Every human being has a heart. The heart is the seat of desires and it is full of all sorts. Desires are very strong cravings or longings of our heart. The dreams and expectations we flirt with hoping to become our realities. We can have desire for fame, wealth, power, influence, women, men, children, love, freedom, fun, alcohol, drugs, etc. The list is endless. Our desires constitute a very powerful force that controls our decisions and ultimately, the outcome of our lives. Hence our desires can either make us or mar us.
Our desires also constitute our source of temptation; the bait that gets us quiet easily. Hence our desire is not only of interest to us, it is also of interest to the devil. The temptations that get our attention and which have the capacity to overcome us are those ones closely related to our heart desires. They undoubtedly court our fancy. We must realize that when we face any temptation, it is actually a test of our love. It is a call to choose between God and our personal desires. That is why Apostle James wrote in James 1:12 – 16 that:
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
The first point I get from this great exposition by Apostle James is the blessedness of enduring temptation. Each time we win in our daily fight against sin and temptation, there is a blessing attached. We receive God’s approval; His confirmation of our love for Him which entitles us to a crown of life. The way I see it is that our best proclamation of our love for God is not in words but in our daily acts of enduring and overcoming temptations.
One deception from the pit of hell is to get us to believe that God is the source of our temptations. The devil strives to make us shift the attention from ourselves to some other source, when it comes to why we face temptations. James strives to expose this fallacy by disclosing to us the very source of our temptations. It is not farfetched; it is right within us… it is our heart desires. Our desires entice us to sin. You cannot tempt a man with something he hates; No. You only tempt him with something he desires. Every temptation that overcomes us is tied to an unchecked desire!
Every temptation we face is therefore a thug of war between our love for God and our love for our desires, each seeking to gain mastery over us. When the pull and enticement of our heart desires overcome the pull of our love for God, the result will be a certain slide into sin whose ultimate goal or destination is death. It becomes obvious that our ungodly desires fight us with a view to overcome us.
What is then the panacea to avoid such victory of sin over us? The first step lies in having Jesus as Lord of your life. Paul had painted a gory picture with a hopeful end when he said in Romans 7:21 – 25 (NIV):
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin.”
We are wretched and helpless without Christ. When we have our relationship we Christ settled, we must then give attention to how we treat our hearts and the ungodly desires therein that prey upon us. We must take steps to guard our hearts diligently.
“Guard your hearts with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”
Guarding the heart is a matter requiring diligence. When diligence is lacking, our effort of many weeks or months at keeping the devil and our ungodly desires at bay can be destroyed by one swift bolt of desire left to roam unguardedly for a short moment. The devil always seeks opportunity to strike in our unguarded moments, when our desires seem to soar without restraint and then the next moment is one of regrets and remorse.
What do we guard our hearts against? We guard our hearts against whatever it is that feeds our ungodly desires. Desires grow when fed and they die when we starve them. Desires feed on information. Hence when we permit information to penetrate our heart through our sense organs; by the things we see, hear, smell, taste or touch. We fill our hearts with what either feeds or kills our heart desires. Hence in guarding our hearts, we must be wary of the friends we keep, the places we go, the movies we watch, the books or materials we read, etc. A man struggling with sexual sin can never overcome it so long as he still goes to clubs, reads erotic materials, keeps the company of friends who find sexual sin attractive, etc. The information, which naturally gets to his heart from these interactions will naturally strengthen his desire for sexual sin to such an extent that his love for God cannot cope with. It’s a natural law of cause and effect.
Starving our desires of what they require to grow is a painful process of depriving our selves (our flesh) what it craves. It is however a worthwhile process as overtime, their grip on our heart is lost and we begin to leave a life free of their entanglements. It is a worthy price to pay for freedom. Paul writing to the Corinthian church said:
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Beyond guarding our hearts against the information that feeds our ungodly desires, we need to strengthen our heart with the right information. James 1:21 and 25 says:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves….But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
The word of God planted in our hearts is what saves our souls from the power of temptation and sin. The word of God is the perfect law of liberty. It frees us from bondage to sin. As we look into the word of God and live by it, our victory over sin and temptation is certain. Hebrews 12:1 – 2 admonishes us:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Life is a race. There are weights we must let go… little things that drag us down or slow us down enough for sin to catch up with us. The Christian race, calls for constant endurance, so “let us run with endurance” following Jesus example. He endured the cross. On the cross, his flesh was nailed. We must nail our cravings, desires and dreams which run contrary to our love for God on the cross. We must die to them, because there is a crown of life ahead for only those who endure to the end. Others have run the race victoriously amidst all odds. You will too in Jesus name.
It is my prayer that henceforth, you will walk in victory over the temptations. I pray that you will run a glorious race and obtain that glorious crown of life in Jesus name. I am waiting to hear your testimony.
Pst. (Barr.) Emeje Aruwa