In each of the Gospels (B’rit Chadashah) when Yeshua is praying before His arrest, He asks the Talmudim (Disciples) with Him to stay awake, but they are sleeping when He returns from praying. He says, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Respectfully, Yeshua, I disagree.
The problem we have as human beings is that the flesh is strong, often stronger than the spirit. Now, nothing is more powerful than God, and when we call on His spirit all things are possible (Yeshua says that, too, and I fully agree!), but the flesh is our humanity. It is our physical presence in a physical world, one which resents and rejects the very Ruach (spirit) that is what we really need to survive being “in the flesh.”
The flesh is what causes us to not just sin, but want to sin. Our nature is sinful, in that we are drawn to hedonistic opportunities. The little red guy with the horns and pitchfork on our left shoulder usually beats the stuffing out of the little white-robed guy with the harp and the halo on our right shoulder. If that little angel really wanted to, he could knock the red guy into the next century, but that’s not in his nature. Yeshua was led like a lamb to slaughter, not saying anything. He was humble, even to death. We are told that the proud will be humiliated, and the humble raised. That’s the reason, I believe, the little guy with the harp gets the short end of the stick most of the time. However, when we work with that guy, we can overcome our nature. With the spirit, our flesh can be subdued and the spirit can be the stronger. When we partner with the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) it will help us to overcome the Yetzer Hara, which is the Evil Inclination that we are all born with; in Judaism it is the Yetzer Hara, in Christianity it is called Original Sin- either way, we are born into sinfulness and must spend our entire life overcoming it.
When Yeshua said the flesh is weak, what He really meant is that the human ability to overcome our nature is very weak. The “flesh” Yeshua was talking about was our self-discipline, our desire to do good, our ability to overcome ourselves. That is weak because the sinful nature of our flesh, the self-absorbed, hedonistic and undisciplined mindset we all have hard-wired into our very psyche is humanly impossible to get past.
But with God, all things are possible. And that means that even the meek, humble and forgiving little angle on our shoulder can rip the horns off that little devil and stick them where only a proctologist will be able to recover them. He can do that, with our help, with our support and with our desire to obey the Torah.
As a human I love, first and foremost, myself. To some degree it is a necessary thing- self-preservation is the most basic instinct of any living creature. However, God teaches us that to give one’s life for a friend is the epitome of love, and we all know at least one person whose self-love is so out of control that they live an unhappy, solitary and depressed life. I don’t want to end up like that, do you?
We can’t weaken the flesh, but we can strengthen the spirit. I have asked God to take a certain desire from me, I have lifted it up to Him and said, which I really, really feel, that I can’t do it and I need Him to just excise this desire and these thoughts from my mind. You know what His answer was? He told me, “It doesn’t work that way.” He showed me that I need to work with His Ruach, I need to strengthen my ability to draw on His spirit for strength, He showed me why Shaul (Paul) said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
The flesh is strong and the spirit is weak in each of us, but the flesh is as strong as it is ever going to be, whereas the spirit can grow stronger every day until we die. As I try to obey God’s word (that means the Torah) more and more, I strengthen the indwelling spirit simply by getting myself out of the way so that the spirit can fill me. In other words, each day I try more and more to die to self. The more I die to self, the more the spirit will fill me, the stronger it becomes until it rules my every action, and even though I will always have sinful thoughts, the spirit will be speaking to me louder than the flesh can. My flesh will whisper and God’s Ruach will shout, so all I will hear is God.
We are told that God’s Word never returns void, so here’s an easy way to strengthen your spirit: read a chapter of the Bible every day.
That’s a spiritual exercise everyone can do.