I love routine. I like to know what to expect, like to have time to plan for it and believe that I function best without any surprises. Because I have been a stay at home dad it seems that I have instilled this same thirst for routine into my boys. It is easy to see when they miss a nap, are late to eat or have had plans change on them–they react with frustration, behave out of character or even sometimes respond in anxiety. The thing that I am learning is that the need for routine is much different from being stable and consistent. Routine is an attempt to control circumstances while stability is the virtue to use self control no matter the circumstances.
In Psalm 51, his Psalm of repentance, David wrote, “renew a right spirit within me.” The Hebrew word that David used is translated “to be firm, stable, established.” It is as if Dave learned something about himself in the midst of his sin and repentance. He began to understand that it was not temptation that had caused him to fall, it was the instability of his own character, of his heart.
II Samuel 11 says that “at the time when kings go out to battle . . . David remained at Jerusalem.” This set the scene for everything to change in David’s life and even in Israel as a whole. Dave was where he didn’t belong. He should have been with his army, instead he found himself alone on his roof. It was in that moment that he saw Bathsheba, he lusted after her and then abused his authority as king by sending a servant to bring her to him. He committed adultery with her, she became pregnant and then when he could not cover the sin had her husband killed. When we read this we are often tempted to simply think that this all happened because David was in the wrong place. While it is true that if David had gone to battle as he should have this would not have happened, at least not when and how it happened, his location is not what ultimately led to his sin. David sinned because of his character, not his location.
Temptation can and will come at any time and in any place. David was tempted when he was out of place; Israel was tempted in route to the Promised Land, in the place God had led them; Jacob was tempted in his own home, by his mother and Jesus was tempted after His baptism and 40 days of fasting. Remember, temptation is not sin in itself. Sin comes when we yield to temptation, when we choose disobedience, when we follow our flesh and disregard the Holy Spirit. Being tempted is not being sinful, in fact, temptation is an opportunity to increase in faith, in strength and in character.
I Corinthians 10:13 tells us: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” According to this verse, God even measures the temptation allowed in our lives vs. our character. He will not allow us to be put in positions to fail, He sets us in positions to succeed. The next time you face temptation, remember that you are not hopeless to fail, but you are able to overcome, if you were not, this temptation would not have been allowed. When we sin it is not because the temptation was great, but rather that we did not fully exercise the great stability and power that the Holy Spirit is forming in our character.
David realized that his sin was not about his circumstances or environment, it was completely about his heart. He didn’t pray for God to protect his eyes, to close his ears or somehow hid him from temptation, he prayed for God to change his heart and build his character. I know that it is not popular to say, but our sin, yours and mine, is not caused by anything but our choices. David chose adultery and murder; Israel chose fear, anxiety and idolatry; Jacob chose deceit and escape but Jesus chose to stand firm, to believe in the Holy Spirit within Him and to be stable even in His time of hunger, weariness and temptation. We need to raise the standard of our lives and stop allowing sin as if we have no choice or ability to overcome it. We may not believe we can resist, but the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us and that Spirit will quicken our mortal bodies, giving us the strength to overcome and the power to obey.
For much of my life I have tried to order everything around me as if controlling my environment would put me in a position to be all I need to be. I have come to realize that my environment doesn’t matter nearly as much as my character. If my heart is pure and my spirit is stable I can overcome any temptation and fulfill every opportunity that God sets before me. I pray that I can change what I have taught my boys. I pray that they will be men of stability, men of consistency and men of purity. I pray that together, the three of us can let go of our need to control our surroundings and instead yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him produce in us the fruit of self-control.