* The burning desire for possessions
Lot’s greedy desire for the best of everything led him into sinful surroundings. His burning desire for possessions and success cost him his freedom and enjoyment. As a captive to Kedorlaomer, he faced torture, slavery, or death. In much the same way, we can be enticed into doing things or going places we shouldn’t. The prosperity we long for is captivating; it can both entice us and enslave us if our motives are not in line with God’s desires. (NLT)
Genesis 14:12 – They also captured Lot—Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom—and took everything he owned.
* Immediate vs. long-range desires
Esau traded the lasting benefits of his birthright for the immediate pleasure of food. He acted on impulse, satisfying his immediate desires without pausing to consider the long-range consequences of what he was about to do. We can fall into the same trap. When we see something we want, our first impulse is to get it. At first we feel intensely satisfied and sometimes even powerful because we have obtained what we set out to get. But immediate pleasure often loses sight of the future. We can avoid making Esau’s mistake by comparing the short-term satisfaction with its long-range consequences before we act.
Esau exaggerated his hunger. “I’m dying of starvation!” he said. This thought made his choice much easier because if he was starving, what good was an inheritance anyway? The pressure of the moment distorted his perspective and made his decision seem urgent. We often experience similar pressures. For example, when we feel sexual pressure, a marriage vow may seem unimportant. We might feel such great pressure in one area that nothing else seems to matter and we lose our perspective. Getting through that short, pressure-filled moment is often the most difficult part of overcoming a temptation. (NLT)
Genesis 25:32-33 – “Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?” So Jacob insisted, “Well then, swear to me right now that it is mine.” So Esau swore on an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his younger brother.
* Some desires are worth waiting for
People often wonder if working a long time for something they desire is worth it. Jacob worked seven years to marry Rachel. After being tricked, he agreed to work seven more years for her (although he did get to marry Rachel shortly after he married Leah)! The most important goals and desires are worth working and waiting for. Movies and television have created the illusion that people have to wait only about an hour to solve their problems or get what they want. Don’t be trapped into thinking the same is true in real life. Patience is hardest when we need it the most, but it is the key to achieving our goals. (NLT)
Genesis 29:20-28 – So Jacob spent the next seven years working to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my contract,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so we can be married.”
So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood to celebrate with Jacob at a wedding feast. That night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. And Laban gave Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.
But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What sort of trick is this?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel. What do you mean by this trickery?”
“It’s not our custom to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. “Wait until the bridal week is over, and you can have Rachel, too—that is, if you promise to work another seven years for me.”
So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.
* Don’t let unfulfilled desires obsess you
Dissatisfaction comes when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have. The people of Israel didn’t seem to notice what God was doing for them—setting them free, making them a nation, giving them a new land—because they were so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them. They could think of nothing but the delicious Egyptian food they had left behind. Somehow they forgot that the brutal whip of Egyptian slavery was the cost of eating that food. Before we judge the Israelites too harshly, it’s helpful to think about what occupies our attention most of the time. Are we grateful for what God has given us, or are we always thinking about what we would like to have? We should not allow our unfulfilled desires to cause us to forget God’s gifts of life, food, health, work, and friends. (NLT)
Numbers 11:4-6 – Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt, and the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember all the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that we wanted. But now our appetites are gone, and day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna!”
* Wanting to love God vs. feeling obligated to
God told Moses that he wanted the people to incline their hearts to fear him—to want to respect and obey him. There is a difference between doing something because it is required and doing something because we want to. God is not interested in forced religious exercises and rule keeping. He wants our hearts and lives completely dedicated to him. If we love him, obedience will follows. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 5:29 – Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.
* Make sure your desires aren’t selfish ones
Israel’s king was to be the Lord and not a man. But Abimelech wanted to usurp the position reserved for God alone. In his selfish quest, he killed all but one of his 70 half-brothers. People with selfish desires often seek to fulfill them in ruthless ways. Examine your ambitions to see if they are self-centered or God-centered. Be sure you always fulfill your desires in ways that God would approve. (NLT)
Judges 9:2-5 – “Ask the people of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon’s sons or by one man. And remember, I am your own flesh and blood!”
So Abimelech’s uncles spoke to all the people of Schechem on his behalf. And after listening to their proposal, they decided in favor of Abimelech because he was their relative. They gave him seventy silver coins from the temple of Baal-berith, which he used to hire some soldiers who agreed to follow him. He took the soldiers to his father’s home at Ophrah, and there, on one stone, they killed all seventy of his half brothers. But the youngest brother, Jotham, escaped and hid.
* Satisfying right desires in wrong ways
David refers to the incident recorded in 13:8-11 and 2 Samuel 6:1-11. As the Ark was being brought back to Israel on an oxcart, the oxen stumbled. Uzzah, trying to steady the Ark with his hand, was killed instantly for touching it. The mistake was not in David’s desire to move the Ark but in his method for its return. David either ignored or was unaware of the specific instructions in God’s law about how the Ark was to be moved. Obviously he had discovered his mistake and was now preparing to correct it. This incident was a divine object lesson to all Israel that God governed the king and not the other way around. If David had been allowed to handle the Ark of God carelessly, what would that have said to the people about their faith? (NLT)
1 Chronicles 15:13 – “Because you Levites did not carry the Ark the first time, the anger of the Lord our God burst out against us. We failed to ask God how to move it in the proper way.”
