What a believer would do, if he could!
(Thomas Moor, "Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers" 1881)
"The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you want to do." Galatians 5:17
"You cannot do the things that you want to do" is indeed often a true testimony as regards the experience of the believer.
He would follow Christ in heart and life—but, alas, he sees how little there is of Christ in either heart or life.
He would be spiritually-minded in all things—but often finds that he has been guided by worldly policy and worldly influences, rather than by spiritual principle.
He would be meek and lowly in heart—but he has cause for sorrow that pride of heart is so often and so quickly manifested.
He would sincerely pray—but often finds that he knows not what to ask, and cannot pray as he ought.
He knows that the reading of God's Word should always be a pleasure to him—but he often finds that Scripture reading is rather a task than otherwise.
He would be gentle and easily entreated—yet sometimes he stands upon his rights with a sternness and stubbornness which is not of the Spirit.
He would always please Christ—but, alas, he sees how often his motive has rather been self-pleasing, or the pleasing of his fellows.
He would have more firmness in holy desires—but he sees how faint, even at the best, are those desires.
He would have his mind often engaged with spiritual things—but finds how much more readily it runs after things that are trifling and profitless.
He would have a more determined will against the seducing influences around him—yet too often his will plays the coward when most needed to be firm and decided.
He would be thankful to God for the many and great things He has done for him and given him—but sometimes he forgets all, in regret for the loss or refusal of some one thing which his Heavenly Father has in love denied him.
This is a very sad and very humbling exhibition of a believer. It is, however, too often a true one, as many a child of God will sorrowfully testify, who truly knows the evil of his own heart.
"You cannot do the things that you want to do." This, however, is not written to make us satisfied with such a state of things, but rather to show us that the life of the believer is one of much conflict amidst many opposing influences, and that we have no sufficient strength of our own to overcome them. Also, to teach us to walk with more watchfulness, humility, and self-distrust, and to go more constantly and earnestly to our Heavenly Father, seeking for the increased assistance of the Holy Spirit, that we may thereby live a life of faith in the Lord Jesus, who alone can enable us to war a good warfare, and continually overcome every evil.
It is by thus showing us what we are, in our sinfulness and our need—that the Holy Spirit brings us more lowly and willingly to the Lord Jesus to find our all in Him.