How to Recognize and Overcome Any Spiritual Weakness
ACCORDING TO GREEK MYTHOLOGY, ACHILLES WAS THE BRAVEST OF the Greek warriors in the Trojan War, a campaign against the city of Troy. Legend says that when Achilles was an infant, his mother dipped him in the waters of the River Styx, thus making him invulnerable except for where his mother held onto him—the proverbial Achilles’ heel. That was precisely where the fatal arrow, shot by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, struck and killed Achilles.
Christians are soldiers of Christ, engaged in a spiritual warfare. (2 Timothy 2:3) “We have a wrestling,” explains the apostle Paul, “not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” Yes, our enemies are none other than Satan the Devil and the demons.—Ephesians 6:12.
Obviously, this would be a one-sided fight were it not for the help we receive from Jehovah God, who has been described as “a manly person of war.” (Exodus 15:3) To protect ourselves against our vicious foes, we are given a spiritual suit of armor. That is why the apostle urged: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.”—Ephesians 6:11.
The suit of armor provided by Jehovah God is, without a doubt, of the finest quality, capable of withstanding any kind of spiritual assault. Just look at the list that Paul gave: girdle of truth, breastplate of righteousness, footgear of the good news, large shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the spirit. What finer equipment could one hope for? With such a suit of armor on, a Christian soldier has every opportunity to come out victorious, in spite of formidable odds.—Ephesians 6:13-17.
Even though the spiritual suit of armor from Jehovah is of the finest quality and is a source of security for us, we must not take things for granted. Bearing in mind the supposedly invincible Achilles, is it possible that we too may have a weak spot, a spiritual Achilles’ heel? That could prove fatal if we are caught unawares.
Examine Your Spiritual Armor
A two-time Olympic gold medalist ice skater, who was apparently in top physical condition, suddenly collapsed and died during a practice session. Shortly thereafter a sobering piece of news was reported in The New York Times: “Half of the 600,000 Americans who have heart attacks each year have no symptoms beforehand.” Clearly, the state of our health cannot be determined simply by how we feel.
It is the same when it comes to our spiritual well-being. The Bible’s advice is: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Even though our spiritual armor is the best available, weakness can develop. This is because we are born in sin, and our sinful and imperfect nature can easily overpower our resolve to do God’s will. (Psalm 51:5) Despite our good intentions, our treacherous heart can deceive us by fabricating specious reasonings or excuses, so that we easily overlook our weakness and deceive ourselves into thinking that all is well.—Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:21-23.
In addition, we live in a world in which the sense of right and wrong is often confused and distorted. Whether something is right or wrong may be determined by how the person feels. This kind of thinking is promoted in advertisements, popular entertainment, and the media. Obviously, if we are not careful, we can be lulled into thinking that way, and our spiritual suit of armor may begin to weaken.
Rather than falling into such a dangerous situation, we should heed the Bible’s advice: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) When we do so, we will be able to spot any weaknesses that may have developed and take the necessary steps to repair them before our enemies spot them and launch their attack. How, though, do we go about making such a test? What are some symptoms we should watch for in this self-examination?
Recognizing the Symptoms
One common symptom that may indicate spiritual weakness is a slacking off in our personal study habits. Some feel that they should study more, but they just cannot seem to get around to it. With today’s busy life, it is easy to fall into such a bad situation. What is worse, however, is that people often rationalize that they are not doing so bad, since they read Bible publications whenever they can and they are able to get to some Christian meetings.
Such reasoning is a form of self-deception. It is like a man who feels that he is too busy to sit down and eat a proper meal, so he grabs a bite here and there as he dashes from one thing to another. Though he may not suffer from starvation, health problems may set in sooner or later. Similarly, without a steady intake of nourishing spiritual food, we could soon develop weak spots in our spiritual armor. Being constantly bombarded by worldly propaganda and attitudes, we could easily succumb to Satan’s deadly attacks.
Another symptom of spiritual weakness is loss of the sense of urgency in our spiritual warfare. A soldier in peacetime does not feel the tension and danger of battle. He may thus feel no urgency to be ready. If he is suddenly called into action, he may well be unprepared. It is the same spiritually. If we allow our sense of urgency to slip, we can become unprepared to fend off attacks that may come our way.
How, though, can we tell if we have fallen into this situation? We could ask ourselves some questions that may reveal the real state of affairs: Am I as eager to engage in the ministry as I am to go on an outing? Am I as willing to spend time preparing for meetings as I am to shop or watch TV? Do I have second thoughts about pursuits or opportunities that I gave up when I became a Christian? Do I envy the so-called good life that others are leading? These are searching questions, but they are helpful in spotting any weakness in our spiritual suit of armor.
Since the protective armor we have is spiritual, it is essential that God’s spirit flow freely in our life. This is reflected in the degree to which the fruitage of God’s spirit is manifest in all our activities. Are you easily irritated or even upset when others do or say something not to your liking? Do you find counsel hard to accept, or do you feel that others are always picking on you? Are you deeply envious of other people’s blessings or accomplishments? Do you find it difficult to get along with others, especially your peers? An honest self-appraisal will help us to see if our life is filled with the fruitage of God’s spirit or if the works of the flesh are insidiously making their appearance.—Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:22-27.
