Many of us live in time compartments. We think in terms of years or months or weeks. It helps us to slice up the time, so that we can plan and set goals. When that period of time is done, we box up the compartment and set it aside as part of the past. “Last year, this happened to me…” or “Last week, I did such and such.”
When we are struggling to get rid of sin in our lives, we use the time compartments as a way to measure our success. “If I can just control my anger this week on the drive to work…” or “I’m going to try to give up donuts for an entire month…” The time compartment helps us to set our expectations so that we can see light at the end of the tunnel.
But sometimes they work against us. I’ve got a friend who struggles to live in weekly compartments, because if he messes up early, he feels the entire week is shot. Having lost the battle on Tuesday, he cedes the rest of the week to the enemy. For example, if he gives in to the temptation to smoke a cigarette by Tuesday (he’s trying to quit), he feels defeated. In his thinking, the entire week is ruined, so he might as well keep smoking and start fresh on Sunday.
This is a common trick of Satan’s – getting us to think in terms of “all or nothing.” He knows that some of us only have to lose the battle with the temptation to sin once before we give up the fight. How long we give up depends upon how big our compartments are.
Some of us think year-by-year.
“I had a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, but I gained several pounds on my vacation. Guess I’ll try again next year.”
Some of us think month-by-month.
“I was trying to keep within a budget, but I blew it again. Guess I’ll try again next month.”
Some of us think week-by-week.
“I promised my wife I would start coming home on time for dinner, but I’ve just got too much work to do this week. Guess I’ll try again next week.”
Some of us think day-by-day.
“I made a commitment in my quiet time to control my lustful thoughts, but that didn’t last past the gym this morning. Guess I’ll try again tomorrow.”
It’s a dangerous rationalization for sin, but it’s surprising how convincing it sounds to the person who is struggling to get rid of bad habits. It takes so much energy and effort to change our behavior patterns that we are relieved in a way when we mess up. We feel like we are off the hook until our next time compartment starts up.
But what if we lived minute-by-minute instead of day-by-day or week-by-week or month-by-month? Then, if we gave in to temptation one minute, we could start over in the next. Right after we sinned, we could repent, ask for forgiveness and then box up the minute of our failure as part of the past. Immediately, we would have a fresh, new minute to use! A minute where our relationship to God had been completely restored because of our repentance and His forgiveness!
When we are struggling with persistent sin, we probably can’t be trusted with time compartments larger than a minute or two. We have to take away the excuse (and Satan’s lie) that we’ve ruined a whole day, week, month or year. Nothing is ruined. Each minute stands on its own. Every moment, we can make a new choice to follow God, and what is in our past (even just a minute ago) doesn’t have to infect our future.