Good at Being Bad

Good at Being Bad
By: J.B. Hixson, Ph.D.

“For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.” (Jeremiah 4:22)

The more you do something, the better you get at it. This is true in just about every area of life. In sports, the more you practice, the better you play. For example, usually the more experienced batters get on base more often. Likewise, those basketball players who diligently spend hours upon hours in shoot-arounds after practice have a higher shooting percentage during the game. Larry Bird is a case in point. Though he was not gifted with particularly amazing athleticism by today’s standards, nevertheless, he was one of the most proficient shooters and prolific scorers in the history of the game. Practice makes perfect, they say. They're right.

Unfortunately, this principle applies not only to good habits and skills, but to bad habits as well. In my younger days, I was a pretty avid ping-pong player. One of my favorite ping-pong memories took place at a summer youth camp between my ninth and tenth grade years. I was one of the best ping-pong players among the one hundred or so kids at the camp that week, and I was quite proud of it. One afternoon, one of the adult camp counselors decided it was time to knock me down from my self-declared ping-pong throne. He challenged me to a series of games and beat me badly at every one of them. It was humiliating.

He had noticed a weakness in my ping-pong game. He correctly diagnosed the fact that I had no backhand. I had a mean forehand shot but virtually no backhand at all. When someone hit a shot to my backhand side, I would run practically all the way around the table to be able to hit the shot with my forehand. It was a bad habit I had developed, and he exploited it quite well.

Later in the week, the same counselor helped me begin overcoming my weakness by playing several more games in which he required me to use only my backhand for all shots hit to the left side of the table. It was challenging at first. I had to train myself to stay centered on the table, change the position of the paddle in my hand as needed, and use my backhand when the ball came to left side. Those few days of unlearning a bad habit eventually caused me to improve my game to the point where my forehand and backhand shots were equally powerful.

What is true of good habits is also true of bad ones. Simply put, the more you sin, the easier it is to do it the next time. At first sin is met with a twinge of guilt and conviction. Yet, if you persist, you will soon find yourself doing end-runs around the table in order to accommodate your bad habits. Those who cater to the sin nature will become very proficient at sinning. Such was the case with the children of Israel in Jeremiah's day. They were very good at being bad. Jeremiah points out that they were “wise to do evil.” In other words, they had gotten to the point in their spiritual backsliding where doing bad things came easier than doing good things.

Make no mistake, sinning comes naturally. We are all born sinners. It is in our blood. If we allow the sin nature to develop, it will control us, wear us down, and ultimately destroy us. We wonder sometimes how someone can do something that seems so wrong and yet show no signs of remorse.  Perhaps it is because they have become “wise to do evil.”

What is the remedy?  First of all, to have any chance of overcoming the sin nature you must first have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  This relationship begins with the initial step of faith in Him as your only hope for eternal life.  Jesus Christ died and rose again to rescue us from not only the eternal penalty of sin, but also the power of sin in our daily lives.  Once we trust in Him and are born again, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence within us to “help us in our weaknesses” (Romans 8:26).  The Lord also puts other believers in our path to come along side us and help us “bear our burdens” (Galatians 6:1-2).

The Holy Spirit is challenging you to a match today.  He wants you to play by His rules in order to overcome your bad habits and develop good ones.  Will you accept the challenge?  “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

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