Positive Steps to Overcome Spiritual Weakness
It is one thing to recognize the symptoms of spiritual weakness; it is quite another to face them and take steps to correct matters. Regrettably, many tend to make excuses, to rationalize, to minimize the problem, or to deny that it exists. How dangerous that is—like going to battle wearing a suit of armor with missing pieces! Such a course would lay us wide open to Satan’s attack. Rather, we should take positive steps quickly to correct any defects we may notice. What can we do?—Romans 8:13; James 1:22-25.
Being engaged in spiritual warfare—a battle that includes control of the Christian’s mind and heart—we must do all we can to safeguard our faculties. Recall that among the pieces of our spiritual armor are “the breastplate of righteousness,” which protects our heart, and “the helmet of salvation,” which protects our mind. Learning to use these provisions effectively can mean the difference between victory and defeat.—Ephesians 6:14-17; Proverbs 4:23; Romans 12:2.
Wearing “the breastplate of righteousness” properly requires that we constantly check ourselves regarding our love of righteousness and hatred of lawlessness. (Psalm 45:7; 97:10; Amos 5:15) Have our standards been brought down along with the world’s? Do we now find entertaining—whether in real life or portrayed on TV and movie screens, in books and magazines—things which once might have shocked or offended us? Love of righteousness will help us to see that what is glorified in the world as freedom and sophistication may really be promiscuity and conceit in disguise.—Romans 13:13, 14; Titus 2:12.
Putting on “the helmet of salvation” involves keeping vividly in mind the marvelous blessings ahead, not allowing ourselves to be sidetracked by the glitter and glamour of the world. (Hebrews 12:2, 3; 1 John 2:16) Having this outlook will help us to put spiritual interests ahead of material gain or personal advantage. (Matthew 6:33) Thus, to be sure that we have this piece of armor properly in place, we must honestly ask ourselves: What am I pursuing in life? Do I have specific spiritual goals? What am I doing to reach them? Whether of the remaining anointed Christians or of the multitudinous “great crowd,” we should imitate Paul, who said: “I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal.—Revelation 7:9; Philippians 3:13, 14.
Paul’s description of our spiritual suit of armor concludes with this admonition: “With every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones.” (Ephesians 6:18) This indicates two positive steps we can take to overcome or prevent any spiritual weakness: Develop a good relationship with God, and form a close bond with fellow Christians.
When we have the habit of turning to Jehovah with prayers of “every form” (confession of our sins, petition for forgiveness, request for guidance, thanksgiving for blessings, praises from the heart) and “on every occasion” (publicly, privately, personally, spontaneously), we gain an intimacy with Jehovah. That is the greatest protection we can have.—Romans 8:31; James 4:7, 8.
On the other hand, we are admonished to pray “in behalf of all the holy ones,” that is, for our fellow Christians. We may in our prayers remember our spiritual brothers in distant lands who are suffering persecution or other hardships. But what about Christians with whom we work and associate day after day? It is proper to pray in their behalf also, even as Jesus prayed for his disciples. (John 17:9; James 5:16) Such prayers draw us close together and strengthen us to withstand the attacks of “the wicked one.”—2 Thessalonians 3:1-3.
Finally, keep firmly in mind the apostle Peter’s loving admonition: “The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:7, 8) It is so easy to let human imperfections—other people’s and our own—work their way into our hearts and minds and become obstacles, stumbling blocks. Satan well knows this human weakness. Divide and conquer is one of his wily tactics. We must, therefore, be quick to cover over such sins with intense love for one another and not “allow place for the Devil.”—Ephesians 4:25-27.
Keep Spiritually Strong Now
When you notice that your hair is out of place or that your necktie is crooked, what do you do? You most likely straighten things out as soon as possible. Few people would simply leave them alone, feeling that such physical anomalies do not matter. Let us respond just as quickly when it comes to our spiritual weaknesses. Physical blemishes may invite people’s disapproving glances, but spiritual defects that are left uncorrected can result in Jehovah’s disapproval.—1 Samuel 16:7.
Jehovah has lovingly given us all that we need to help us root out any spiritual weakness and to keep spiritually strong. By means of Christian meetings, Bible publications, and mature and caring fellow Christians, he provides constant reminders and pointers as to what we must do. It is up to us to accept and apply them. This takes effort and self-discipline. But recall what the apostle Paul honestly said: “The way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Corinthians 9:26, 27.
Be alert, and never allow a spiritual Achilles’ heel to develop. Rather, humbly and courageously let us do what is necessary now to recognize and overcome any spiritual weakness that we have.
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“KEEP TESTING WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE FAITH, KEEP PROVING WHAT YOU YOURSELVES ARE.”—2 Corinthians 13:5.
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“BE VIGILANT WITH A VIEW TO PRAYERS. ABOVE ALL THINGS, HAVE INTENSE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, BECAUSE LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.”—1 Peter 4:7, 8.
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ASK YOURSELF . . .
◆ Am I as eager to spend time preparing for meetings as I am to shop or watch TV?
◆ Do I envy the so-called good life that others are leading?
◆ Am I easily irritated when others do or say something not to my liking?
◆ Do I find counsel hard to accept, or do I feel that others are always picking on me?
◆ Do I find it difficult to get along with others?
◆ Have my standards been brought down along with the world’s?
◆ Do I have specific spiritual goals?
◆ What am I doing to reach my spiritual goals?
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Achilles: From the book Great Men and Famous Women; Roman soldiers and page 21: Historic Costume in Pictures/Dover Publications, Inc., New York