FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Karl Clauson: When Self-Help Isn’t Enough

with Karl Clauson | September 16, 2022
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Stuck in bad habits? Given up on battles? Think some behavior can't be changed? Author Karl Clauson offers power when self-help can't cut it.


  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Stuck in bad habits? Given up on battles? Think some behavior can’t be changed? Author Karl Clauson offers power when self-help can’t cut it.

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Karl Clauson: When Self-Help Isn’t Enough

With Karl Clauson
September 16, 2022
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Karl: Oftentimes, we go to the Bible, or go to prayer, to prove that we love God; but He’s trying to talkto us. Praying God’s way/reading the Bible God’s way is keying the mic—reading something out of Galatians 2: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God….[Galatians 2:20]” Woo!—man, that’s power! Then you un-key the mic, and you go, “God talk to me.” And He goes: “That’s you,” “That’s you!”

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: One of the hardest things in the Christian life, I think, is getting stuck.

Ann: I think we all get stuck at times.

Dave: We get stuck. It’s like you start out well; and you think, when you start out: “This is never going to slow down. I’m going to be running after Jesus as hard as I am right now my whole life.”

I tell you what: I honestly don’t know a lot of Christians, who have been followers of Christ 20, 30, 40 years, who were running hard—

Ann: —on fire for Jesus.

Dave: —in that decade of their life.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It’s like you get tired; you get stuck; you—

Ann: —feel like you retired.

Dave: —start doubting. I don’t know what it is, but you need to get out of that rut.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: We’re going to help you get out of that rut today. We’ve got Karl Clauson in the house/in the studio. [Laughter] He’s a radio host up in Chicago. This is what he does: sits behind a mic and talks.

But Karl, you are a friend of FamilyLife. You are formally a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember speaker: you and Junanne. But anyway, glad to have you here.

Karl: It’s a joy to be with you guys; it really is. I see you guys as fellow freedom fighters.

Ann: Yes, I like that.

Karl: I really believe that.

Dave: What’s that mean?

Karl: It means that there is a freedom that we have in Christ that has been far too elusive, for too long, for the average person in the Western church. It’s all due to—and I mean this—it’s self-help.

I live to close the gap between where we are today—the battles that seem unwinnable; those hurts/those hang ups; those habits; that junk—it’s that ten percent that sits in the shadows; and we hope it can kind of stay over there, or we minimize it, and just hope it goes away—we can’t seem to outrun it; it always runs stride for stride with us—I live to see people close the gap between where they are today and the promises of God. Because sometimes, that gap/it’s often far too large.

Dave: Well, if I think of anybody who can help us get unstuck—I’m not kidding—you’re one of the first names that would come to my mind. You wrote a book, really, about that called The 7 Resolutions: Where Self-Help Ends and God’s Power Begins.

We’ve already talked about a couple of these resolutions. Although we started with: “Join God”; we didn’t talk about number two. I’m guessing these are in order?

Karl: Yes, there’s some order to them. I mean, “Join God” has to be at the frontend of this. Let me give you a metaphor from Alaska here; let me take you back there. I started commercial fishing when I was 19 years old; I did 8 seasons of it. It was amazing. One day, we had a boat load of fish; and our captain was looking for the ship that we were going to deliver it to. He got on the radio, and he’s radioing for the ship; but we could not spot that ship. The fog was thick, but the waves were high—it was one of these weird mixes—we’re like, “Oh, man.” My captain, Marvin/he radioed the ship, and he said, “Hey, this is the G & M. We need some help here. Where are you guys located? We’ve got to offload.” Then he let loose of the mic. We get the instructions from the ship: we’d move a little further. He’d key the mic: “Hey, here’s where we are right now; where do we go from here?” Boom; let loose of the mic.

When I say, “Join God,” let’s just take prayer—I don’t know—let’s throw in Bible reading—you can throw in fasting, too; high road Christianity, right?—oftentimes, we go to the Bible or go to prayer to prove that we love God; but He’s trying to talk to us.

