Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance after he sinned with Bathsheba. Through studying Psalm 51, we can learn valuable lessons on how to overcome sexual temptation. In Psalm 51:12, David brings up the need for rest, joy, and a willing spirit – all of which are gifts from the Lord we need if we hope to overcome sexual temptation.
How to Overcome Sexual Temptation: Sin Occurs When You Lack Rest and Joy in the Lord
David knew that he could never work hard enough to be restored. He knew, rather, that if he was to work for God again, he would need God to first restore him. Notice the root word to “restore” is “rest.”
To resist sexual temptation, we cannot underestimate the importance of being rested in the Lord. More often than not, one of the main triggers for sexual sin is being exhausted. Let’s look again at the details leading up to David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. (2 Samuel 11:1-3)
David was clearly tired. He was supposed to be at war, but apparently he felt the need to rest at home instead. It also specifically states “David arose from his couch.” He was lounging around, clearly whipped and seeking comfort in reprieve. Lastly, the text makes it clear that it all started “late one afternoon.”
Most of us can relate to this scene before David’s sexual failure. How many times have we fallen to sexual temptation when we were tired, when we were just laying around on the couch, and late at night when our internal defenses are weakened from a long day at work?
David knows that if he is to change his behavior, he needs restoration and joy in the Lord. He knows that fighting God’s battles is exhausting, and the fight never brings the rest and joy his heart needs.
He understands that he’s gotten the whole thing backwards. Rather than fighting for rest and joy, he knows he needs to fight from his rest and joy given by God’s grace.
How to Overcome Sexual Temptation: God’s Sovereignty Does Not Take Away Our Free Will, It Sets Our Will Free
If you haven’t noticed, Psalm 51:10-12, David is really focusing on the spiritual side of things, “renew a right spirit within me (verse 10) . . . take not your Holy Spirit from me (verse 11) . . . and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (verse 12, NIV).
Certainly Psalms 51 is layered with a Hebrew poetical writing style called “parallelism.” This is where the poet repeats in different language what he just said to drive home the point. However, something more is going on here.
David is not only focusing on the spiritual side, he is also focusing on God’s complete sovereignty over the human spirit. He knows God must renew a right spirit within him. He knows God alone has the power to anoint his spirit with the Holy Spirit and take away that anointing. He knows that only God can give him a willing spirit.
Often times people can feel frozen when they start thinking about the sovereignty of God. The logic goes something like this: If God’s will is going to happen no matter what, then my actions and choices really don’t matter that much. If God elects people to salvation, then my evangelistic efforts are worthless. If God is the one who works in me and is the source of all the good I do, then there is really not much I can do to change my behavior but wait on God. And if God grace is given when I sin, why does it matter if I sin?
Jesus said in John 15:5, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” While to some this verse gives great comfort, to others it brings great confusion. If I can’t do anything without Christ, why I am responsible anyways? People often feel man’s free will is somehow voided by God’s sovereignty.
How to Overcome Sexual Temptation: God’s Power Is Not Our Excuse, It Is Our Only Hope
The fact that we can do nothing good without Christ does not mean we are called to do nothing. Christ gives us power to act, but we must still choose to live in that power and act.
Jesus had to die on the cross for us, but he still tells us to take up our cross daily (Matthew 16:24). This is an active command, requiring a choice of the will and action from the body. We won’t be able to do it if we are not relying on Christ and putting our faith in his truth, but we are called to “do” these things with Christ nonetheless.
His power makes possible our right choices and actions, but we are still responsible to make these right choices and actions. The fact Jesus he is the only power able to cause us to do good is not an excuse for our personal failures. His power is the reason we have no excuse for not doing good.