The Weakness of Will-Powered Living

Holiness, the Holy Spirit, and James Coney Island
by Curtis Jones

Last night I swore off fast food. I’ve been having some stomach pains and a few days ago I ran out of Zantac. It’s not the first time. A few years ago I noticed I was starting to develop sharp pains in my stomach. Since I’m a male, I didn’t do anything about it. One day I was on the way to eat lunch with a friend and the pain was so unbearable I made him turn around and take me to the doctor. The problem was, since I am a male, I didn’t even have a doctor. So I looked one up in the yellow pages. I arrived at the doctor’s office, told him the situation, and waited as he ran some tests. He was perplexed, so he told me about Zantac (praise God), and scheduled me for an ultrasound the next morning. I was a little embarrassed to be having an ultrasound since the only people I knew who received ultrasounds were pregnant women. I was confident I wasn’t pregnant. In high school my youth pastor told us that if we filled out a True Love Waits card we didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant. It turned out he was right.

When I showed up for my appointment, I was escorted into a small dark room and asked to slip into one of those paper gowns. Then they made me wait as if it were some twisted joke among the staff. “The guy in room 1b is wearing the paper gown! How long should we make him wait?” Eventually, a woman came in and told me to lie down on the table. She took a wand and rubbed it around my stomach. I tried to peek at the screen, at which time she informed me that I wasn’t allowed to see it and then moved it out of view. While she did veil the screen from my eyes, she failed to veil her amusement at the state of my stomach. I’ll spare you the diagnosis, but suffice it to say that I needed to cut out soda and French fries.

Last night my gastrointestinal misery led me to proclaim to Amanda that I was done with any food you can get through a window. She seemed unmoved by my new commitment, probably because it is not the first time she has heard it. No doubt she knew I couldn’t, wouldn’t follow through. Turns out, she was right. Only thirteen short hours after my resolute decree I found myself in the drive-thru of James Coney Island (home of the best chili dog in Houston). They have the freshest buns, the juiciest hot dogs, and cheese that comes out of a gun. I was bewitched. I couldn’t resist the siren’s call. And I’m weak.

I’m the king of commitments. My specialty is spiritual commitments. I’m going to read through the Bible in one year. I’m going to share my faith every day. I’m going pray with my wife every night. You name the commitment and I guarantee I have made it. And broken it. Each time I come with good intentions, a pure heart, and an intense desire to do what is right, but rarely does it work.

Will-powered faith is the worst kind of faith. A relationship with God that is rooted in our ability or strength is doomed to fail for two reasons. First, a will-powered faith will result in self-loathing. We make commitments, try our hardest, give it our all, and fail. So we try again…and fail. And the only person we have to blame is ourselves. Some of us suffer from a spiritual depression because we have lived in a cycle between trying and failing for so long. Second, if our will-powered faith doesn’t end in self-loathing it is because it ended in self-righteousness. We make commitments, try our hardest, and we succeed. We congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Then we look around and notice that other people are not experiencing the same success we are. Why don’t they try as hard as me? Maybe they are just not as godly. Self-loathing or self-righteousness—God hates both.

That’s why he sent us a Helper. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17, ESV). Jesus said it was to our advantage that He went away so He could send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7) to rescue us from the inevitable cycle of human strength-centered living. He will give us the help that we cannot give ourselves. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21, ESV). The Holy Spirit’s power at work within you, the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11), is able to do for you supernaturally what you could not do naturally: live for Jesus and resist fast food.



200 Responses to “The Weakness of Will-Powered Living”

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  1. 151
    ConnieJ says:

    I have never heard this before. I have always thought trying to “do right” was the point! After reading your post I am realizing how wrong I have been.

    here is my question…how does one receive the Holy Spirit and live in a way that it is not by our own will, but by His?


  2. 152
    Susan B. says:

    I needed this word so much. I do believe this is a big part of my problem…I’m trying to change under my own power, and it just cannot be done! May the Holy Spirit invade every part of us! Welcome to “Siesta World,” Curt!

