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What a privilege it is for me to stand before all of you this day to lead in the discussion of the word of God. As often as I have this opportunity, I feel humbled that I have been so chosen. Therefore, I thank the leadership of the church for this great opportunity of being the speaker in the first indoor lecture of this great congregation in 2019.
The topic of discussion is Willpower: The Gateway to Righteous Living. The topic suggests that there is a way that can help christians to live righteous. And that pathway is willpower. The topic further suggests that at the foundation of our efforts to please God, we must exhibit the determination to do so.
We shall look at willpower from the following perspectives: the power we use to do tough things in order to accomplish our goals; the ability to control ourselves; the strong determination that allows us to do something difficult; the motivation to exercise a will. Embedded in the above explanations is the fact that life could be tough and rough; it is never a smooth sail; hence it demands our being resolute to meet the challenges of life. One of the challenges of life is righteous living – living a life that is pleasing to God; life according to the precepts of God; life that gives glory to God and benefits humanity. It doesn’t mean a faultless life, but a life that strives towards perfection(Matt 5:48).
To serve God may appear simple, yet not easy to accomplish. Why? This is because our path to serving God is strewn with obstacles that we must first overcome.
It is only those who are strong – not with physical energy – but with the unseen power – determination – that can overcome such hurdles. That’s why Jesus said in Matt. 11:12 that from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven had suffered violence and those that are determined are those who will inherit it. One fact about willpower is that it is abstract – you can’t see, you can’t touch but you can see its manifestations.
Gateway is a means of entrance. Here, it is synonymous with door. One has to pass through a gate or door before he enters into a house or compound. Therefore, for those who desire to live a righteous life, they must pass through the door of willpower which manifests in determination, self-restraint or self-control. In other words, willpower is the means for christians to attain righteousness. That is to say, one needs will power to be able to be righteous.
The lesson is to:
- Enable christians appreciate the importance of willpower in their efforts to live righteous.
- Bring to the fore the things that could strengthen or weaken their willpower to serve God.
- Encourage Christians to develop willpower that will enable them to strive towards righteous living.
Who Can Exercise Willpower?
Every one can exercise willpower. All of us have the ability to make conscious choice(s). We have free will and therefore we have the ability to make choices.
Plants do not have such ability. Animals have a degree of will. Humans have more simply because they are better at thinking, and can make informed choices.
Why do We need Willpower?
At every step of our life, serving God does not come easy. As we turn every corner of our life, temptations abound. Jesus experienced this after His baptism and fast. (Matt. 4:1-11). The Holy Spirit acknowledges that our effort to live a righteous life is not easy. Wherefore in Eph. 6:12, Paul says,“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm”.
At all times, we are confronted with the works of the flesh which are enumerated in Gal. 5: 19: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling and such like….” (17 issues)
In Rom. 7:14-21, Paul acknowledges that we are carnal, sold under sin; and because of that we sometimes do not do what we should, while doing that which we should not.Therefore, we need willpower to resist Satan and his devices; we need willpower to overcome the pressure that our carnal nature brings upon us. It is only when we have overcome and resisted Satan and his devices that we can achieve holiness.
Because the pressure to sin is constantly on us, we need the willpower to overcome the pressure and achieve holiness. Hebrews, 12:14 says that without holiness, no man shall see God.
Beyond the temptations to make us sin, there are clear daily pressures upon us to make us part way with Christ. Romans 8:35 enumerates those pressures that come daily upon us: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. To the faint-hearted, these seven pressures can easily derail us from God. They can cause us to stray from the path of righteousness.
To be holy needs our strong determination to be so. We also need determination to do that which is good. This is different from resisting Satan and the attractions of the flesh. In Romans 7: 19, Paul says: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not that I do”.
Doing well in the service of God demands our strong will e.g. in hospitality,in giving to God, in giving assistance to someone, in attending and participating in church activities (spend sometimes on vows to God).
There is always a voice, a still small subconscious voice that tries to persuade us, or give excuses for us, in order not to do that will is good. We need willpower to overcome that voice so that we can do the right.
Role of Willpower in Righteous Living
Will power determines our direction in life. The exercising of it helps us to resist the devil and stay on the path of God. The exercise of it motivates us to engage in actions which are beneficial to us and pleasing unto God.
Examples of those who exhibited willpower
The conditions we find ourselves today may not be different from what others in the past (in the Bible times) passed through. Only the circumstances may be different.
- We recall the example of Joseph in Genesis 39. Joseph overcame Portiphar’s wife with willpower.
Please note that temptations follow blessings. In Genesis 39:2, we read of how God had prospered Joseph and he found favour in the sight of his master, Potiphar.
- We see the example of the four Hebrews – Shedrach, Mesach, Abednego and Daniel (Daniel 2 &3). Again the temptations before them followed God’s favour on them.
