Our desires seem like assassins who know us so well, and at the end of the day, they are waiting for us when we least expect them.
Have you ever sought to please God and vowed to stop a particular sin? Then the next time you are tempted your spirit and mind undergo an intense battle, and you are left broken and bleeding as the enemy carries off your banner of righteousness and mocks your very existence?
I remember an intense battle with lust as a college student. I had memorized Scripture verse after Scripture verse that told me of the wiles of the devil (I Peter 5:8) and the end of the sinner (Proverbs 7), but even though I wanted deliverance, it seemed like I was trapped in quicksand and the more I fought, the further I sank.
This battle continued to rage until one afternoon as I was preparing for my first youth sermon on the joy of knowing God from Psalm 34:8. God graciously opened my eyes to the truth that I was fighting the wrong battle. The Psalmist declares, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” I was trying to outthink and outmaneuver my desires, nothing I produced or program I could come up with would be powerful enough to overcome the flesh and the devil. The only thing that was going to deliver me from temptation was a desire for God to fill my “stomach” with Himself. This is where the fork meats the table, because my taste buds had been trained to follow after “junk food.” I had forgotten the taste of God. This principle was dramatically portrayed one night when I was making a batch of cookies.
I would like you to imagine someone in your home gets the desire to make some cookies. You hear the clinking and clanging of cookie sheets and bowls as the cookies are being prepared. You happen to walk into the kitchen hoping to get a bit of the dough, and before you are showed out, you notice that the chef has doubled the recipe and added twice as many chocolate chips before wrapping each ball of dough around a piece of caramel. For the next few hours the smell of cookies permeate the house, and all you can think about is the gewy tenderness of fresh baked cookies. You enter the kitchen once again, this time with a new strategy, you ask if you can help in exchange for a tender morsel. Once again you are unceremoniously showed out of the kitchen and told that under no circumstances are you to touch a cookie.
For a few minutes you might be able to block the thought of a cookie from your mind until the oven opens and a fresh batch of cookies sends its aroma seemingly straight to the core of your being. It almost feels as if the cookie is beckoning you to simply hold it in your hand and feel the warmth it exudes and begs you to pull it apart as the chocolate and the caramel drip from its cookity freshness. I would venture that right now you are having a hard time not thinking about a cookie. If I were to pause this story and ask you not to think about the aroma of a freshly baked cookie with luscious chocolate chips and caramel mixed together in a perfect blend of chewy goodness, you probably would be thinking about the dessert I just described.
Temptation works much the same way. We cannot will away our temptations and choose not to think about them. Just like thinking about how you are not going to eat the cookie draws your thoughts toward the cookie, thinking about resisting a temptation will cause us to desire it. There may be times where we will feel we are starting to forget or have victory, but then someone opens the oven door and with a squeak we smell a fresh batch of temptation, and the cycle starts all over again. Are we to just limp along in our Christian life hoping that someday we will find a strategy to win over our sinful desires? No! God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, the secret is to change our desires.
Let’s go back to our story. As you are sitting there trying your best to not think about cookies, you are told you cannot have a cookie, because your family is planning on going to a Brazilian steakhouse. Now if you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse let me describe in miniature what such a restaurant entails.
They are more than an all you can eat bonanza. After you proceed through the salad bar which is loaded with delicacies such as, fresh mozzarella cheese which squeaks in your mouth, Grecian salads lightly tossed with seasoned oil, shrimp mixed with an endless selection of dips and sauces, fresh vine ripened fruits and vegetables, you continue on to the hot plate section and smell the fragrance of a myriad of creamy soups prepared by award winning chiefs. Once your plate is loaded with the finest from around the globe, you go to take your seat and are offered a red and green, laminated piece of paper about the size of a coaster. As long as the paper is green side up, waiters in tuxedos walk in time with live violin music holding onto skewers with freshly cooked meat. There are fifteen different kinds of choice meats, all of which have been marinated and seasoned to perfection. Filet minong wrapped in bacon, so tender you could cut it with your soup spoon, leg of lamb soaked in mint sauce, pork roast seasoned and broiled to perfection, roast beef slathered in its own gravy, salmon and halibut complete with homemade sauces, slow roasted chicken dripping with flavor.
After sampling these fine meats and finally having thirds on your favorite, you push your lobster soup and Italian bread aside and flip the little piece of paper to red, signaling you have had your fill. All the while not once thinking about your lack of cookie.
If my strategy for resisting temptation is simply trying to ignore it, I am doomed for failure. However, if I shift my focus off of my sin and unto my Savior, then I can go to the buffet line of God’s goodness time after time, and feast on His goodness, and mercy, and dwell on His holiness, and feel his love, and see His wondrous blessings. I will not only have fed my soul with the choicest of meats (Psalm 63:5), but I will have no room for another morsel of temptation.
In regards to some desires (wealth, fame, intimacy, happiness, etc.) God may even decide to allow me to have a cookie, but only after I feast my soul on God’s greatness. If I follow after God and seek His face, I have access to the buffet line of God’s greatness, with or without a cookie I therewith will be content (Psalm 23:5).
“Holiness cannot be an end of itself, God is our destination, and holiness is a result of pursuing Him.”