The Christian life isn’t just hard; it’s impossible on your own

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Romans 8:8–9, ESV).

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that the Christian life feels hard. Life hurts, following Christ feels difficult, and we feel defeated.

But the Christian life isn’t just hard; it’s impossible.

Day after day we face the bombardment of the enemy and fail to recognize that, on our own, we have no chance of experiencing victory, no hope for lasting personal change. Living like Christ is not difficult; it’s impossible.

We need power. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” Paul declared (Romans 8:8). In ourselves, we have no resources to follow Jesus. No strength to be like Christ. No energy to serve Him or to lead our families as God expects us to. No power to change ourselves. Surely your own experience verifies the fact that sheer willpower cannot conquer sin. On our own, living like Christ is not difficult; it’s impossible.

Read this: The only way to change your heart 

But great power awaits us. After the bad news of Romans 8:8 comes a promising transition: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact, the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:8–9a, emphasis added). That “however” signals hope—God’s Spirit is ready to give you the power to change.

There’s the power! The reason we have this life-giving Spirit in us is to power the righteousness God desires to produce in us.

Maybe you’re wondering exactly how much power is available. Romans 8:11 tells us the answer: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Paul said, in essence, “Are you curious how much power God has made available to change you? Go to Easter morning! The same power that lifted Jesus Christ from the grave—the greatest victory of all time—is the same power that lives in you.”

This is the greatest power because it conquered the worst enemy, Satan and because it solved the most terrible problem, sin. The kind of power available to help you change is the very power that brought our Savior back from the dead. The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is available to help you be the person God wants you to be, right now, this moment, ready to turbo your victory.

Our mortal bodies can’t get victory over anything, but the Spirit who dwells in us gives us life. The power to change comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Not by our efforts. Not by our willpower. Not by our talents or schemes or support systems. We can only change through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now read this: When you’re overwhelmed with sorrow and stress

This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission. 

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at


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