  3. 153
    Alyce says:

    I love the Siestas, but its refreshing to hear a brothers point of view.

  4. 154
    katiegfromtennessee says:

    Amen! We can stay between those two sins of self-righteousness and self-loathing only by God!-His mercy, grace, and enabling power-He is everything good in us. We are miracles of His power, grace, and enabling!

    I got my man to listen to your sermon on worship today. He liked the sermon:)-very much, though he may not emote like me when I like a sermon and it’s message:) It is soo true to be honest, offer your all, and to sacrifice yourself to the LORD. That’s why we are here taking up space and not in heaven if we are christians after all:)
    Thank God for you, Curtis!


    p.s. My man is also interested in hearing more sermons, so keep being weak and desperate for God-speak on Miesta Curtis!:)

  5. 155
    The Barfield's says:

    I needed to hear that. Can you see the 2X4 upside my head? Sometimes it is just helpful to know that you are NOT THE ONLY ONE. I am forever trying to DIM…Do It Myself. Perhaps because of some vague notion that He will be ‘prouder’ of me b/c I can do it alone?? What in the world is that kind of thinking about? I think it would be called “Straight from the Pit”. So Thanks for the honesty. I’ll stay dependant on my Helper. And stay away from the chili dogs. =0)

  6. 156
    Melinda says:

    I tell you what…over the last few weeks, it seems that every time I turn around there is something placed before me about the Holy Spirit! God’s obviously up to something with me…thanks for being used in ways you don’t even realize! And may the Holy Spirit create in you an immeasurable disdain for all foods ordered from a talking box!

    Oh, and welcome to the team!

  7. 157
    robinjonescotton says:

    great post, we are all there with you !! We welcome you to blog land and are so excited that you are now with LP . What a blessing you will be to them .

  8. 158
    Lisa in Ft. Worth says:

    Welcome, and thanks for posting on this very pink blog, Curtis. This hits right where I live. Last night I DETERMINED to stop mindlessly eating chocolate between meals – forever – and to get myself up early and be on time to church today — and every Sunday thereafter. (why is THAT so hard?!)

    Where was I this morning? You guessed it — running late for church and mindlessly grabbing chocolate out of the pantry. As if I hadn’t planned to change a thing. Just a little more sleep… Just a bite of chocolate, I rationalized. I started chewing, all the while ignoring the still small voice reminding me that I had asked Him to help me not do this any more. He was helping and I was ignoring Him. He always provides a way out of temptation. I have precious little will-power on my own, but this conviction was too much. He required me to spit the chocolate out of my mouth! Yes He did, and yes I did. Humiliating…. a grown woman spitting into a napkin as if I were a child whose mother had just commanded her little candy thief to “hand it over.” (It was exactly like that, only I had to hold my own napkin.) It held none of its previous attraction there in the napkin. Maybe I’ll pay attention better next time. Proof that without the Helper I am hopeless!

    I’m so glad you’ve joined us. Thanks for sharing the journey.


  9. 159
    Anonymous says:

    What a good message to read after Beth’s message in San Diego. I cam home thinking I want to be KNOWN by God, and I want Him to do the housecleaning that needs to be done so I can live out His purpose for my life…. but I am not sure how to do it, or if I will have the strength to do it. Luckily, it will not be me, it will be Him that directs me and strengthens me for this task at hand.

  10. 160
    leigh-shelteredfromthestorm says:

    This is so crazy-timely for me! I’ll spare details but suffice it to say I just came out of the most intense season of temptation ever–I’m convinced When Godly People do Ungodly Things was written for “such a time as this”-(get it?)–that study played a large role in my ability to say that I made it through the fire only slightly smelling of smoke–yet now God is asking me to examine my motive in resisting–though it was clearly the Power of the Holy Spirit that brought me out I cannot say it was entirely out of my recognition of God’s love for me and my response to that love that drove me–I know it should have been and I am praying for that–but will power sure can fool a girl at times–and a boy too, huh?–Thanks Curtis.

