We have a tendency to attempt to make great strides in the Christian life through our strength and willpower. We attempt to mortify sin by the sheer power of our will. We begin to think that we can grow in godliness if we do more. Pray more. Fast more. Give more. However, this path of dependence on ourselves, and not Christ, ultimately leads to shame. This quote from Richard Sibbes implores the Christian to look upon Christ for sustenance and trust him for true spiritual power. Only then can he find the strength to live as he ought.
Let us know, therefore, that it is dangerous to look for that from ourselves which we must have from Christ. Since the fall, all our strength lies in him, as Samson’s in his hair (Judg. 16:17).
We are but subordinate agents, moving as we are moved, and working as we are first wrought upon, free in so far as we are freed, no wiser nor stronger than he makes us to be for the present in anything we undertake. It is his Spirit who actuates and enlivens, and applies that knowledge and strength we have, or else it fails and lies useless in us.
Of ourselves, how easily are we overcome! How weak we are to resist! We are as reeds shaken with every wind. We shake at the very noise and thought of poverty, disgrace or losses. We give in immediately. We have no power over our eyes, tongues, thoughts or affections, but let sin pass in and out. How soon we are overcome by evil, whereas we should overcome evil with good. How many good purposes stick in the birth, and have no strength to come forth all which shows that we are nothing without the Spirit of Christ.
We see how weak the apostles themselves were, till they were endued with strength from above. Peter was blasted with the speech of a damsel (Matt. 20:69), but after the Spirit of Christ fell upon them, the more they suffered, the more they were encouraged to suffer. Their comforts grew with their troubles.
Therefore in all, especially difficult encounters, let us lift up our hearts to Christ, who has Spirit enough for us all, in all our exigencies, and say with good Jehoshaphat, “We have no might . . . neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12); the battle we fight is thine, and the strength whereby we fight must be thine. If thou goest not out with us, we are sure to be foiled.
Satan knows that nothing can prevail against Christ, or those that rely upon his power. Therefore his study is how to keep us in ourselves, and in the creature. But we must carry this always in our minds, that that which is begun in self-confidence ends in shame.