Something has come up several times in recent weeks. I think it is because God wants ME to get it and I know he wants me to share it, too. So here it is.
When we are faced with temptations to eat when we aren’t hungry…when we know in our hearts we should stop eating…when we are at the place of “satisfied” where our bodies have had enough food…whatever the temptation might be, many of us are willing (praise God!) to stop and pray and ask God to PLEASE remove the temptation from us. This is an awesome place to be, of course.
But what IF God doesn’t remove the temptation?
I truly believe that what we do in that moment is CRITICAL to our continued growth and spiritual formation and also our “success” on the Thin Within path…which is really about growing in Christ anyhow.
If I have found my face on the floor, BEGGING God to remove the temptation, if I have cried out and sung praise songs, if I have opened my bible and plunged the riches there and nevertheless, I get up an hour later and STILL want the food that my body doesn’t need…what do I do with that? Do I get mad at God and give in and eat, figuring that HE didn’t do HIS part, so why should I do mine???
I want to urge all of us…me included…if that is our response, this is clearly a place of pride. Perhaps God wants us to see this fact…that our walk with him is not in the place of humility it *must* be to truly be what He wants. God’s “part” is not for us to define. God is God! He IS at work doing a new thing all of the time even when we do not perceive it, but sometimes, he lets us discover that we are not “delivered” as we thought or that we don’t have it “all together” as we had hoped. Sometimes, he lets us know that we still need some work. It may be for no other reason than to help foster continued (progressive) humility in our hearts and lives.
In those moments when I arise from begging God to help me and he hasn’t removed that lust, I have to be willing to accept that God’s ways are not my ways, his thoughts are above my thoughts. I see in part right now. I don’t see the whole picture at all.
I truly believe that while yes, God sometimes does remove the temptation or the desire when we submit to him in prayer, there are times when…well…we have to draw upon the resources he has given us already to Just Say No. We will still FEEL like eating, we will still feel like maybe even rebelling, but God wants us to depend on the strength of His Spirit in us to SAY NO even when we feel the temptation. That same power that raised Christ from the dead is there for me to rise above the pull of ANY temptation.
The freedom in Christ we have been given is not always a “delivered” kind of freedom, but it will always be the freedom to be able to CHOOSE to resist temptation. The power of the Spirit enables us to say no, if we are willing. If we wait for the desire to be removed, we may get angry with God (pride) as he isn’t “living up to his end of the bargain.” The fact is, he has given us everything we need for life and godliness (from 2 Peter 1:3). In Titus 2:12 we are told that this same grace that brings us salvation teaches us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly passions…clearly we wouldn’t be told to say NO to worldly passions if the passions were to instantly evaporate every time with a prayer, reading or a song. Those worldly passions may remain even after these things. If that happens, we must choose, with an act of our will, to do what we KNOW is right. This is part of our spiritual formation and transformation. We have to Just Say No.
While we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will provide a way out so we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear, we aren’t told it will always be an *easy* way out. Sometimes the way out is through…we must fix our eyes on Jesus and follow his example in enduring suffering and scorn the shame (Hebrews 12:1-3). As we fix our eyes on him who endured opposition from sinful men, we will see that no…it is not going to be easy…He says in Hebrews 12:4 that we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our blood as He has. He is our example! If we are to know Christ and to share in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings (Philippians 3:10) then we will say NO to our flesh and yes to what we know is godly.
In Gethsemane, Jesus asked God the Father to choose another way other than the cross for His will to be done…I don’t think his desire for another way was *removed* from him. Instead he said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done…” (Luke 22:42) We are called to do the same…to choose to go through, past and beyond our own worldly passions… to that place of saying even when God doesn’t remove the temptation: “Not my will, but YOURs be done, Lord.”
That is what I mean by saying “practice having a soft heart.” In the moment I feel tempted, what would I do if I had a soft heart? If Jesus were, in that moment, my “first love?” I would heed the call of God willingly and with praise and thanksgiving (Rev. 2:3-5). In the moment when my heart is *not* soft, I can choose to practice having a soft heart, doing the things I would do if I did have a soft heart. With an act of my will, I say no to sin and yes to God. I redirect my thoughts…I give Him my lusts.
We have a choice when we are faced with temptation. Pray, yes…most definitely. Maybe God WILL remove the desire. But if he doesn’t, with a humble heart, I choose to draw upon the resources he made available to me through his sacrifice on the cross. I choose with an act of my will to Just Say No.
(Nuts, this is sure beating me upside the head…funny how God does that…)
Hope someone who reads this gets encouraged. Stand firm. Let NOTHING move you. Always give yourself FULLY to the work of the Lord! (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Let’s DO it, folks! I need you asking me if I am living up to what I am posting, too! 🙂