18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
Who do you think wrote these words? The writer says that every time they try to do something good or something right, they fail miserably. Do you think they were written by someone good or bad? They were in fact written by one of the most famous men of the Bible – the Apostle Paul. Paul started life as a persecutor of Christians and was even involved in the murder of a young Christian called Stephen. He then had a dramatic conversion to Christianity and became one of the most fearless missionaries of all time. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 tells us that during his ministry Paul was imprisoned, flogged, beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked. Many times he laboured without food, sleep or adequate clothing. Why did he suffer to such extreme? For the sake of the gospel. Paul, writing from prison, says to Timothy: “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am.” (2 Timothy 1:11-12a.) It is interesting, and almost encouraging, that even a figure as heroic and determined as Paul should also fail at times.
In life we face many challenges and have many decisions to make. Sometimes we choose wisely and sometimes we make the wrong choices, despite our wish to do what is right. What Paul is saying, however, is that even though sometimes we may do things which are wrong, that is not truly who we are, if we belong to Jesus. As Christians, the real person within us is good, because the Holy Spirit lives in us! While it is important that we exercise self-control in what we do, we should never be discouraged when we fail. Through Jesus we are forgiven.