On her first vault in the women’s gymnastics team competition during the 1996 Olympics, Kerri Strug severely sprained her left ankle. Since her teammate Dominique Moceanu had fallen on both of her attempts, Strug needed to complete a perfect vault for the American team to win. After hobbling to her mark and whispering, “God, help me somehow,” she sprinted down the runway, flew through the air, and stuck the landing—earning a score of 9.712 and a gold medal.
Strug exemplifies an amazing triumph of the spirit over the flesh. Jesus’ disciples did not do so well in their tests. As Jesus faced His impending crucifixion, His disciples time and again gave in to the weaknesses of their flesh. Ensnared by the lure of wealth, Judas betrayed Jesus to the chief priests (v. 14). Fearing for their lives, His disciples deserted Him when He was arrested (v. 56). And while Peter followed at a distance, ultimately he too denied Jesus three times (vv. 69–75).
No scene epitomizes these defeats more than when Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to stay awake with Him while He prayed in Gethsemane—only for them to fall asleep repeatedly. The problem, as Jesus noted, is that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v. 41).
We, too, must be on guard against the weakness of the flesh. But we can also take courage from the recognition that the flesh need not be victorious. As we read later in the book of Acts, Peter, James, and John all confronted dangers and remained steadfast in testifying to the truth and love of Jesus Christ. Through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were not defeated by the weaknesses of their flesh that had previously hobbled them. And through God’s grace, we can do likewise.
Take note of the temptations you struggle with and pray that God’s Spirit will empower you with the strength to resist them. Read 2 Corinthians 7–10, which tells of Paul’s struggles against fleshly weakness. Remember that the power to overcome the flesh does not come from you but from Christ, whose “power is made perfect in weakness.”