There is a universal battle in the lives of believers between the flesh and the Spirit. We waver between doing what our fleshly instincts tell us to do and doing what God is telling us to do. This is a timeless battle.

As we look through the life of David, we’ve come to a spot in his life where I believe he was struggling greatly in this battle. Out of six chapters of 1 Samuel, we learn at least four lessons about what our flesh is prone to do. I want us to consider these as well as what God wants us to do as the winning alternative…


The Flesh Seeks to Rationalize Sin

David faced a battle with his flesh in 1 Samuel 24, and again in chapter 26. In each case, he had an opportunity to kill Saul, but refused. He won the battle with his flesh in this instance, but think of all the thoughts that must have gone through his head…

  • This is really self-defense.
  • I’ll kill him before he kills me.
  • He’s taken everything from me – I deserve revenge.
  • Israel would be better off.

That’s how the flesh works. It seeks to justify and rationalize, but when we allow the Spirit of God to be in control, we are bound by Scriptural principles instead. David ultimately realized that Saul was God’s anointed king, regardless of their differences.

We need to allow God and His Word to dictate right and wrong and not merely the situation and our personal feelings.

The Flesh Acts On Every Emotional Impulse

After the death of Samuel, David and his mean headed toward the wilderness of Paran and planned on laying over at the ranch of a guy named Nabal. Instead of intimidating Nabal with six hundred armed men, David sent a small entourage ahead to ask for basic provisions. Nabal’s response is rude and selfish…

Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?
~1 Samuel 25:11 KJV

What happened next is almost shocking. David told his six hundred men, “Arm up, we’re going to go kill him!” David was giving into his impulses.

Thankfully, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, was a wise woman. She went ahead to David and offered the provisions and persuaded him to turn aside. David not only thanked her for preventing him from doing such an awful thing, he also marries her after the death of Nabal later in the chapter.

The flesh wants to give into impulses, and we often tend to think that this is okay, but it’s often not. Our minds and hearts must both be submitted to the Lordship of Christ.

The Flesh Seeks a Comfort Zone

David made what most consider to be a tragic mistake – he went to reside with the Philistines and put himself in a position. In fact, he put himself in a position where he would eventually have to fight against Israel, a crime that thankfully God providentially prevented him from engaging in.

We do some of our worst damage in the comfort zone because rather than trusting God and living by faith, we’re trusting in our own resources.

The Flesh Gives Into Discouragement

In chapter 30, David and his men have moved on to the city of Ziklag and they’ve found something terrible and tragic. All of their families have been kidnapped and taken as slaves by the Amalekites (whom Saul was supposed to destroy).

There comes a moment when these men who have flocked to David and trusted his leadership up to this point, in their anguish, talked about stoning him to death. But then comes one of the greatest phrases in the entire book of 1 Samuel…

…but David encouraged Himself in the Lord his God.
~ 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV

I love that. David gave himself a pep talk in the context of his relationship with God. David’s flesh probably wanted to listen to all the negative stuff going through his head, thoughts like “everybody is against you” and “you may as well give up.” But David uses the truth of what God thinks about him to re-define the situation.

Essentially, overcoming the flesh isn’t about suppressing bad behavior or simply using willpower to say no to sin. Instead it’s about separating ourselves more to God and drawing close to Him. It’s about walking in the Spirit and obeying God’s Word.

God’s Word is always a better standard than human logic and God’s Spirit is always a better guide than human emotions. Want to overcome the flesh? Walk with Him.

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