  11. 161
    Kat says:

    I just got back from LPM conference in San Diego and I am SOOO pumped! It was AWESOME, I mean TREMENDOUS, I mean THAT GOD SHOWED UP IN A MIGHTY WAY!!! Thanks–

    For pictures from the event–go to

    It was Life Changing– I hope!

  12. 162
    Anonymous says:

    Great story..loved it…Humor and words of God…great combination!!

    Beth was so great in San Diego yesterday…Thank You Lord!

  13. 163
    Anonymous says:

    Wow ! Awesome message ! Can’t wait to read more blogs from you. Welcome aboard ! Thanks for sharing!
    A TX Siesta.

  14. 164
    Carolina Mama says:

    How beautiful! You are truly gifted. Thanks for sharing on a topic so close to the Siesta’s hearts. 😉 God Bless!

  15. 165
    Gena says:

    Curtis –
    Thank you. I appreciate your good-humored perspective on something that can be so frustrating. I look forward to future encouraging words.

  16. 166
    Chelle' says:

    Welcome Aboard Curtis!!!

    What a powerful way to visit this blog…

    Great Great Message. You put into words what I’ve thought about for so long regarding my very walk with the Lord and my struggle with weight.

    I’ve always said that I am fine with diet and exercise when I am more focused on the Lord, reading , prayer etc. But almost immediately after I think about my involvement in weight loss, what I can do, what I should do, and how I should do it… I eat everything known to man (through a window usually) and consider myself a failure.

    Thank you so much for putting to words, with clarity and scripure, how I’ve been feeling for a while now.

    Eager to hear from you again-

  17. 167
    It's All About Him says:

    Praise God. Thank you for this post, oh how I need to hear it. You just don’t even know. Let me go read it again.

  18. 168
    beckyjomama says:

    Yep, he can bring a Word, that man o’ Amanda’s can!!!Amen Mr. Curtis!!!Becky JoPS – just in case y’all didn’t notice there is a MAN posting on our Siesta sight!!!!!!Them Miestas gotta get their hands in everything!!!!!Just kiddin’. We love ya Curtis!

  19. 169
    Shannon Pate says:

    Curtis, That was just awesome!! Someone I love needed that right now and I am sending it to him!! Thanks for sharing and welcome to the world of the siestas!!!!

  20. 170
    Julie Laird says:

    WOW!!!!! Had this same conversation with my family last night. Thank you for being so transparent, Curtis. I struggle so much with will-powered faith. May we live each and every day only desperate for the ONE TRUE GOD so we will not become discouraged and fall into the traps set for us.

    P.S.-So glad Sunny is back!!!

  21. 171
    Shelley says:

    Awesome message, really. Amen.

    I’m still laughing at your comment about ultrasound being for pregnant women, I quote, “I was confident I wasn’t pregnant. In high school my youth pastor told us that if we filled out a True Love Waits card we didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant. It turned out he was right.” ROFLOL!

    I kept thinking about it all day and every time I did I laughed out loud!

  22. 172
    Anonymous says:

    This good word spoke volumes! You are a gift Curtis and we’re glad you’ve joined us! Amen, brother, preach on.

  23. 173
    Anonymous says:

    So glad that you’re not pregnant. I’m sure that’s a load off. Sounds like you need to keep taking the Zantac though just to make sure you don’t become pregnant. Thanks for the great post.

    A self-righteous, self-loathing, often will-powered (but trying to change) male.

  24. 174
    Kate says:

    This was good to read this morning as my church is beginning a 21 day fast…very encouraging.

