I struggle with the desire to do bad things. How do I change to desiring God?
Remember the story of Pinocchio? It’s about a puppet who wants to be a real boy, but he has to be good to do it. Yet, he fails repeatedly because there is something inside of him that has difficulty resisting temptation.
Or how about Frodo struggling to destroy the One Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings. Frodo wants to do good, he desires to save the world, but he has difficulty resisting the ring’s evil pull.
The good I want to do . . . I don’t.
Frodo and Pinocchio are like the rest of us. We say and plan to do good things, but our deeper desires and temptations often pull us in another direction. The Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:15, 19-20 (HCSB):
For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate . . . For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
I can so relate. We all can.
We get up determined to do good each day, but before we know it we’ve messed up, sometimes before our feet touch the floor and find ourselves in the middle of the great internal debate.
We all struggle with doing bad things and desiring bad things. That’s called temptation. Think of temptation like a bird. It flies over our head. We can’t always control the fact that birds fly over our head, but we can control our focus. Do we watch the bird? Chase the bird? Capture it? Keep it as a pet? Or do we shift our focus away from it?
Temptation is like that. We are all tempted. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.
So, once we are tempted we have a choice.
Do we allow those thoughts flying through our mind to take root? Or do we reject them?
2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to make our thoughts obedient to Christ. One of the best ways to deal with temptation is with God’s word. That’s one of the many reasons we’re told to hide God’s word in our heart.
When we’re tempted to lust after the lifeguard at the pool, we can look away and think about a scripture we’re memorizing. That’s our way out. We don’t dwell on him. Instead we dwell on God’s word.
When we’re tempted to want new clothes like our friend just bought, we can spend some time thanking God for what He has given us. We can thank God for what He has given her.
When we’re tempted to gossip about that girl who ______, we can instead pray for her, asking God for a heart of compassion.
When we’re tempted to wallow in anger because some guy was a jerk, we can choose to pray for God’s perspective. We can pray for that guy to have his eyes opened to his poor choices, but more than that, we can pray for God to show us when we make the same mistakes. We can pray for a heart of compassion.
[Tweet “If dark stuff goes in, dark stuff comes out.”]
Another step we can take is to control what we put in our brain. We can’t always control what we see and hear, but we can choose what kinds of books we read on our own time. Do they engender lust? Then we shouldn’t read them.
Do the video games we play feed anger inside us? Then we should put the game aside to deal with our issues.
Do the commercials and advertisements we see cause us to envy? Then we should step away from the ads.
Put in a Good Word.
Finally, to understand what God wants in our heart, we must pursue God. It’s wonderful to own a Bible, but unless we’re spending time reading and studying that Bible, it’s not doing us much good. Furthermore, we have access to the throne of God through prayer, yet so often we don’t want to pray. It’s too hard. We think we’re not good enough. We’re afraid of what God will tell us has to change. Change is scary. Giving up some of our thoughts and things is difficult, even painful. But the blessings on the other side of that are incomparable.
One more bit about grace.
Sometimes we mess up. Sometimes we get stuff in our head we wish we could get out, but it won’t go away. Sometimes we give into temptations. God’s not mad at us.
[Tweet “God’s not surprised when we make mistakes. That’s why Jesus granted us grace when He died on the cross.”]
God’s mercies are new each day. Don’t shy away from Him in shame when you mess up. Own your mistakes and keep returning to the foot of the cross.
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