I opened the fridge and immediately noticed it. There, in all it’s glory, sat the leftover piece of chocolate cake. It called out to me like the ocean calls out to Moana. My mouth began to water as I immediately imagined indulging in its sweetness. The moist cake topped with the proper ratio of chocolate icing was simply too perfect to say ‘no’ to.
But then I remembered I wasn’t eating sugar.
Compelled by health and training goals, I had previously decided to part ways with those sweet, white grains of deliciousness. Sugar makes everything taste better and shows up everywhere, but I decided to cut it out of my diet for a time.
But, the chocolate cake still called out to me.
There was a war going on in my heart. Two competing desires battling within me. Do I ditch the diet and enjoy the cake? Or, do I resist its calls and carry on toward my goals?
In this case, unlike others, I resisted the urge to indulge in the savory sweetness and stuck to my diet. I had worked hard toward my goals and didn’t want to hinder such progress for a moment of pleasure. It wasn’t merely discipline that helped me say no, it was a greater desire and a more compelling goal.
Fighting Desire with Desire
When Christians think of fighting sin, we usually imagine strict self-discipline and saying ‘no’ to wrong desires. Certainly, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and a means of helping us fight our sin. But, what if we had another tool given to us by the Spirit to help us overcome?
What if God overwhelmed us with a greater desire? Is it possible to fight strong desires with something more compelling? What if we could say ‘no’ to the chocolate cake because we were so committed to something else that it wouldn’t seem worth it?
You’re likely familiar with the lyrics of the well-known hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.
Although I sang these words many times, I didn’t quite grasp their full meaning. The more we look to the Lord and behold his beauty, the more our affections and desires are turned to him and away from the desires of the flesh.
The shininess of sin loses its luster after beholding the brightness of God’s glory.
We need to pray for self-disclipine to say ‘no’, but we also need to be so overwhelmed with God that we increasingly find sin repulsive and instead ask the Spirit to reorient our desires.
Seeing More Clearly
The more I’m in awe of God, the clearer I can see the big picture as God sees it. Confronted with the beauty and holiness of God, I’m more aware of the awfulness of sin and I’m more likely to despise it. When I’m continually overwhelmed by God’s glory, I recognize that I’m living for something bigger than myself. I see that sin steals more than I could ever imagine and that God’s promises are better than I could ever comprehend.
When we try to fulfill our desire for the glory of God with lessor desires that don’t satisfy, we end up broken, hurt, and unfulfilled. It’s like trying to be healthy eating only chocolate cake.
Let us fight our sin and say ‘no’ to temptation by being overcome with something much greater. May we strive to be driven by awe of God so that sinful temptations pale in comparison to his glory. Let us look to Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Like the Psalmist, let us keep our eyes upward: “To you I lift my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” (Psalm 123:1)
Then, by God’s grace, perhaps our sinful desires will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
“Driven by Awe” is a series that examines the practical implications of believers who regularly feast upon the glory of God and continually stand amazed by him. To see more in the series, click here.