“Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like Him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.”
- 1 Peter 4:1-2 MSG
I recently read about a minister of the Gospel whose grateful congregation had sent him on a cruise. During his trip, he made the discovery that indulging his appetite had let it get totally out of control. I believe that reading about this man's experience was God's way of confirming that I was on the right track with my new eating habits. After having tried some popular diets that allowed the dieter to eat small quantities of anything they wanted--and after achieving dismal results--the Lord began instructing me to say “no” to many of my own natural desires, and to say “yes” to wiser ones. I’ve discovered that the more I resist having my own way where my eating is concerned, the more control I gain over my appetite, and the better I look and feel.
The verses above from the Message Bible were life-changing for me. They made me realize how doing what I feel like doing all the time allows my natural desires to bully me. The more I give in to myself, the harder it becomes to discipline myself to do the right thing. On the other hand, the more I resist my natural impulses to indulge myself, the more control and freedom I gain--which is what God wants for His children. For instance, often when I go shopping and get the impulse to buy something, I begin to feel a “tension” between my flesh and my spirit. My flesh may say, “You can't pass this up--it's on sale!” But my spirit will give me a “check” about it, warning me to resist the urge to buy it. Then I have to decide which I want to please more--my spirit or my flesh. Either way, I will have to endure some kind of suffering. If I say “no” to myself, my flesh will suffer. If I say “yes” to myself, my spirit will suffer. I've discovered that if I can't get out of a situation without suffering somehow, it's best if I suffer in my flesh, rather than in my spirit. That's the attitude Jesus had, and that's what the verses above are referring to. The Living Bible puts it this way: “Since Christ suffered and underwent pain, you must have the same attitude He did; you must be ready to suffer, too. For remember, when your body suffers, sin loses its power, and you won't be spending the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but will be anxious to do the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2 TLB) Every time we choose to suffer in our flesh rather than have our own way, sin's hold over us diminishes, and it becomes easier to obey God.
Before we accepted Christ as our Savior, there was no way we could have escaped the enslavement of sin. But with the gift of salvation comes the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the power to live a godly life in a fleshly body and a sinful world. God doesn't give us His Spirit just so we can live like the rest of the world. He gives us supernatural power so that we can say “no” to sin and live the abundant life that Jesus died to give us. Can we quench the Spirit's power working in us? Absolutely. If we continually ignore the Holy Spirit's conviction and leading, our hearts can become hardened, and it can become increasingly difficult to hear God's “still, small voice.” First Peter 1:14 in the Message Bible says: “Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now.” The truth is, you don't have to give in to your sinful nature anymore when it makes demands on you. The Bible says that you've been given a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and if you'll live your life with an attitude of total dependence upon God, you can enjoy the freedom that's found in doing His will.
Don't let anyone tell you that doing what you feel like doing all the time will make you happy. The fact is that it will make you downright miserable. If you really want to enjoy your life and receive all the blessings God has for you, begin today to give yourself lots of daily doses of “NO”!
Prayer: Lord, when I'm tempted to have my own way against Your will, remind me of how my indulgence could harm my health, my finances, or my relationship with You or others. Help me to live a disciplined lifestyle so I can receive Your best in every area of my life. Thank You for the control and freedom that saying “no” to myself will bring!
- J. M. Farro