Praying God’s way/reading the Bible God’s way is keying the mic—reading something out of Galatians 2: “I have been crucified with Christ; it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God… [Galatians 2:20],”—Woo!—man, that’s power! And then you un-key the mic and you go, “God talk to me.” And He goes: “That’s you,” “That’s you!”

You’re praying and you’re talking to God. Joining God is un-keying the mic, and going, “Where am I?” and listening. That’s the beauty of God’s power. I’ve got chills right now; I’m fired up about it. [Laughter]

Ann: But, Karl, what about the person who says, “I asked God; I want to hear Him. I hear nothing.”

Karl: Really good question. Sometimes, it’s an under-exposure to the Word of God. Sometimes, people do not have enough truth that they’re armed up with. I’d say, “Get in your prayer closet and pray, but pray with a Bible open.” I do this all the time. I find now that, as I’m reading the Bible, I have prayer content constantly; and it’s awesome. I used to digest it to preach it; now, I digest it to live it and to talk with my God.

Yes, “Joining God,”—resolution number one—we’ve got to do that. The reason is all seven of these resolutions are designed to fix broken systems in our life. Jeremiah 2, we find these words: “Oh, Israel, you’ve done two sins. You’ve forsaken God/Me, the God of living water,”—meaning: spring runoff just pouring down—"and you’ve carved out cisterns that can’t hold water,”—big old dug out of the rock cisterns [Jeremiah 2:13].

We have life systems in the Western church that can’t hold water. My goal, starting with “Join God,”—and then: “Think Truth,” and “Kill Sin,” and “Choose Friends,” and “Take Risks,” and “Focus Effort,” and “Redeem Time,”—all of those are systems that have been co-opted by a Western mindset that need to be reclaimed by God’s power. When we agree with God, woo!—unbelievable stuff can happen.

Ann: Let’s hit number three: “Let’s ‘kill sin.’”

Karl: Yes; it’s a big one. We do have sin sitting around in our life at times; we all do.

Ann: We all do.

Karl: Yes, we all do.

I was preaching at this church called Mariners in Southern Cal. It was about 30 minutes before the message; and I said, “Can someone get me a hurdle, like fast?” I put that hurdle in front of me; and I said, “Sometimes, we’re faced with things in our life that we need to deal with. We try to run around that thing,”—I’m talking about gossiping; I’m talking about fudging the truth; I’m talking about tax forms filled out that you know, good and well, aren’t truthful; I’m talking about the secret sins: how you don’t eat out of the refrigerator; the refrigerator is eating you up—and every other thing under the sun. That sin sits over there.

The agreement with God, and the resolution to kill sin, is a powerful one. I see three constant recurring themes of how to deal with sin. This is rarely done—but I want to make you a promise; you’re listening right now; I want to make you a promise—"You do these, and you’re going to start breaking chains, and running free like you never have in the past.”

  • One, expose it; you’ve got to bring it into the light. You’ve got to bring it into the light, not only before God; you’ve got to bring someone else around you/someone trusted. Don’t minimize it; don’t explain it away; just say, “Here it is.” That’s number one.
  • Number two—this is radical—Jesus said, ‘If your eye causes you to sin…” What did He say, guys?

Dave: “Gouge it out.”

Karl: “GOUGE IT OUT!” What’s Jesus saying?—He’s saying, “Take extreme measures to kill what’s killing you.” Is there effort in this growing process?—yes, but you’re effort-ing in God’s power, not in your own strength. Paul writes about putting sin to death by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s replete; it’s everywhere in Scripture. As I was studying, I’m like, “Wow! This is everywhere.”

This is done simply—I help guys right now, and I do this myself—my phone turns into a dumb phone at eight pm every night. And my wife and my son have my screen code. Why do I do that?—because I’m weak and I can’t handle it?—yes! Yes, that’s it. But in my weakness, He is strong; and I’m called to do something radical.

