The dictionary defines the word desire as a longing for something; to exhibit or feel desire for something; to express a wish. We all have countless desires throughout the day. Desires determine the clothes we wear and the food we eat. Desires determine how we spend our leisure time and where we allow our thoughts to dwell. To stop desiring is impossible, but when it comes to our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, we find ourselves facing what I call “dueling desires” moment by moment.
The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:17)
Make no mistake. In the heart of every believer, there is a real and bewildering conflict of desires going on between the old sinful nature and the new “spiritual” nature. They are at constant war, each nature desiring what is contrary to the other. Every Christian knows this to be true by way of experience. Who of you reading this would not echo the apostle Paul’s sorrowful confession of Romans 7:15—“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”?
Our desires place us smack dab in the middle of two kingdoms in conflict. We have the desire to expand the cause of God’s kingdom and we have the desire to expand the cause of our own kingdom. We have the desire to serve the kingdom of The One and the desire to serve the kingdom of one. We have the desire to serve our blessed Creator and the desire to serve ourselves. The primary problem we face is our desire to serve our own little kingdom is in direct conflict with the One who has saved us to serve Him.
The world, the flesh, and the devil battle all day long to capture the desires of our hearts. They make alluring and attractive promises, but in the end they simply cannot deliver on any of them. They leave us poor, blind, and naked. They promise peace and deliver disquiet. They promise fulfillment and deliver despair. They promise life and deliver death.
So how do we win the battle of these dueling desires that rage inside of us? Through the Gospel, of course! Only the Gospel has the power to dislodge an inappropriate desire and replace it with one that pleases God. The Gospel not only impacts our desires, it also empowers our disciplines. The Gospel is both the motive and the only enduring motivation to keep us consistently seeking after the things of God.
Only the truths of the Gospel can free us to desire the things of God from our place of acceptance—not for our place of acceptance. If our desires are rooted in what we will ultimately get from God, we will eventually turn away from Him, because we will be devoid of any lasting joy. But if our desires are rooted in what we already have been given by God, the joy of the Lord will be our strength to keep on keeping on(Nehemiah 8:10).
Let me close with a little story that wonderfully describes the inner battle of “dueling desires” and how to win that battle each day.
A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.”
On this side of the grave, we will always struggle with the battle between two desires; we can either feed the good, God-centered desires or the bad,self-centered ones, knowing the one we feed most will win the day.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!