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Sin and Struggle in the Context of Community

Two weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about how we can begin

to combat lust if that’s something we struggle with. After that particular blog

was published, my wife, Jennifer, and I continued to talk about the process of growing

spiritually, specifically the role that community and relationships with other

believers play when we struggle with sin of any kind.

Jennifer noted — rightly — that my thoughts about overcoming

lust were primarily focused on an individual’s

personal responsibility, i.e., what a person wrestling with this sin could do about it. And while that’s critically

important, she also observed that our pilgrimage toward Christlikeness is

deeply shaped by our connections with other Christians. Specifically, she

identified four other relational areas that can also positively impact our struggles

with sin: community, calling, caring and worship.

Community. Let’s

start with community. Obviously, this phrase has been a huge buzzword for a

couple of decades now in the Christian church. Still, there’s a reason for

that: The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation. Rather, God

has called us (more on that in a minute) and equipped us to live and love and

serve for His glory in the body of Christ. As we discover how He’s wired us and

use those gifts for the good of others, it pulls us out of self-absorption and


And while I know from experience that not everyone

experiences that sense of community quickly or easily, I also believe that when

we commit to doing life with a group of other believers (be it in a local

church or perhaps a parachurch community), it gives us a chance to know others,

to be known, and to share our weaknesses and struggles in a safe environment — all

of which are key to growing spiritually and finding freedom from the shackles

of sin.

Calling. The idea

of calling, as I hinted at above, involves developing an understanding of the

specific contribution that God has equipped each of us to make. When we commit

to a specific community, it gives us a context to discover what we’re wired to

do best. For example, I’ve participated in any number of ministry initiatives

in several different churches over the years, and gradually I’ve learned where

I can make the best contribution to a given effort. With the singles ministries

I was involved in before getting married, I spent quite a bit of time teaching

and facilitating small groups, and I’ve consistently gotten feedback that God

has used me in that arena. But you don’t want me administrating details for,

say, an annual retreat, as that’s not something I’m going to excel at.

When we seek to discern our calling and giftedness, then serve

others out of that calling, it affords a sense of purpose, direction and

fulfillment that’s critical if we’re to grow in our relationship with God. I

grappled with plenty of loneliness and unmet desires during my single years,

but giving myself to the ministries that God had called me to yielded a deep sense

of forward progress in my life, even if I still struggled deeply in some areas.

Caring. This area

could be seen as a subset of calling, I suppose, as God gives some people a

deeply compassionate heart for those who are vulnerable and in need. That said,

there’s something about serving those in need (alongside others in our

community) that expands our hearts and serves to take our eyes off ourselves,

regardless of whether caring service is our primary spiritual gift. In our

church, for example, we’ve regularly been involved in a variety of caring and

service-oriented outreaches, from serving soup at the local homeless shelter,

to helping with a ministry that houses single mothers in dire straits, among

other things. Caring can also encompass mission trips (both domestic ally and

internationally) in which the primary focus is on meeting basic physical needs as

we share the love of Christ. In all of these things, our perspective on who God

is and how He’s at work in the world — and in our own lives — is enlarged.

Worship. Finally,

regular participation in worship with other believers refreshes and restores

our souls. A worship service gives us a chance to pour out our hearts to God,

to confess, and to receive His grace in the moment through songs, prayer, the

sacrament of communion and through teaching from the pulpit. Many times in my

life I’ve struggled to find the motivation to make it to church each week. But

I’ve rarely, if ever, gotten done worshipping with my friends in church and

thought, Well, that was a complete waste of time. The discipline of

participating in worship resets and reshapes my perspective on God, on myself,

on others and on the things that I struggle with.

Each of these areas, then, plays an important role in our

ongoing spiritual growth and in dealing with sinful struggles. They take our

eyes off of ourselves and focus them on serving and loving God and other

people, both those in the body of Christ and those who don’t know Him. And as

that happens, we’re gifted with a renewed sense of hope and possibility that

our lives matter, that our relationships matter, that God is at work and that

our battles with sin do not have to have the final word.

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About the Author

Adam Holz
Adam Holz

Adam R. Holz has served as an editor and writer for Plugged In for 20 years. He also spent a decade working for The Navigators, mostly as associate editor for Discipleship Journal. Adam is the author of the NavPress Bible Study “Beating Busyness.” Adam and his wife, Jennifer, have three children and enjoy watching movies, playing board games and playing music together.

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