There is one verse that is, at first blush, you look at it—and you listen to Paul writing this—and you’re like, “This can’t be this simple”; but it is. He says, “But I say walk by the Spirit,”—that’s the Holy Spirit—“and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh [Galatians 5:16].” If you want to kill sin, it’s not a matter of going out, saying—and here’s what we sometimes say: “I’m going to do it this time; I’m going to get victory over it. I’m going to suck it [up],”—that’s self-help! You aren’t going to do it; Jesus can, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dave: Let me ask you this before we get to the third one. Often, when I was pastoring, a man would come up to me and expose some sin. He knows me, because I’m his [pastor]; but I don’t know him—he’s almost a stranger—he’ll tell me his porn struggle or whatever it is. Here’s what I notice: He thinks, “I’m done; I told Dave,” and then he goes right back.

I always said, “You can’t tell me. You’ve got to tell somebody that knows you/somebody that’s going to walk with you. I’m not going to walk with you, unless you’re my friend.” It’s got to be—right?—it’s got to be somebody that you’re doing life with—somebody you can trust with this information—and somebody who will walk beside you when you expose it.

Karl: Yes, this is super important; I’m so glad you mentioned this. It can’t be the group of guys that you meet with every week, and you commiserate over how you fell in a ditch again last week. You’ve got to have a man or two that has been there/done that, and they’ve gotten victory. They’re not perfect—but they’re willing to hold you to it—they’re willing to talk with you, honestly, about it. Then they’re willing to strategize with you: “How are we going to put the machete to this thing?” “How are we going to gouge this out?”

Dave: Yes, so many men’s groups—and I can’t talk for women’s groups—but I know they’re just that, Karl; they come in every week and say, “I blew it again.”

Karl: Yes.

Dave: “Yes, dude; me too.” “Okay, let’s try harder.”

Karl: Yes; “Let’s try hard.”

Dave: They’re not killing sin.

Karl: It’s the Derailed Disciples Club, man. I mean, it’s just getting together and commiserating how they blew it last week.

Dave: Now, do you tell your wife?

Karl: Yes.

Dave: You tell your spouse.

Karl: Sure; absolutely.

Dave: You’re never going to kill that sin if you don’t expose it.

Ann: You guys, even having that conversation with your spouse—both husband and wife—“What is your area of sin that you’re just struggling with, and you feel like you just keep falling back into it?” I don’t think we have those conversations all the time. Yet, it builds this oneness/this beauty; I mean, you might get mad at each other.

Dave: It’s scary.

Ann: It’s scary.

Karl: We don’t have to say more than that: “It’s scary”; [Laughter] but it’s necessary.

Ann: It is necessary.

Dave: Jesus said—I think it’s John 3—“We love our sin; and therefore, we keep it in the dark [John 3:19-21].” It’s scary to bring it into the light. We’re afraid of the light; and yet, that’s where out sin gets killed. It doesn’t get killed in the dark; the dark wins. The light kills sin.

Ann: Talk to the guy, or maybe even the wife, who’s saying, “My husband doesn’t even have a friend; he has nobody to talk to.” And the guy would say, “Yes, I really don’t,” and “I don’t need a friend.”

Karl: The latter is a straight up lie; the former happens all the time.

I will say this, men: “You’ve got to take a risk here; you’ve got to take a risk. You’ve got to walk to the front of the church, and ask a pastor; you’ve got to tell him, “Look, I know you can’t be my friend,”—and tell him that please, because he can’t; I mean, he’s got a dozen friends—that’s what he can handle, because Jesus put the limits on it Himself.

And then you say, “Can you point me somewhere? I need help.” I think most guys, who are dishing up the Word, will help you—I think so—but you’ve got to take a risk; you’ve got to find that person, and you’ve got to get honest. You expose it; you attack it.

But overwhelming it—here’s the key about being filled up with the Holy Spirit—

Dave: That’s your third one: “Overwhelm It.”

Karl: Yes, “Overwhelm it.” This is almost what will keep you, now, from it. There’s a certain amount of protection in this—and I really mean this—Paul said—I’m going to say it again—“But I say walk but the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh [Galatians 5:16]” Come on!—what kind of a promise is that?

Dave: You think he’s going to say, “sometimes”—

Karl: Right!

Dave: —“sometimes you won’t”; but he’s saying, “you will not.”

Karl: And I’ve got to take him at His Word. So what’s this look like?

Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear more in just a minute; but first, we wanted you to hear a special message from Karl himself about Weekend to Remember®.

Karl: Hey, Karl Clauson here. I want to lay down a challenge, and it’s a good one for you. A lot of us think of different things that we’re investing in, in this world. The Weekend to Remember—whoa!—don’t turn away; I know you heard it a bunch. But you want to see something rock your world?—you want to take hold of God’s power?—you want to get challenged in a way and get hope in a way that you haven’t lately?

Weekend to Remember—it will do something to fire those boilers of love in your marriage that, maybe, has been gone for a long time. I’m telling you: it will put fuel in your soul, and you will find your marriage radically transformed.

I want to encourage you to check it out right now; this is a vital time. It’s like half-off on this thing right now, so check it out: FamilyLife Weekend to Remember. There’s got to be one near you; even if it’s a bit of a drive, it’s worth it; take the trip!

Shelby: He’s right; it’s totally worth it. Register now for your Weekend to Remember and get 50 percent off at

Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann with Karl Clauson and what walking by the Spirit looks like in a Christian’s life. Is it just having a daily quiet time?

Karl: I think there needs to be enough space in our life—not just once; I love quiet times, but they’re often a misnomer—I’m about all the time. Quiet times are good; they fuel you up with some good word; they get some good time with prayer. But that should be the launching pad into an ongoing conversation with God.

The first time I ever realized that the Holy Spirit actually wanted to really lead me into all truth—and that when Jesus said, “It’s to your advantage that I go,”—to your advantage that I go?—“so that the Holy Spirit will come [John 16:7],” I was sitting in an office. I was working for Robert Lewis in Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. I was just reading something by Francois Fenelon; and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, the Holy Spirit is here. You’re here, and You’re working!”

I walked into my meeting with another pastor, named Bill. As I sat down, the Holy Spirit was prompting me, through the Word of God, how to talk, how to act, how to talk about tough stuff. The Holy Spirit was working in me.

We need to be so careful here, because some people—maybe you’re listening right now, and you’ve not heard much about the Holy Spirit—I want to apologize on behalf of most Bible-believing preachers out there, because we’ve minimized it. I think part of that is that there have been guys, with cheap suits—middle-of-the-night preachers—that have been exploiting the Holy Spirit. But don’t let that steal away the reality that the Holy Spirit is at work and the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth.

I look at my life—like let’s just imagine a 55-gallon drum; there’s a manhood illustration—that’s an oil drum. You take a lid off that thing. Let’s say you have one day; you can pour in whatever you want: flesh or Spirit. The more mindful we are, throughout the day: “Holy Spirit, fill me up,”—I’m sitting here, right now, living this right now, as I’m sitting here, the Holy Spirit is guiding me—as we’re guided along by the Holy Spirit/the more we’re filled up with the Holy Spirit—the last time I looked— you won’t have room for a gallon of flesh. That’s what Paul is saying: “Be filled up with the Holy Spirit.”

Ann: I think listeners hear that, and there’s this yearning, like, “I do want that; I want that.” Karl as you sit there, and say, “I’m doing it right now,” that feels very elusive, in some ways, to people. So explain: “How do we walk, day by day/minute by minute, in the power of the Holy Spirit?”

Karl: This is art, not science; this is like music, not mechanics.

Dave plays a mean guitar; it’s fun to watch him pick around. Even here, before we went on air, he’s picking around on this thing. Walking with God is picking around on this thing: it’s allowing the Lord to make music in your heart with the Word of God. This is what I’d say: “It is almost impossible to be led by the Spirit without the Word of God in your heart.” Why do I know that to be true?—because Jesus said the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth. Well, He can’t guide us into truth if we don’t know anything. Knowing the truth is going to set us free.

The way the Holy Spirit works with me is the Holy Spirit reminds me of things. I’m sitting here, going, “Okay, that’s a great story about Alaska, and the Iditarod; and this…” But the Holy Spirit will prompt me: “Let’s not get self-aggrandizing in this Karl; let’s keep this story just as it is. It’s good enough, and we’re going to keep plowing here. Karl, you might be coming up empty for words here right now but that’s okay; I’m going to reload you.” That’s what’s happened in this interview so far.