* David brought the Ark to Jerusalem although the Tabernacle was still at Gibeon. His plan was to reunite the Tabernacle and Ark in a new Temple at Jerusalem that would then become Israel’s only worship center. The Temple, however, was not built until Solomon’s time. In the meantime, Israel had two worship centers and two high priests, one at Gibeon and one at Jerusalem. (NLT)
1 Chronicles 17:1 – Now when David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in this beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of the Lord’s covenant is out in a tent!”
* Jesus was hungry and weak after fasting for 40 days, but he chose not to use his divine power to satisfy his natural desire for food. Food, hunger, and eating are good, but the timing was wrong. Jesus was in the wilderness to fast, not to eat. And because Jesus had given up the unlimited, independent use of his divine power in order to experience humanity fully, he wouldn’t use his power to change the stones to bread. We also may be tempted to satisfy a perfectly normal desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time. If we indulge in sex before marriage or if we steal to get food, we are trying to satisfy God-given desires in wrong ways. Remember, many of your desires are normal and good, but God wants you to satisfy them in the right way and at the right time. (NLT)
Matthew 4:3-4 – Then the Devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.’”
* How to do what God wants, desires
“Wholehearted desire to obey” means to be entirely dedicated to God. This is what David wished for Solomon—that he would desire, above all else, to serve God. Do you find it hard to do what God wants, or find it harder to want to do it? God can give you wholehearted devotion. If you believe in Jesus Christ, this is already happening in you. Paul wrote: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (NLT)
1 Chronicles 29:19 – “. . . Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, decrees, and principles, and to build this Temple, for which I have made all these preparations.”
* Your heart’s desires
David calls us to take delight in the Lord and to commit everything we have and do to him. But how do we do this? To delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in his or her presence. This happens only when we know that person well. Thus, to delight in the Lord, we must know him better. Knowledge of God’s great love for us will indeed give us delight.
To commit ourselves to the Lord means entrusting everything—our lives, families, jobs, possessions—to his control and guidance. To commit ourselves to the Lord means to trust in him, believing that he can care for us better than we can ourselves. We should be willing to wait patiently for him to work out what is best for us. (NLT)
Psalm 37:3-7 – Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
* Aligning your desires with God’s
A sincere desire to please God will result in an alignment of your desires with God’s desires. You will love what God loves and hate what God hates. If you love the Lord, you will hate evil. If you do not despise the actions of people who take advantage of others, if you admire people who only look out for themselves, or if you envy those who get ahead using any means to accomplish their ends, then your primary desire in life is not to please God. Learn to love God’s ways and hate evil in every form—not only the obvious sins but also the socially acceptable ones. (NLT)
Psalm 97:10 – You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.
* In the wilderness, the Israelites were so intent on getting the food and water they wanted that they became blind to what God wanted. They were more concerned about immediate physical gratification than lasting spiritual satisfaction. They did not want what was best for them, and they refused to trust in God’s care and provision. If you complain enough, God may give you what you ask for, even if it is not the best for you. If you’re not getting what you want, perhaps God knows it is not in your best interest. Trust in his care and provision. (NLT)
Psalm 106:13-15 – Yet how quickly they forgot what he had done! They wouldn’t wait for his counsel! In the wilderness, their desires ran wild, testing God’s patience in that dry land. So he gave them what they asked for, but he sent a plague along with it.
* Evil acts begin with evil desires
Evil acts begin with evil desires. It isn’t enough to ask God to keep you away from temptation, make you stronger, or change your circumstances. You must ask him to change you on the inside—at the level of your desires. (NLT)
Psalm 141:4 – Don’t let me lust for evil things; don’t let me participate in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do evil.
* Desires control how we live
Our heart—our feelings of love and desire—dictates to a great extent how we live because we always find time to do what we enjoy. Solomon tells us to guard our heart above all else, making sure we concentrate on those desires that will keep us on the right path. Make sure your affections lead you in the right direction. Put boundaries on your desires: Don’t go after everything you see. Look straight ahead, keep your eyes fixed on your goal, and don’t get sidetracked on detours that lead to sin. (NLT)
Proverbs 4:23-27 – Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
* Wrong desires blind your judgment
Whether a “dream come true” is good or bad depends on the nature of the dream or desire. It is pleasant to achieve worthwhile goals, but not all goals are worth pursuing. When you set your heart on something, you may lose your ability to assess it objectively. With your desire blinding your judgment, you may proceed with an unwise relationship, a wasteful purchase, or a poorly conceived plan. Faithfulness is a virtue, but stubbornness is not. (NLT)
Proverbs 13:19 – It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools will not turn from evil to attain them.
