Summary: Story of my life. It is the phrase that you never want to say. As Paul writes Romans 7, we hear him sigh and say, "Story of My Life." As we look deeper at the chapter, we see that it is the story of our lives too!
Jack has been working at a certain accounting firm for years. He graduated at the top of his class but his career seems to be stagnate and going absolutely nowhere. He begins to feel frustrated as he is passed over time and time again for the new positions and promotions. Not wanting this to keep on happening, he decides to do something about it. He decides to be the first person at the office and one of the last ones to leave. He forces a smile on his face every time he comes in and tries to get along with everyone, especially the boss. After a few months have gone by, a new position opens up, and Jack is confident that he will get it. The boss holds a special staff meeting to announce who will be getting this new promotion and position. The boss starts, “This person has been working hard for the last few months. This person has been putting in the extra hours and effort, and has amazing potential. I think you all know the person who will be getting this job. Jeff, congratulations, the position is yours!” Jack’s heart sinks at hearing this. He turns to Keith, the man sitting next to him and complains, “I can’t believe I didn’t get this. What do I have to do?” Keith replies, “Story of my life. This has been happening to me for years. I can certainly relate bud. There is nothing you can do.”
Story of my life. It is a phrase that is often said in sadness or disappointment. It can be uttered when the same bad or negative things keep happening over and over again. It certainly isn’t a phrase we really don’t want to say. As Paul writes Romans 7, you can hear almost hear him sigh and say, “Story of my life” as he talks about the baptized believer’s struggle with the sinful nature.
As a baptized believer, God is renewing Paul’s mind, will, thoughts, and actions. God is changing his heart and desires. The Lord is making him into a new creation, a new person, that lives for Him and according to His ways. However, there is one major issue: Paul’s sinful human nature and flesh. Paul’s sinful nature wants to follow its desires, will, and wishes. His sinful flesh wants to do the exact opposite of what his renewed nature wants to do.
It is like building a block tower with a toddler. When I would do this with my sister Kaitlin, she would always enjoy knocking it down and saying, “Ooops, sorry.” I knew she did it on purpose, or when I wasn’t looking. I liked to build, and she liked to knock it down. Our renewed nature wants to do one thing, and our sinful nature wants to do another.
Paul struggles with this conflict. He is frustrated and does not understand his actions. He says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” Paul knows what he wants to do, live according to God’s ways, but his actions reveal a different thing. He often seems to do the opposite of what he wants. He wants to build the block tower but keeps knocking it down. He does what he hates, and he puts his finger on why it happens.
The apostle identifies sin and the sinful nature as the culprit. He writes, “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Paul isn’t trying to excuse what he does but points out the influence and control of the sinful nature. In this nature, nothing good dwells. He wants to do what pleases God, but cannot do it on his own, nor carry out it. In fact, he can’t, and this frustrates him. The evil he doesn’t want to do is what he keeps on doing. It seems that he is fighting a losing battle.
Paul is a clever guy, and he sees a “law” or pattern at work. He observes, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” In cartoons or children shows, you sometimes see those scenes where the main character is in a difficult moral situation. When that happens, you see the two angels appear on his or her shoulder. On the one side, you have the good angel with the harp and halo, encouraging the person to do the right thing. On the other side, you have the bad, evil angel that is dressed like a red devil. This angel encourages the character to do the wrong thing.