Now, that might sound crazy; but it’s really what the saints of old did. I got my great, great grandfather’s Bible given to me here about two months ago. My cousin, who is not a follower of Jesus yet—always say “yet” about people, who aren’t following Jesus, by the way; I’m going to throw that in for free—but he said, “You’re going to want this more than me.” I opened it up, and I could not believe my eyes. Guys, it’s dated in the back—barely/faintly—read it, penciled in—my great, great grandfather emigrated from Sweden to Chicago. He was sitting/listening to D.L. Moody. Get this: 1886—April 8, 1886, or is it ’96?—it’s close; it’s within a decade—he says, “Listening to D.L. Moody preach on the power of the Holy Spirit,”—in Chicago.

Ann: Wow.

Karl: This is before audio recordings. Then I go to the book of Acts; and my great, great grandad has every Holy Spirit reference underlined.

Guys, the church didn’t happen without the Holy Spirit. Now, we’re trying to become knowledge-brokers today. All I’m saying is: “Good; learn the Word, but make certain the Holy Spirit’s interpreting this thing into your everyday life.”

Dave: Yes, and I’d tell you what—hearing you say that, fires me up—

Ann: Me too.

Dave: —because I think it’s the mindset of the current community of God/the church, is not: “Overwhelm it,” —it’s: “Mediocrity,”; it’s like, “Oh, I’ll just, up and down; every day will be a struggle,”—I’m not saying we live perfect; we still sin.

Karl: Oh, yes!

Dave: We’re always going to sin, but to have a mindset that says, “No, the power of the Holy Spirit means that I live a different life. My life will not look like my unbelieving neighbor. If it does, something’s wrong here; because I have literally the resurrection power of God living within me.”

Karl: Oh, you nailed it.

Dave: So there should be a sense that there is an overwhelming of sin in my life—again, I’m not saying we don’t sin—we will sin, but I’m going to live in a/it should be the opposite. It should be my neighbor comes over and says, “Dude, I’m watching your life. What have you got? You’ve got something that I’ve never seen.” It isn’t like we’re perfect; it’s like, “I can tell you what I’ve got—it ain’t me—it’s Jesus. You can have Him too.” That’s the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit; right?

Karl: Yes! C.S. Lewis said, “If you consider the unblushing promises of God’s Word, it would appear that we have not shot too high [paraphrased],”—that’s a little Karl modification of that quote—“but we’ve settled for too little,”—those are his words. He says we’ve fooled around with drink, and sex, and other ambitions when this huge, vast goodness of God lay before us.

I want to be careful here because, the minute we say, “Yes, we’re going to sin,” that becomes, sometimes, now the catchall permission for guys to live with the shadow of sins—and gals to live with shadows of sins—I want to say, “Yes, but don’t settle for too little.” If you consider the unblushing promises of God, look at them!

I know words like “success” and “prosperity” have been coopted by crazies; I get that. But you look at Joshua 1: Joshua was promised success and prosperity. Yes, we’ve redefined it into a Bentley, or whatever your car would be; but that’s miniscule compared to what God wants to do! If you look at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5—whoa!—self-control, and love, and joy, and peace, and patience—my goodness, C.S. Lewis was right! We need to go back and reclaim what God wants for us.

I’d say, until your life is taking hold of the promises of God, stop settling for too little. Will you sin?—yes, but that is an asterisks. I’m not talking about some holiness movement, where it’s sinless perfection—but there’s a big gap between where most of us are living and the promises of God—and I’m just begging you: “Close that gap in the power of the God.”



Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. His book is called The 7 Resolutions: Where Self-Help Ends and God’s Power Begins. You can get a copy at or by giving us a call at 800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, Weekend to Remember—that we were talking about earlier—there’s one happening in Tampa, Florida. We’d love it if you’d join us in praying for all the couples, who will be attending there.

Now, stay tuned next week as the Wilsons are joined with Michael and Melissa Kruger to talk about the importance of praying for your spouse.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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