* Using the Bible to support wrong desires
The Devil used Scripture to try to convince Jesus to sin! Sometimes friends or associates will present attractive and convincing reasons why you should try something you know is wrong. They may even find Bible verses that seem to support their viewpoint. Study the Bible carefully, especially the broader contexts of specific verses, so that you understand God’s principles for living and what he wants for your life. Only if you really understand what the whole Bible says will you be able to recognize errors of interpretation when people take verses out of context and twist them to say what they want them to say. (NLT)
Matthew 4:5-6 – Then the Devil took him [Jesus] to Jerusalem to the highest point of the Temple, and said,
If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect you. And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.’”
* Desires to do wrong is like doing it
The Old Testament law said that it is wrong for a person to have sex with someone other than his or her spouse. But Jesus said that the desire to have sex with someone other than your spouse is mental adultery and thus sin. Jesus emphasized that if the act is wrong, then so is the intention. To be faithful to your spouse with your body but not your mind is to break the trust so vital to a strong marriage. Jesus is condemning not natural interest in the opposite sex or even healthy sexual desire but the deliberate and repeated filling of one’s mind with fantasies that would be evil if acted out. (NLT)
* Wrong desires lead to wrong actions
Some think that if lustful thoughts are sin, why shouldn’t a person go ahead and do the lustful actions, too? Acting out sinful desires is harmful in several ways: (1) It causes people to excuse sin rather than to stop sinning; (2) it destroys marriages; (3) it is deliberate rebellion against God’s Word; (4) it always hurts someone else in addition to the sinner. Sinful actions are more dangerous than sinful desires, and that is why desires should not be acted out. Nevertheless, sinful desires are just as damaging to obedience. Left unchecked, wrong desires will result in wrong actions and turn people away from God. (NLT)
Matthew 5:27-28 – [Jesus said] “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
* Prayer involves God’s desires not ours
Jesus, our example, prayed, “Everything is possible for you. . . . Yet I want your will, not mine.” Our prayers are often motivated by our own interests and desires. We like to hear that we can have anything. But Jesus prayed with God’s interests in mind. When we pray, we can express our desires, but we should want his will above ours. Check yourself to see if your prayers focus on your interests or God’s. (NLT)
Mark 11:24 – [Jesus said] “Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.”
* When desires conflict with obedience
Jesus knew his crucifixion lay ahead, and because he was human, he dreaded it. He knew he would have to take the sins of the world on himself, and he knew this would separate him from his Father. He wanted to be delivered from this horrible death, but he knew that God sent him into the world to die for our sins, in our place. Jesus said no to his human desires in order to obey his Father and glorify him. Although we will never have to face such a difficult and awesome task, we are still called to obedience. Whatever the Father asks, we should do his will and bring glory to his name. (NLT)
John 12:27 – [Jesus said] “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from what lies ahead’? But that is the very reason why I came!”
* Making desire for God top priority
Paul knew he would be imprisoned in Jerusalem. Although his friends pleaded with him to not go there, he knew that he had to because God wanted him to. No one enjoys pain, but a faithful disciple wants above all else to please God. Our desire to please God should overshadow our desire to avoid hardship and suffering. When we really want to do God’s will, we must accept all that comes with it—even the pain. Then we can say with Paul’s companions, “The will of the Lord be done.” (NLT)
Acts 21:13-14 – But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”
* Lessons Paul leaned about sinful desires
Paul shares three lessons that he learned in trying to deal with his old sinful desires: (1) Knowledge is not the answer. Paul felt fine as long as he did not understand what the law demanded. When he learned the truth, he knew he was doomed. (2) Self-determination (struggling in one’s own strength) doesn’t succeed. Paul found himself sinning in ways that weren’t even attractive to him. (3) Becoming a Christian does not stamp out all sin and temptation from a person’s life.
Being born again takes a moment of faith, but becoming like Christ is a lifelong process. Paul compares Christian growth to a strenuous race or fight. Thus, as Paul has been emphasizing since the beginning of this letter, no one in the world is innocent; no one deserves to be saved—not the pagan who doesn’t know God’s laws, not the Christian or Jew who knows them and tries to keep them. All of us must depend totally on the work of Christ for our salvation. We cannot earn it by our good behavior. (NLT)
Romans 7:15 – I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate.
* Desire the most helpful gifts
The most helpful gifts are those that are beneficial to the body of Christ. Paul has already made it clear that one gift is not superior to another, but he urges the believers to discover how they can serve Christ’s body with the gifts God has given them. Your spiritual gifts are not for your own self-advancement. They were given to you for serving God and enhancing the sp8iritual growth of the body of believers. (NLT)
1 Corinthians 12:31 – And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts.
* Dealing with our natural evil desires
Paul describes the two forces fighting within us—the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature (our evil desires or inclinations that stem from our body). Paul is not saying that these forces are equal—the Holy Spirit is infinitely stronger. But if we rely on our own wisdom, we will make wrong choices. If we try to follow the Spirit by our own human effort, we will fall. Our only way to freedom from our evil desires is through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Galatians 5:17 – The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict.
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