Whether it’s the force of gravity, entropy, or the curse, there is always resistance in life. We talk about taking the path of least resistance or taking the easy way out. Most advertising is geared toward comfort and entertainment, things that avoid resistance. The flesh certainly doesn’t like resistance.
People don’t naturally like resistance. It’s easier to “go with the flow” but that usually means going backwards. Of course a life with no resistance equates to becoming fat, lazy, passive, and unfulfilled. To have a meaningful, purposeful life will require facing and overcoming resistance.
Addictions are the result of avoiding resistance. That is why I don’t promise an easy path to sobriety and recovery. There is a lot of help available and sobriety and recovery are certainly God’s will, but you will surely experience a lot of resistance in the process. You might as well face it and use it to your benefit.
There is resistance between the flesh and the Spirit because they are “contrary one to another.” Believers have both flesh and Spirit residing in one person, so of course we will deal with this resistance on a daily basis. Temptation is a form of resistance, and there is leverage against us because we are drawn away of our own lusts and enticed—our porn use has given us plenty of fertile ground for temptation through lust.
We feel resistance against us through temptation, obstacles, other people, and circumstances. And while there is a place for “letting go,” we have to acknowledge that we must use resistance to build character and a meaningful and satisfying life. So when we talk about resistance, we recognize that while there is negative resistance against us, there is also positive resistance that we can use to further our change and growth. An example of positive resistance: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Resistance training is good for the body because it builds strength. It builds endurance and discipline which can carry over to our mental and spiritual lives. I have always been amazed at how many successful church and business leaders participate in regular forms of exercise. Paul described physical competition as a form of temperance and self denial:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27, emphasis added).
The race and fight here may be metaphors, but he is clearly stating the importance of keeping his body in temperance and subjection: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.”
A significant source of resistance is through our own negative thoughts. They can range from “I can’t” to “I am no good” to “I am worthless” and all points in between. These lies about ourselves are strongholds of resistance that keep us stuck in self-defeating behaviors and purposeless living.
The key here is to push against the resistance—to resist the resistance—by “casting down imaginations” and retraining the mind to think true and healthy thoughts. The root of all change is to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Like a weak body first embarking on strength training, it will take commitment and courage to overcome years of negative thoughts, but it can be done.
The purpose of biblical meditation is not to empty the mind, but to fill it with thoughts of God’s word, His goodness, and His vision of victory for our lives. It is easier to eliminate negative thoughts by actively replacing them with positive thoughts.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Resistance can be reduced through good habits. If I make a habit of waking up at a certain time and making my bed, my resistance to getting started in the morning is reduced because “that is what I do.” I don’t have to use up mental energy by having to make a new decision every morning about what time to get up.
There are certain things I do every week: I attend my 12-Step home group on Saturday mornings at 8:00 am, I go to church Sunday morning at 11:00 and to another 12-Step meeting every Sunday afternoon. I usually make dinner for my youngest son twice a week. I am free to break this routine whenever I want to, but for the most part, I stick to it.
That is not to say that I don’t ever feel resistance to doing these things; I often do, but the established patterns easily overcome the resistance. And here is an important key: I can’t ever remember any regret doing these things. When the bed is made, when the meetings are over, after the meal is eaten and the kitchen is clean, I always feel good.
The last thing we want is God’s resistance against us. “God resisteth the proud.” But does this always mean overt, swelling pride and arrogance? What about the pride of thinking that we can become sober and experience recovery and healing on our own? No matter how bad we feel about ourselves, self-sufficiency and the illusion of “going it alone” is a form of pride that God evidently resists. I say evidently because years of trying to become sober on my own didn’t work.
Submitting to God means not resisting the means that He will use to help you get sober and actively recovering. For me, it meant finding a good 12-Step group, going to meetings, and working the program. It meant being faithful to a good, Bible-believing church, and re-establishing good spiritual disciplines. It meant being open and honest with myself and other people.
Resistance is part of life, but it can be used wisely as leverage to build strength. It takes courage and strength to live a life pleasing to God and to be useful to ourselves and others.
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