- The Apostles and the early christians, especially Paul (2Cor 11:23-28), in their sufferings for Christ. The sufferings followed the favour they had from God and were performing signs wonders wherever they went. Their willpower saw them through.
4, Jesus Christ needed the willpower to go to the Cross. His flesh was weak, but His spirit was willing. That willing spirit gave him strength to go to the Cross. We need to be spiritually strong to motivate our willpower to succeed. Our flesh is always weak, but our willpower which is clothed with spirituality gives us the strength above the weakness of the flesh.
- Esau – He lacked willpower. So he failed (Gen. 25:29-34). The Bible says he ate and drank and rose up; thus Esau despised his birthright. Hebrew 12:16 says we should not be godless like Esau who for a single meat sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. His lack of willpower is taken to be godless.
Things that can weaken our Willpower for Righteous Living
Three things which encapsulate all other factors are listed in 1John 2:15-16: the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan uses these three to weaken our resolve to serve God. The same three he used when he attempted to prevent Jesus from attaining Messiahship (Matt. 4:4).
- The lust of the flesh – the lure of the things that tend to give us pleasure. Satan attempted to use the lure of food to break Christ’s resolve to accomplish His earthly mission. He still uses food, drinks and other things we may not consider serious but have the potency to kill our resolve to serve God.
- Lust of the eye – This refers to the appetite and humour of indulging fleshly pleasures; those things that inflame the pleasures of the flesh. Satan tempts our willpower with the attractions in the world. The same he did to Jesus. Eve suffered from this.
- The Pride of Life – This is a life that thirsts after honour and applause; life that craves for grandeur. This is part of the disease of the ear – it must be flattered with admiration and praise. Satan sold this to Eve ….that she will live forever.
- Behaviourof Mentors and Leaders:Seeing the disappointing conduct of mentors and leaders could weaken one’s willpower to hold on, to serve God (Refer Rom. 14:21 and 1 Cor. 8:13).
True, Satan does tempt us; but it is our duty, as ones determined to be righteous before God, to overcome these temptations.
How can we enhanceWillpower in the Direction of Righteous Living?
- The example by Christ during His temptation by Satan serves as an example and motivation to use today: Reliance on the Word of God. The promises of God for us are contained in His words, and only our understanding and practising of those words strengthen our resolve to serve him. It prevents us from falling for every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:4)
- Avoiding as much as possible, situations that can test our willpower. Constant exposure to previous situations which tested and new situations which can test our willpower is likely to weaken our resolve in the direction of God.
- Reliance on Christ: Our self-confidence will fail us. Recall Peter how he boasted that he would not deny Christ. We’re never out of the reach of temptation. “Those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any other; self-confidence can sometimes be the armour bearers of sin” (Charles Spurgeon).We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). We should not be boastful (1Cor. 4:7) and we should take heed, lest we fall (1Cor. 10:12).
- Prayer – Given our human nature – weak and tending towards carnality, we need to pray for strength and resolve to do the right and resist Satan’s devices (Eph. 6:18; 1Thes. 5:7).
- Develop and deploy the entire armour of God (Eph 6:13-18).
- Develop Faith – We should have faith in God; that He is able to grant us our desire to live righteously. Ephesians 6:16 says with faith, we quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
- Drawing inspiration from those who have demonstrated strength in moments of adversity.
8.Forgetting those things which are past. In Phil 3:13-14, Paul says,“One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. To recall what went wrong or your failures in the past is good; but dwelling on them could be disastrous. It may weaken your confidence to move forward; it may let your mind tell you that you can’t make it.
Can We really exercise Willpower?
This question has arisen in the light of Paul’s discussion in Romans 9, particularly v.16 which says, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”. Here Paul is emphasizing the Sovereignty of God; that He is able to do what He wills, and what He wills is always right. His Sovereignty does not take away the fact that He created us with the free will, able to choose that which is right or wrong. Therefore, it is within our choice to develop the willpower that can enhance righteousness before God.
- God made us free moral beings, able to exercise choice.
- Temptations and stumbling blocks ambush our paths everyday.
- God prepares His people for temptations (1Cor. 10:13). He gives strength according to the day, and before a sharp trial, gives more than ordinary comfort.
- We must resolve, and God will give us the enablement, to live a righteous life.
- Our willpower is not enough – we must anchor our willpower on Christ through whom our hunger and thirst for righteousness in God will be perfected.
The Holy Spirit through Paul has given us enough comfort for us to muster our willpower. In Rom.8: 36, Paul says and we ought to say same – in all the afflictions of life, in all the temptations of life, we are more than conquerors; if only we have the willpower to serve God.
Finally we read Rom.8:38-39:
By Bro Uwem Udo Akpan (08023560755)
An Indoor Lecturer at Uyo Town Church of Christ,
20 Paul Bassey Street, Uyo, on Sunday, February 3, 2019