Our greatest desire guides every decision we make. When faced with options, we will choose what we want and what we perceive to provide the greatest benefit. Oftentimes, we have competing desires and we’ll make our choice based on the greatest desire in that moment.
For example, I might have a desire to lose fifteen pounds. I realize that to do this, I need to consume less calories and exercise more. The desire to lose weight is real, however when my alarm goes off at 6am to go to the gym, I’m left with a decision. What do I want more…to lose weight or sleep in? I will choose whichever desire is greater in that moment. I may want to lose weight, but my desire to sleep overrides that desire so I turn off the alarm and doze off again.
I might later regret my decision to sleep in and renew my desire to lose weight. Such recommitment is real but is put to the test when lunch rolls around. I really want to lose weight, but I also want a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese with supersized fries. What will I choose? It will come down to what is the strongest desire in that moment…has my renewed effort to lose weight overcome my craving and led me to Subway instead? Or, will my desire for a quarter-pound of juicy beef smothered in melted cheese overwhelm my lesser desire to lose weight and send me to those golden arches?
Going on the Offensive
Understanding why we make decisions can help us in our battle against sin. It seems our natural way of fighting sin is more of a defensive strategy. We tell ourselves we are NOT going to do that again, or we find ways to avoid situations that tempt us. Through sheer willpower or by staying away we attempt to overcome our addictions. If you struggle with drunkenness, you’ll avoid the bar; if you struggle with anger, you’ll avoid certain people who provoke you. You might put content filters on your devices to fight lust or avoid social media to battle envy.
These strategies help and provide space to starve our sinful desires. But, maybe that’s only half the battle. While starving our sinful desires and avoiding sinful temptation, let us also go on the offensive and replace these desires with something greater. It’s difficult to say ‘no’ to the Quarter Pounder simply out of willpower, but it’s much easier when I’m consumed with a greater desire to lose weight. The more my desire to lose weight grows in me, the less tempting the burger becomes. We should actively seek to starve our flesh so that it no longer desires sinful things, but we also want to replace these desires with a longing for something more.
The Christian’s Greatest Desire
What desire can we have that’s so strong it will help us overcome the flesh’s natural desires? It’s a desire for the greatest, most glorious, beautiful being in all the universe: God himself. Scripture invites us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). We’ve been invited to enjoy the goodness and inexhaustible glory of our God. He’s adopted us into the family and given us access to him. Every time we engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture, mediations, fasting, etc. we put ourselves in a position to be overwhelmed by the greatness of God.
The more we feast on the greatness of God, the more we desire him. The more we walk in intimate fellowship with him the greater our desire becomes for more of him. The more our desire for him grows the less we’ll want to engage in our sinful, fleshly desires. Galatians 5 encourages us to “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
David compared his desire for God to a deer panting for flowing streams (Psalm 42:1). Paul longed to know God so much that he considered everything else a loss compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). Paul was a great missionary and David was a man after God’s own heart. However, we know these men were still fallen and even they sometimes gave way to sinful desires. None of us will be perfect in this life and will at times give way to the desires of the flesh. But, the more our desire for God grows, the more it will help us in our battle against sin.
Merely faking it won’t help. If I’m feigning my desire to lose weight then it won’t help me say ‘no’ to the burger. We can claim our heart deeply longs for the Lord because we know it should, but if it’s not real then our sinful desires will prove to be stronger.
All of us would probably admit our desire for God is not what it should be. In fact, God is so great that my desire for him should be greater, even on my best days. So, how can we fan into flame a true heart for God?
Ultimately, we know such a desire comes from the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to grant us a greater burden for him knowing it’s a prayer he’s glad to answer. Like any relationship, we grow closer to someone and develop more affections through quality time. Fellowshipping with God through reading and mediating on the Word and prayer are essential. God has designed it so that we grow closer to him through corporate gatherings with fellow believers. If we are not engaging in these disciplines, then our desire for the Lord will inevitably wane.
Take small steps to incorporate time throughout your day to behold God. Maybe turn off the TV ten minutes earlier before bed to spend a moment in prayer. Perhaps you might use your commute to work as an opportunity to listen to worship music or a sermon that sets your mind on Him. Maybe take a walk outside and be intentional about observing the beauty of God’s creation in a way that stirs your heart for him. There are many ways we can tune in to the evidence of God all around us, we just have to be intentional and take time to do so.
As we behold God more, then our longings for him will continue to increase. The more we desire him, the less likely we’ll desire things that offend him. None of us will always desire him as we should, and we are people prone to wonder and in constant need of forgiveness, but as we are pursuing him he will continue his work in us.
But don’t take my word for it…go taste and see that the Lord is good!
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God…For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:1-2,10, ESV).