Day 37: The Spirit Is Willing But the Flesh Is Weak
Jesus returned a second time to find His disciples sleeping, and made the comment, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We often hear people quote this in a tone of rationalization or a lighthearted quip when they want to justify some failing of theirs. But Jesus was not absolving His disciples with that comment. Coty Pinckney affirms this: “In noting that their flesh is weak Jesus is not providing them with an excuse. Quite the opposite. Because their flesh is weak they must call upon God to help them fight temptation.” He is warning them that all their protestations of loyalty from earlier in the evening, while perhaps sincere, were not enough to carry them through the trial to come. They needed to throw themselves on the Father, as He did, if they wanted to remain steadfast in their faith, despite the weakness of their flesh.
When He had warned them the first time, He had singled out Peter, calling him by his given name, Simon. Often when Jesus was pointing out some fleshly failing of the man He had nicknamed Rock, He would refer to him as Simon. It’s similar to how many of us knew we were in trouble when our parents addressed us by using our full name. But while the rebuke was addressed to Peter, given what Jesus knew would happen to him very soon, the plural pronouns that follow indicate the Jesus was including all of the disciples in His warnings and rebukes. He was cautioning them “because of the failure of human nature there is the constant need for prayer. A willing spirit is not enough, it must be supplemented by prevailing prayer” (Morris). All the disciples would be sifted. Each needed to pray for strength against the onslaught.
As much as a willing spirit is insufficient, we should not rush past or negate the importance of having a willing spirit, for it is an essential foundation for obedience. Were the flesh strong and the spirit weak, we would be no better at obedience, but would be a whole lot better at sinning. A willing spirit is a God-given gift of awakening within us. From there we need to pray earnestly for the strength to overcome the flesh and fully obey the will of God.
• What times have you felt you had a willing spirit, but the flesh was stronger? Is it a common occurrence because you have a besetting sin?
• What happens when you don’t even have a willing spirit for something you know God wants you to do? Do you give in to it, or pray against it?
• If God is convicting you about your need to pray for those places the flesh is overcoming the spirit, what sort of prayer requests do you need to make?
Reveal to me those places in my life where I don’t even possess a willing spirit for what You want for me. Convict me of any rationalizations or excuses I have used to disobey. Lay the foundation for obedience by giving me a willing spirit—one eager to do Your will no matter the cost. Enable me to overcome the flesh through persistent prayer and a commitment to fully obey.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries