friend who is helping me overcome some stubborn sins. At our first meeting he asked me about my problem. Joking along the way I gave him the same story I’d used with others as I spoke about my particular vice in a light-hearted way.

He looked me straight in the eyes without wavering. “The first rule is this: quit laughing. This is no laughing matter.”

He was right. It’s time to mourn and move forward by the grace of God. Let’s get going.


©2012 Bill Elliff.