I am struggling with thoughts, desires and carnal appetites that I know are against the Lord my God. They assault me. They come out of nowhere. They surround me and attack from behind, and flank me on all sides. There is a war within me; a war between what I know God wants for my life and what I want for my life. There is a battle being fought for my soul, and in the depths of my being I am afraid that I am going to lose it all. I am afraid the enemy, my flesh, will win and sin will take hold of my life once again. But I must not give up; I must not give in. I must fight. I must pick up my sword, I must wield the powerful weapon I have been given and stand up once more to this enemy of my flesh.
There have been some hard-fought battles in my life over sin. I have fought the battle of addiction, adultery, hate and even fear. I have fought the battle of finances, sickness and even death. I have taken up my armor time and again and the Lord my God has been right there; leading me, protecting me and fighting for me. He has given me the power of prayer, the sword of the Spirit, and the breastplate of righteousness. He has girded my loins with truth and shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:11-13). He has been my shelter when the storms were too strong for me to bear. He has been my righteousness when the enemy brought on a full-frontal attack. He has always been there, ready to defend me, ready to fight for me and ready to forgive me when I cowered in fear. The Lord my God has fought my battles, and He has always won.
But this war, this war that rages in me today is like no other I have ever faced. It is my greatest and strongest foe yet. It is the war between my flesh and the Holy Spirit of God which lives and moves and breathes within me. This is a war that does not come from without, it is a war that is within. We all face this battle of self. Every single day we wake up to the knowledge that our flesh wants what it wants and our God calls us to something divine, something different, something completely opposite of the nature that lives inside. This is a battle I fight, and I lose, and I start all over again.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5 ESV
When I was pregnant with my son, all I wanted was mashed potatoes and pumpkin bread. I craved it morning, noon and night. (My son, bless his heart, still to this day cannot eat either one of these foods.) I had mashed potatoes for breakfast. I would eat a loaf of pumpkin bread at dinner, and go back for more potatoes in the middle of the night. I do not know why I craved these things, but I did. I had a hunger so strong for them that I did whatever I had to do to feed that hunger till I was satisfied. What I hungered for is what I sought out.
The reality of life is that we will, as long as we are in these bodies, have a war between the Spirit and the flesh. The flesh is against God. Sin does not want to do the will of God. Sin wants to do what sin wants to do. It wants to feed its lusts on self, passions and carnal desires that lead to death; total separation from God. It hungers for more of self. If you feed that, you will live in a life of sin and death. The more I feed the flesh, the more it will crave, and the harder it will be for me to overcome the hunger pains. But if I feed the Spirit, will I then crave the things of the Spirit? Yes, I believe so.
When I was a new believer, just a few months old, I had a hunger and I thirst for God that rivaled my hunger for mashed potatoes! I could not get enough of His Word, His presence, or His people. I spent every waking hour reading, studying and being in His presence. I loved being in Church on Sunday’s. I got excited to serve the Lord in any capacity I could. There was a hunger and thirst in me that was insatiable. I was like a little kid in a candy store when it came to His Word. I just could not get enough, I wanted it all, I wanted all of Him. I would not listen to worldly music. I would not watch TV. I read all that I could get my hands on. If it had to do with God, His Word and His Son, Jesus Christ, I read it. I closeted myself away into a life that was surrounded by God and God alone. I was on fire for my Lord.
What happened to that hunger and thirst? I have asked myself this question many times over in the past couple of weeks. The truth is, I have been feeding my flesh. I have been seeking out things that I desire, that my flesh is craving. Things like success, wealth, status, passion, acceptance, fame, and even lustful desires have become a part of my life once again. I know this because His word has shown me the reasons for the struggles I am facing and for this battle in my life today. I have been feeding my flesh, and not the Spirit. I have once again begun to hunger and thirst for things that are not of Him and are of the flesh.
Paul writes to us in Romans that if we set our minds on the things of the flesh, we will find ourselves living in the flesh. When we set our minds to something, we turn our attention and focus to it. We start to mold and shape our lives around what it is we think and feel. When I craved mashed potatoes, what did I do? I sought them out and ate till I was filled. The same is true of our flesh. For instance, we desire to have success in our businesses or in our ministries. We will start to crave it and we will start to focus our attention on getting it. We will mold and shape our lives around things that will bring these desires to fulfillment. We start to take steps that we know are not God approved. We start to justify our thoughts and our actions. We start to walk towards people and attitudes we know will lead us to sin and death. What we crave is what we will walk to.
The same is true of the Spirit. If we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, then we will begin to live in the Spirit. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) If my focus in on me, my wants, my desires, my cravings, then I am going to be in opposition to God. I am going to struggle every single day and I am going to lose every single day. I am not saying that we won’t struggle if we turn our focus on the Spirit, we will. Read Romans 7; the battle is real, and the struggle is constant. But we don’t have to feed it. We don’t have to feed the cravings that we have. We can resist them. We can have small victories every day over the enemy of our flesh. We can conquer the cravings of self, little by little. The battle won’t be won until we are with the Lord our God in glory. But in the meantime, He has given us the tools and the weapons we need to fight today, to win today.
We must be willing to put away those things in our lives that lead us into sin and death. There are temptations surrounding you right now that the Lord has shown you to cut off, to put to death, to cast away. They could be a friend that always leads you to do things you know God would not approve of. It could be the books you are reading, the television shows you are watching, or perhaps the music you are listening to. These are distractions meant to turn your attitude, and your thoughts away from Christ; and we know that our thoughts will lead our actions.
What we crave is not always what is best for us. What we want is not always what God wants for us. I want a successful business that will grow and become a nationally recognized name in the pet industry. But is that what God wants for me? I am learning that just because I crave something, doesn’t mean I should seek it out and devour it. My son is paying the price for my hunger pains to
Perhaps you are like me today and struggling with the flesh that wants what it wants. I have been fighting this battle since the day I became a Christian, and the fact of the matter is, I will be fighting it until the day I leave this earth. But, I do not have to be under its power. I do not have to lose every single day. I can fight and I can win. I can stand today in the power of His Spirit and put away those things that feed the enemy and begin to feed my spirit. I can choose to pick up His word instead of the remote. I can choose to put down that work of fiction and pick up a work of His word. I can choose to turn the radio station to one that preaches Him. I can choose to deny myself today, or I can choose to feed it. Either way, if I live for the flesh, I will die in my flesh. But if I live for the Spirit, then I will live in peace. The battle can be won, we just have to want to win it. Amen?