Sin destroys joy and freedom. It leaves us in fear and loneliness. Slowly but surely, we loose our self worth. The questions is how can we safeguard ourselves from the devastating consequences of sin and live joyfully and victoriously? Merely asking God to protect us from sin would not be enough because it requires our participation. It would be like asking a doctor to heal us and waiting to be healed doing nothing. In our daily struggle against sin, God expects us 'to do' a few things so that effort becomes effective and fruitful. And only in doing these things we cooperate with God's glorious plan for our redemption and eternal life.
Our situations may be unique and our vulnerabilities different. Yet it may be possible to draw out few guidelines that are applicable to all. Resisting sin effectively requires the following:
1) Great desire and will
Most of the time we fall into sin because we do not really want to avoid sin. If you are taking your sinfulness lightly, and secretly cherishing the pleasures of sin, then know that you are in danger zone. To effectively struggle against sin we must have a strong and sincere desire and the will to shun sin.
2) Grow in a personal relationship with God
A sense of sin and a desire for God comes from a relationship with God. Relationship with God grows by Prayer. Prayer fosters courage and a deep longing for holiness. In the absence of prayer, we become complacent and become indifferent to the symptoms of sin raised by the soul.
3) Faith and Hope in the redeeming power of Jesus
Deep in our hearts we must believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus has already delivered us from sin and we are no longer slaves of sin. We must be filled with hope that redemption from sin is difficult yet attainable.
4) Be aware of our weaknesses
From our past experiences we already know the areas where we are weak and vulnerable. If not, we must make an effort to identify them. It helps us to take adequate precautions.
5) Identify trigger situations
If we study the pattern of our sins, we will know that certain situations trigger the fall. It could be when we are alone, when we have nothing to do, when we are hurt by someone, or after facing rejection and failure. Identify your triggers and be alert when you are in such situations.
6) Be alert and be wise
Always be alert like a soldier who is watching the enemy movements. When you foresee a threat, revert to appropriate counter moves. Without a counter move we are likely to fall.
7) Avoid circumstances
Run away from sin as would from a serpent. [Sirach 21:2] Do not linger on when you know that you are treading the danger zone. Change course or scoot.
8) Know that the enemy has powers and is super crafty
The enemy is prowling to take advantage of our weaknesses. They can easily manipulate us into sin. Do not take them lightly at all.
9) Surrender to the mercy of God
God comes to rescue those who resist the devil [James 4:7] He is rich in mercy and is eager to save us. When you feel tempted and weak, throw yourself into the merciful hands of God. And scoot the scene or situation. And if you must continue in the situation, stay focussed on God, make sure your thoughts do not stray.
10) Seldom rely on your own strength
Our victory is in Jesus Christ alone and those rely on their own strength will surely fail. We cannot fight temptations on our own.
11) Being in state of sanctifying Grace
Personal Prayer, community prayers, reading, meditating the word of God and frequent reception of sacraments etc help restore God's grace in us. It is easier to fall prey to sin when we are not in the state of grace. Grace strengthens the soul by nurturing moral virtues like prudence and fortitude to effectively resist sin.
12) Do not be proud that you have overcome sin
The devil is crafty and is tireless. The bible talks about how the evil one returns with more wicked ones to take procession of the house from which he was driven away, making the situation worse than before. [Matthew 12:43]. Even after every victory, we must humbly acknowledge our weakness before God, and prepare to encounter next crafty move with great faith and hope.
Resisting sin is akin to dying on the cross. There is no resurrection without death. In your struggle against sin, have you resisted to the point of shedding your own blood yet?. Jesus did, Saints did, so must we.
Our mandate is to be holy as the heavenly father is Holy. [1 Pet 1:15]
It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil. [CCC 1811]
The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them. [CCC 1839]
And if at all we fall into sin again, know that Jesus is waiting to restore us. Confess your sins. Do not procrastinate. He does not judge us nor does he accuse us. May we bathe in the mercy of God.