(Lisa Robinson)

I have just completed my 4th year of the ThM program (minus internship duties through August).   I also just completed my first year of Hebrew and let me tell you this second semester was no cake walk.  If you saw some of my Facebook statuses you would know the struggles that led me to liken my dealings with Hebrew to a bad marriage.  There were fights, misunderstandings, one-way communication,  periods of rejection, elevated emotions and yelling.  I loved going through Jonah this past semester but the mechanics of those crazy verbs nearly drove me crazy.  In the midst of it all, we also had a word study assignment to address the meaning of the verb, translated “to grieve” in Genesis 6:6.  This basically entailed identifying everywhere else in the OT that verb or it’s cognate was used.  I pulled up a list of 15 or so.  Simple, right? After all, I had done these in my Greek exegesis classes as part of 20 page single space exegetical papers, that included writing a commentary, working out textual critical issues and validation problems.  What was a little few verse word study then?

For whatever reason, every time I sat down to complete this assignment, I experienced some major mental blocks.  It got to the point where I knew I would have to turn it in late.  The prof had told me no problem.  And still the “blocks” continued.  Given the difficulty I was already having with the mechanics of Hebrew, I got to the point where I just decided I would take a zero and a hit on my grade whether than continue with this dance of frustration.  The second to the last week of class, when asking about a make-up quiz I had missed because I was sick, she then said very calmly “and you do have a word study assignment coming, right?”  What?  Did my ears deceive me?  I was getting a second chance.  How could I not do the assignment now.

Ok, pause.   I think anyone who has spent any amount of time around bible-based teaching has heard countless illustrations like this of grace, receiving something we don’t deserve (or at least I hope so!).  But let’s keep going.  Even after this second chance I still kept struggling with this assignment every time I sat down to do it.  What on earth was going on?  This was not really rocket science and have certainly worked through far more complicated assignments on various topics.  Up until the end of the very last week I could turn it in, I struggled.

Finally, by Thursday of finals week, it came together.  I took off work early, spent a few hours in the library and pulled it together.  The flow at the end actually produced a pretty decent paper.  Whew!  At that point, I was uncertain if the professor would accept it and I was prepared for refusal.  After all, it seemed like I flubbed the second chance.  To my surprise, she was very accommodating and I turned it in ON THE LAST DAY.

What struck me about this whole situation was not that I had been given so much of a chance, which clearly I did not deserve.  But it struck me that had my classmates discovered that I was given this opportunity, some might not be too happy about it.  After all, they had turned their assignments in on time.  They complied and did what they were supposed to do.  Why should I receive the same consideration for an evaluation for my grade as they had received?  That probably seems most unfair.

It occurred to me, that this is very similar to the problem we would have with understanding grace for those who struggle with serious sin and whose sanctification process might look like an elongated version of my struggle with this word study assignment.  When we check off our compliance list, sins we either don’t do anymore or have maybe ever struggled with, it might be difficult to understand why that other Christian doesn’t get it or experiences some sin struggles that we think Christians should not have.

And let’s face it.  There are some sins that are believed to be out of the purview of struggle – sexual immorality, same-sex attraction, addiction, etc.  When we don’t accept this as reality, it can put us in the position of being like that disgruntled classmate.  We refuse to accept that the ones who struggle with such sin are deserving of the same grace we have received, because we have convinced ourselves we have complied with the requirements (meaning we don’t do sin x, y or z).

But the reality is that there are some sins that are so deeply ingrained into a person’s psyche or experience, that a serious struggle is inevitable.  It would be nice if when everyone came to Christ, the struggle discontinues.  Anyone reading this knows that is not true.  So why then can we not accommodate the person for whom there are some serious sin issues and elongated processes? The Holy Spirit’s work in a genuine believer may not be on our timetable of how fast we think things should be working.  But for whom this is true, God is still at work in them both to work and will for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).   For the one who struggles far harder or longer than we think they should, they do receive the same grace.

So rather than being angry or insisting that because one did not comply with the requirement according to an established time table, perhaps we can learn that some just need more time than others because for whatever reason, there are some more serious struggles.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    14 replies to "A Lesson On Our Problem With Grace and Those Who Struggle With Serious Sin"

    • C Michael Patton


    • Ed Kratz

      John, thanks so much. I actually thought of that parable as I was writing this but wanted to keep it on the shorter side. So I didn’t include it. But a very appropriate parable, I think.

    • Susan

      I thought of the workers in the vineyard as well. Good post, Lisa! I like that these thoughts came to you after you considered the undeserved grace shown you. I remember when taking driver’s training in high school the video we watched kept emphasizing, “courtesy is contagious”. I think God wants grace to be contagious among Christians.

    • Steve Martin

      We wil all struggle with “serious sin”all throughout our lives.

      Serious sin is not only what we ought not be doing…but all the areas in life where we have opportunity to help others, but do not. That is serious, and the wages of those sins is also, death.

    • Zach

      I totally thought of the workers in the vineyard immediately when I read this. We just got to remember as students that the teacher is there to teach, and the assignments are for us to learn. I think the grace aspect of learning is a really neat aspect of Christian schools.

    • Aaron Walton

      I do not understand how it connects to the parable of the workers in the vineyard; can someone explain to me what you are seeing?

    • Bruce

      Lisa, “stuggle with” (as in fight against the inclination or temptation to) is surely, to a greater or lesser degree, part of the battle-royal of the Christian life (Rom. 7; Gal. 5). I appreciate your thoughts along those lines. I am concerned however that we might take this beyond what Scripture will allow and twist grace into that which allows or permits living in sin in the Christian life. One thinks of what the Bible says for example in Matt. 7:21-23; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-6; and Heb. 12:14 (to name a few). It seems to me that however much there is a stuggle against sin in our lives (and because of remaing corruption there most surely is), in a true profession of faith this stuggle must be seen within the bounds of a genuine break from the reign of sin in our lives. As always the Bible itself must interpret our experience and test the genuineness of our profession of faith, not the other way around. Would you not agree?

    • Ed Kratz

      Bruce, yes I agree with everything you said. Specific to this statement here

      “It seems to me that however much there is a stuggle against sin in our lives (and because of remaing corruption there most surely is), in a true profession of faith this stuggle must be seen within the bounds of a genuine break from the reign of sin in our lives.”

      What I’m suggesting is that in varying degrees some things are so ingrained that the “break” might take longer than what we think they should. So a struggle might result in repeated failure though the believer wants to and strives to overcome it. Romans 7:15-23 can indeed mark the life of many believers. So I don’t think that twists scripture at all. For Hebrews 12:3-13 informs me that God disciplines those he loves and it is through this process that the believer matures. How long does it take? Scripture does not say.

    • Ed Kratz

      Aaron, the parable is applicable because the laborers who came at the end of the day received the same compensation as the ones who were there first. Does that help?

    • Bruce

      Thank you Lisa for the clarification. Perhaps my only caveat might be that we don’t find ourselves advocating a distinction without a difference. Always appreciate your thoughtful posts.

    • zhansman

      Hey Bruce, what did you mean by “Perhaps my only caveat might be that we don’t find ourselves advocating a distinction without a difference” . Thanks.

    • jim

      Thanks for this Lisa, I shall not throw stones at the slow process of refinement others are undertaking because I’m lacking in many areas myself.

    • princess

      Thanks Lisa.
      Currently, I find myself struggling with sexual immorality… I keep breaking the promises I make to God on closing the cookie jar until marriage… Its my birthday in 7 days (18th), I really don’t want to break God’s heart anymore.

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