“I Knew Better, But…”

Most of us have done things despite “knowing better,” like…

  • Putting on shoes or boots that we left outside on the patio overnight without shaking them out first, only to find something inside that bites or stings our foot!
  • Relighting the gas grill that has gotten blown out by the wind without turning off the gas and raising the lid for a few minutes, and we may have lost some eyelashes or brows to remind us to do so next time.
  • Wearing shorts to do some “quick” weed-eating, and having to then “wear” some lasting effects!
  • Not paying attention to the electrical cord’s location while operating a circular saw (if your saw’s cord hasn’t been “taped up,” you’re just an amateur!).
  • Using a grinder or other power tool without safety glasses (yep, I had to get a piece of steel removed from my eye once; it had rusted the eyeball and the ophthalmologist used a drill to “clean it out”!).
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Sometimes, we learn what “not to do” the hard way. Either no one told us what “not to do,” or we weren’t smart enough to figure it out for ourselves ahead of time, and have thus learned by “experience.”  I’ve long said to myself and others, “‘Live and learn’ works, but ‘learn and live’ leaves fewer scars.”  But a lot of the time, I “knew better” than to do something stupid.  Either I had been taught better, or had previously learned better the hard way, and yet did something dumb anyway.  Perhaps it was easier or quicker than doing it the “right” way, but despite “knowing better,” I took the “shortcut”… and usually paid the price with bruises, knots, or blood on top of failure.

Now think about “knowing better but not doing better” spiritually.  How many of the sins we commit are truly “sins of ignorance”?  Speaking only for myself, and limited to the spiritual failures of which I am aware, I know most of all of them are sinful at the time I commit them.  In other words, “I knew better, but….” So why don’t I (and “we” if you’re in the same boat) “do better” when I “know better”?  While there may be as many answers to this question as there are people willing to ask it of themselves, for me the answers are usually pretty simple…

  1. I didn’t take time to stop and think.  I reacted rather than rethinking.  If I had done the latter rather than the former, perhaps I could have been “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” realizing that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” Jas.1:19-20.
  2. I allowed my emotions to override my intellect.  Perhaps cowardice was greater than courage, or I gave in to my fear more than my faith.  In either case, my present “feelings” or emotions were given precedence over my existing “knowledge” of what was right.  I, perhaps like the father in Mark 9:22-24, “do believe” in my mind, but need help with the “unbelief” of my heart (emotions).  
  3. I justified or excused myself because of some circumstance, or another’s actions.  Like King Saul of old, I allowed my perceptions of some present circumstance or distress, and or what someone else did or didn’t do, to cloud my judgment sufficiently to override my conscience (and knowledge of what God commanded and expected) and do something I knew was wrong, cf. 1Sam.15:8-13a.  It didn’t work for King Saul, and it won’t work for me (or you) either.
  4. But more often than not, I simply did what pleased “me” instead of “God.”  In my judgment, the greatest and most difficult battle we face as followers of Christ is that of subjecting “self” to God’s will.  For me, and as manifested above, the real problem is not as much with “learn(ing) what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph.5:10) or in “understand(ing) what the will of the Lord is” (Eph.5:17), but with being willing to at all times and in all ways subject my will to HisThat is, to be willing to always say and mean, “not My will, but Thine be done,” Luke 22:42

And so, by correctly assessing and identifying the problem(s), the solutions become manifestly obvious:

  1. Stop and think; reflect on what you know from God’s Word to be right, and then do it. If you don’t what know what God’s Word says is “right” in a particular situation, find out, then do it.
  2. Don’t allow your emotions to displace what you know from God’s word to be right. Pray not only for an understanding of God’s will, but also for the courage to do it.
  3. Realize and admit that spiritual failures are “my” fault, then don’t blame circumstances or others for them, 1Cor.10:13.  Do what you know from God’s Word to be right the next time.
  4. Commit yourself to “not my will but Thine be done” in, through, and by me.

May God bless our every effort to know and do His will! 

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