Wishing for God to make us perfectly able to resist temptations and sinful actions is a common desire among Christians. Many wish we could be instantly cleared of all sinful impulses and have no problem saying "nope" to everything that might cause us to sin. There are two main reasons why this does not happen. The first is that God being careful not to “break” us, the other is that we are not as open to change as we think we are.
Imagine a branch taken from a tree. If you hold it in two hands and smash it over your knee, it probably won’t bend into a curve. Instead, it'll snap in half. But if you take the exact same branch and bend it very slowly, so it almost breaks, then hold that pressure, over time it will take on the new shape permanently. Our spirits are a bit of the same; while we’re carrying around our sin nature. For most people, an instant change is more than our fragile, limited spirits can absorb (John 16:12).
The common analogy of God as a potter includes a similar point (Jeremiah 18:1-6). Potters who spin clay on a wheel don’t just slap the material into position with a rough hand. Punching down into a spinning ball of clay won’t make a bowl, it'll splatter a mess all over. Instead, the Potter will “work” it into shape. It’s that deliberate, measured process that results in something beautiful, strong, and useful.
The second reason is harder to accept, but it’s the larger part of our problem. It’s easy to talk about change—wanting to change and needing to change. But when we’re forced to make a choice, we often make the wrong one or we refuse to make the right one because it's uncomfortable or unpleasant. We choose to resist God’s leading or ignore God's will.
Everyone does this—from children all the way through to adults (Romans 7:15–25). Sometimes, the only thing stopping us is US. And yet, we’ll talk about it later by saying, “I really want this, so why can’t it happen?” or "I really want to stop this, so why isn't it happening?"
The key to making progress in sanctification is both letting God work on us, according to His wisdom, AND being truly willing to change ourselves or our behavior and obey where He leads. Both of those things go hand-in-hand. The more we’re sincerely seeking His will in little things and tiny moments, the more prepared we are for Him to make the big changes. While we continue to resist Him over what seem like tiny little things, there’s no reason to think we can handle larger change (Luke 12:47-48; Matthew 25:29).
It’s not all bad news though. No matter how resistant a saved believer is, they’re going to be perfected...one day. When we’re freed from our sin nature and our fallible bodies, we’ll finally get to where God wants us to be (1 John 3:2-3). In the meantime, we can be encouraged to know God understands our weakness (Hebrews 4:15-16) and is ready to help us move forward (Philippians 3:12-16)—whenever we're ready.
Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.