    The Dr thing is not just a guy thing…I didn’t go to the doctor until I was almost dead…really! A gallstone lodged in my pancreas, I had pancreatitis for a few months…was not a pretty thing…Dr’s gave me 3 days to live. Now, *sigh* I wish I could say I was better about going, but I don’t like Doc’s, and if I can find a cure on the internet…that’s what I opt for. 🙂

  25. 175
    Anonymous says:

    Wow, how did you know what I was struggling with ALL weekend. I’m learning what it looks like to trust God even when I don’t understand. Considering my unstable family life, this is difficult at best, esp. trying SO hard in my own strength. I was just praying this morning, God, show me what trust “looks like.” Thank you for your encouraging words. I realize resting is my job and doing is His job! Welcome to LPM, Curtis!
    Amanda from TN

  26. 176
    RuthieForgey says:

    Welcome Curt. What a way to introduce yourself. You are hilarious! and a gifted writer. I look forward to many more insights from the male perspecitive.

  27. 177
    Deb says:

    Ok, so that was an awesome post. I too, would be one of thoae will-powered failures! Thank you for the reminder that my strength comes from him alone. I am also at the point of having to watch what I eat for my stomachs sake. Those iron stomachs only last so many years!!

  28. 178
    Mocha with Linda says:

    I’m sure Amanda is relieved she doesn’t have to go on Oprah with her pregnant husband. As if!!!

    That was excellent. Whew, that fella is a keeper!

  29. 179
    Tanja says:

    This is wonderful stuff. A perfect description of how I’ve done it all wrong for so many years. And now I understand why. Thanks for sharing this. God is so good to us to overlook all our silly selfish ways.

  30. 180
    Stephani says:

    Curtis–You told it like it is!Amen!

  31. 181
    Anonymous says:


    Look forward to more of your postings. Just as entertaining and focused on the Lord and man’s failings as the the rest of the family. This makes me hope more that you will be doing a study during the time Beth will be with the smaller study for
    young women during First Baptists sanctuary rennovation. Many of us signed up after Beth’s Breaking Free to let her know if we would be interested. So excited you are now part of the Living Proof Ministry. We look so forward to getting to know you. Keep up the great work. I cannot wait to see how God will be using you in the future for our Brothers in Christ Jesus. Praise His name. :o)

    Christine R.

  32. 182
    hisfivefooter says:

    Amen to this! I unfortunately, have succeeded in being both self-loathing (which your mother-in-law/boss has repeatedly reminded me is “self-worship”) and self-righteous, which, as coincidence would have it, is also “self-worship”. Either way, where is God getting the glory anyway? I find myself constantly in a place where I need grace and I need to give grace.
    Thanks for some much needed counsel.
    Lisa in Kirkland

  33. 183
    BEBE says:

    First – HALLELUJAH! Sunny’s home!
    We are sooo happy for you Beth – and the rest of you all, cause if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
    Second – great first post Curtis. You do hit the nail right on the head. We are proud to have a miesta’s point of view. We welcome your insight and spiritual leadership. I know Beth and Keith are so excited that your family has moved so close. I would be!!!

  34. 184
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the post. It was another in a long line of signs pointing me in another direction. * Back away from the drivethrough*
    We don’t watch much tv but recently are glued on Biggest loser. It is amazing what we let happen to ourselves through eating. I confess I’m guilty. So, after the millionth time of ‘Jesus help me’, I’ve decide to participate and work WITH Him….so thanks again for your post. It not only applies to my physical being but my spiritual self as well. A great reminder. Thanks!

  35. 185
    Dana says:

    Wow, thanks Curtis! Welcome and Amen
    Dana from H town

  36. 186
    Vicki says:

    Great post Curtis! I also enjoyed your podcast on the LPM site. Great to have a male perspective around here!

  37. 187
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you Curtis!!! Praise Jesus! Exactly what this hurting heart needed tonight.
    Bless you all; Praise that Sunny is home.
    bethany in wv

  38. 188
    Star says:

    LOL! I had to get my husband up to read this… it took a couple times of “honey, I’m sitting…” and then he finally relinquished. We laughed and laughed at the same exactness our relationship had. Thank you for the good word!!!

  39. 189
    Shellie Paparazzo says:

    That is so true. In recovery programs I have seen will power fail over and over again. It isn’t until they surrender to Christ that they find victory.

