In Times of Stress and Turmoil We Are Tempted to Sin
Well, it seems like a normal day but it’s not! Most things are going along as usual, but just a few things are totally out of whack! Have you ever had days like that? Or maybe weeks? Or months? Or even years! There are just a few ‘issues’ that won’t go away. It may have something to do with work, or home life, or church, or even a hobby that you love. And in the middle of the turmoil or stress is usually one person, or one person and his/her followers. What a mess one person can make of what should have been a lovely day. It can get to the point that the mere thought of that person sets your teeth on edge like you have been eating sour grapes!
The next thing you know, you’re grumpy! You are a little too sharp with your replies to those around you. Their feelings are hurt. They are grumpy and they pass it on to those around them. Somewhere in the middle of this turmoil is sin. You aren’t the ‘original sinner’ in this case, but sin is still an issue in how you act. And that is how the cookie crumbles, or how one rotten apple spoils the entire barrel of apples. In times like this one of the most effective prayers we can pray is simply, ‘Help us not to sin’, or more specifically, ‘help ME not to sin’. ‘Lord help us not to sin’ is a prayer that is also relevant to every day of our lives – even the days that are as perfect as earthly days can be.
Here is an article I wrote on that subject not long after my dad died.
Daddy Always Prayed, ‘Help Us Not to Sin’
My dad was a ‘oner’, meaning the Lord only made one like him. Mom is a oner as well. It was very obvious to anyone that a man as peculiar as dad needed a wife equally peculiar. I could tell you stories about daddy for a solid two weeks without even having to repeat myself one time. He carefully shielded his children from knowing the stories related to his time in the Navy during WWII, so I don’t any really bad stories. Most of the stories involve mom. Together they were able to ‘make it’. To ‘make it’ is an old fashioned phrase meaning to get through whatever happened. Their goal was to actually live the life of a committed Christian. They knew a great deal about what the Bible teaches, and they worked to apply Bible teaching to personal actions. Now, you can’t get any better than that.
At family gatherings, dad was normally the one who would ask the blessing on the meal. Sometimes he was asked to pray in church. Sometimes dad would get to pray over a new baby in the family. In fact, family members with a new baby were nervous until dad was able to pray over the baby. He didn’t do some sort of highbrow prayer. He just asked the Lord to mark the baby’s heart for his own and to bless the little one and his parents.
Whatever the occasion for prayer, dad always ended a prayer like this. He said, ‘And help us not to sin. In Jesus name Amen.’
Now, our youngest grandson prays like that, although he was not around dad enough to have learned to pray that way from dad. He is just very well aware that even though you set out to do right, you often do wrong. This little one is ten, and likely to burst out in prayer at the drop of a hat. He prays about everything, including indigestion and nightmares. He has no problem with taking all his problems and trials directly to God.
So, I see from the elder, my dad, to the younger, my grandson, sin is recognized as something that we do, but something that we ought not to do – but we do it anyway. It isn’t that strange. Paul, the greatest mortal to the Gentiles, had the same problem. What he wanted to do, he didn’t do. And, what he didn’t want to do, he did. That is all too familiar to me.
If you look around at the world today, you will see sin everywhere. I suppose it isn’t that shocking that sin is everywhere. After all, every human being is born with that sin nature. There is no escaping it in this life. People born into loving and wealthy families still sin. People born in poverty and sorrow still sin. Sin is in every economic and social level. Sin is inescapable, both in our own lives and in the world around us.
Sin is so common that people begin to take it for granted. Something as life changing and important as sin is trivialized to the point that it doesn’t mean anything really bad unless it is a sin that will get you jail time. Adultery and sex outside marriage are considered so trivial it isn’t even news. The teenagers and single adults NOT having sex are the odd ones. The consequences of sex in general like pregnancies and STD’s are even further trivialized. Pregnant? Just get rid of it. Pick up an STD? There’s an antibiotic or a shot for that most of the time. And that is just one area. There are many more.
Christians see the big or bigger sins all around us. They are easy to spot if you can even recite half of the ten commandments. It is so easy to say, ‘That is worse than what I do’. And, it probably really is worse than what you/I/we do.
If I had to pick two sins that cause the most trouble, the first one would be lying. That is not telling the truth. When we think of that sin we think of big lies. But, the truth is that most big lies start with little lies.
And, we think of lying to other people.
But the first person we have to lie to is ourselves.
We lie about stuff that doesn’t seem important, but it really is very important.
We lie about things like:
That TV show won’t hurt me to watch because I don’t want the kids to watch it.
I have had a very bad day, so that gives me the right to vent my frustration on family.
I had a bad day and the cure for my frustration is a relaxing hour drinking fattening coffee and eating rich desserts.
I don’t have to be nice to that person because they are not nice to me.
I don’t have to do a good job because I am under-paid and under-appreciated.
These are all lies, and they all hurt.
Whatever the truth may be, it matters. We don’t need to lie to ourselves by making things worse than they are, or better than they are, or more important than they are, or more trivial than they are.
After lying to ourselves for a while, we don’t see the problem with a few small lies to others..
It does matter.
And, the second sin I see is that Christians seem to be sadly lacking in charitable love. Even Christians are predisposed to love ourselves more than we love others. That is a sin. We are to love others the way Christ loved us. That was charitable love, love that was not earned or deserved.
Loving ourselves more than we love others leads to what I call the ‘disconnect syndrome’. People are just going through the motions. Even in the middle of Christian families the family leaders are busy doing whatever they think they need to do above what actually needs to be done. They need to love family members more than they love themselves. You can work out the family dynamics yourself, but usually every family member could be more charitable to other family members. Everyone could give more time and attention to building a strong family.
I really miss my dad. I wish I could hear him pray again, ‘Help us not to sin’. We could all add a couple of lines to dad’s ending for prayer. We could say,
‘Help us not to sin,
Help us to tell the truth
Help us to love each other like Jesus loved us with charitable love,
In Jesus name,
1 Samuel chapter 12 gives us an example of people who had turned away from God’s spokesman Samuel and demanded a king. Samuel was undoubtedly very hurt by their actions, but he said, ‘Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you’. (1 Sam. 12:23a)
Luke 6:28 instructs us to, ‘Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
You may be tempted to think, ‘I’m not liking this at all. THEY cause all the trouble and I’m supposed to pray for them? The answer is,’ Yes, if you want to be obedient to God you are supposed to pray for them. It will benefit them, but it will benefit you more. Praying for those who cause trouble in your life keeps you from growing bitter and harming those you love. It keeps the way clear between you and God. Nothing is more important than that.