Reason #5: Victory Breeds Confidence–The Good Cycle

Those of us who are or have been mired in addictive sins probably understand the word ‘cycle’ all too well.

You go to church, repent, feel good and strong.  One week passes.  Maybe two.  Then a moment of weakness.  A beautiful woman walks by.  A picture calls to you from the magazine rack.  You fight it.  It’s not the pretty woman’s fault.  You can do it.  Be strong.  But oh, the feeling.  I want to see more.  I need it.  I’ll just go online where no one can see me.  I’ll just look at one page.  One picture.  Before you know it, your hard drive bulges with gigabytes of folders devoted to women who are not yours.  And you hate yourself.  The guilt.  The self-loathing.  The gross, sick feeling.  I’m pathetic.  God would never want me near Him like this.  I can’t go to church.

One week passes.  Maybe two.  Then a moment of weakness.  The good kind.  The kind Paul speaks of numerous times, often referred to as godly sorrow.  I’m helpless and weak, but God can save me.  You repent, you go back to church.  You worship.  You start reading your Bible again.  You feel good and strong.  One week passes.  Maybe two.  And then….

We know this cycle very well.  Far too well.  We know the favorite verses people use that express it in some measure, such as Romans 7.  If you look at the Israelites in Exodus and Numbers, and even after they take the land in Joshua and Judges, you see a similar pattern.  Judges 2:10-23 offers a sobering and depressing picture of how this cycle can play out over centuries, generation after generation. Read it and realize you are not the first to go through this.

But there is another cycle.  A good one.  Imagine a sports team that won zero games the previous year.  Like the Detroit Lions of 2008–the first NFL team in history to lose all 16 games.  Pretty depressing, even for a Lions fan.  I remember the next year, however, when they finally won a game, the first one in over a year.  The team left the field, and the fans thanked them.  It was a rare moment in sports.  But those fans, and that team, have more appreciation for the feeling of one single victory than all the fans and all the members of a perennial winner will ever know.  And that first victory led to another, and another.  Now, they didn’t make the playoffs, or even have a winning record.  But it’s that first victory that must happen before anything else good can follow.  The first one is the hardest.  When you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up.

Victory breeds confidence.  The same is true in our spiritual walks.  God isn’t going to ask us to become a missionary, or start a church, or take over a ministry, or get a new job, or do anything else that will have a big impact in the world if we can’t manage to get out of bed until noon because we masturbate all morning long.

So the first victory for that kind of person is very simple.  Get up.  Especially on the weekends.  If you’re a student, especially on the breaks.  Have a morning.  Read the paper.  Eat something tasty.  I remember this battle in my own life.  My goal was to get through the three week Christmas break without reverting to my sinful tendencies.  It’s often harder when you return home (if you went to a different city for college) to keep up your spiritual progress.  The first time I successfully made it through a break, it was a big deal.  I felt stronger and emboldened.  Later, I made it through a summer break.  Success in the small things leads to bigger goals, which leads to bigger successes.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  As I’ve said, you won’t find freedom obsessing over stuff like this.  Obsessing over your longest purity streak will not lead you to freedom.  But my point is simply this: when you taste a little freedom, and discover how much better it is, then any failures after that hurt just a little bit more.  Once you’ve been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land, you don’t really like being shoved back down the wrong side of the hill.

And one day, when you realize that you in fact already possess complete and total freedom given to you in Christ, you will know the taste of victory, and will fight like mad to keep it.  You will want to know what the armor of God is for, and how to use it.  You will want the word of God to be your sword, and your faith your shield.  You will hate sin with a new kind of hatred that is different from the loathing, helpless, hopeless feeling of ‘not this again.’  Hebrews 6 tells us that hope is like an “anchor of the soul.”  It is from a strong position that we can fight and advance.  Once you’ve taken some ground, you want to hold it.  But if you never even try, what do you have to fight for?

So we want to have freedom, because it will lead to greater freedom and the confidence to start doing things for God.  We want to start experiencing the Good Cycle so we can experience the freedom that was bought for us by Jesus Christ. Then we can work on advancing His kingdom, rather than being stuck in our own self-absorption for hours and hours at a time.