  40. 190
    Three Fold Cord says:

    Curtis that was great. I am really dwelling on the two outcomes of what our flesh produces. Self loathing or self righteousness. HUGE when He is supposed to get all the glory. If we could only trust that eh loves us and it is He that is within us that id greater 6then what is in the world. Good word!!

  41. 191
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your words this morning to me. I am heading out to facilitate the final session to my group that is doing Beth’s A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. It is important today that I realize that the Holy Spirit dwells within me and it is not by my strength, but by the power of God, that these women’s lives are changed. They are so precious to me. I pray that the Holy Spirit would move in their lives in a mighty way. I knew I needed to get on the blog before I left because there was a word for me. Thank you! May God be glorified in and through this final session in our group. Praise be to Him!! -JH

  42. 192
    Nicole says:

    Hmm… Now I’m not entirely sure what I think of a man invading our very female space here… I’ll have to ponder on that. *wink*

    BUT, what a *timely* piece for me to read today. I woke up this morning with renewed determination to eat the way I know i need to. Mine isn’t stomach problem, Curtis, but intestinal problems, but it’s the same deal. I KNOW I can’t have coffee and dairy but guess what I really like? Yes… coffee… and dairy…

    I got in the car today and put on a worship song and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and to give me the strength to obey. How timely and what an encouragement your words were to me today that I can’t do this myself, I need the Lord.

    Thanks, Brother Curtis!

  43. 193
    Nicole says:

    By the way, Curtis, if we are siestas, would that make you… a Briesto?

    It sort of sounds like a brand of espresso, but I like it. 😉

  44. 194
    Morgen says:

    Thank you that was perfect timing and welcome to the group!

  45. 195
    Anonymous says:

    Just what I needed to hear…..ohhhh how my heart needed to hear that. Thank you brother…thank you Jesus

  46. 196
    Sandee says:

    SO, Curtis, How is it going? A few days later?

    It is funny, when Curtis first posted on this blog I skipped it, didn’t read it. Not sure why. Maybe thinking this is “ladies space.” 🙂 (Sorry Curtis)

    But came back today and decided to give it a read. Sure it would not relate to me… (“Ladies space-itis” again).

    ANd just look! He shared about the VERY think I am struggling with. Will-power based faith, and kicking myself over failing. (And yes, times in the past, have felt the self-righteous success, too.)

    You nailed it Curtis….

    So…now, pushing into Jesus, yet still wanted to honor HIm with how we live…HOW do we have those issues conquered, without “depending” on willpower based faith?

    Guess I need to pull our and dust off my breaking free, huh? Can you breakfree from Coney Island chili dogs, or the equivalent?

    Boy, I am suddenly hungry.

  47. 197
    Anonymous says:

    A wild “Yeah!!” just went up in my heart! It’s so cool when the Lord confirms His truth in multiple places. I’m in a bible study called Gracestoration and it’s all about life by the Spirit and not through the flesh. Our second to last lesson was called “Sanctifing Grace” and the whole thing centered around not striving in the flesh but experiencing true rest and joy by doing the walk by the Spirit. Now here I am excitedly reading your first post and already God’s used you to give me another reminder that His way is the “done way” not the “do” way of living. Thank you Jesus for what you’ve done for us at the cross!!
    Becky in MI

  48. 198
    Faith says:

    Amen! Welcome to the LPM blog, Curtis! It is so good to have you here, and I loved your entry. 🙂

  49. 199
    Anonymous says:

    So true…It usually isn’t until my body or emotions just shut down when I realize that I’ve been trying to do everything with my own strength. At this point, I’m driven to my knees or face. I usually come away with…baby steps…I can handle baby steps. God can hold my hand through baby steps and is pleased with each one. Think about the first steps of your little one. Even if you were holding his hands, you were so happy and proud.

    By the way…this may not seem like much, but my husband fasts for me on the first Wed. of each month. I am so humbled and grateful for this sacrifice he makes–sometimes even having to sit through a business lunch without ordering a meal. Baby steps can be powerful!

  50. 200
    rosasmom says:

    Bless you! I needed this.

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