Today’s post comes from one of my mentors Mark Dunagan. He writes a daily blog (which you can subscribe to here). as he travels the country with his wife Cindy, preaching and teaching the Gospel. Mark also runs a YouTube channel and a website where you can download his study notes and commentaries.
I hope you are as edified by the following article as I was.
“Years ago, I would have disagreed with the above title. I would have argued that man’s problem is that man wants too much. Yet, years ago C.S. Lewis observed that our problem (in relation to temptation) is not that our desires are too strong, but rather that they are too weak. That is the complete opposite of how I thought years ago. If you asked the lost and selfish 19-year-old, Mark, about temptation, he probably would have said that his desires were too strong to conform to the Christian way of living. That becoming a Christian would mean “settling” or dialing everything down a notch. I couldn’t live the Christian life, for I had a zest for life and fire was burning in my veins. But I believe that is exactly what the devil wanted me to think back then.
Gary Henry in his book “Reaching Forward” (which I just started) noted, “Our problem is not that we’ve desired too much, but that we’ve settled for too little. The problem of sin, in fact, comes down to the problem of abandoning the great desires that are our birthright from God”.
I believe that the prophets in the Old Testament would agree with that assessment. Isaiah asked the question, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread? And your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). That is a good question that more people today need to ponder. “What am I doing spending the fruit of my hard-earned labor on what does not make me happy?” “Why do I keep coming back to the same old sins, when they fail to provide any real and lasting happiness and they only complicate my life further?” Jeremiah pointed out that the people in his time had forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, and instead opted to dig their own cisterns, which could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). Why would one abandon a perpetual fountain of refreshing water, for stagnant water in a container that is cracked? Jesus noted that sin only produces slavery (John 8:31-36).
So, if I understand temptation and how the devil works, this would be a typical method of how I have seen him operate in my 63 years of life.
1. He presents sin and rebellion to God as the path of true freedom and fulfillment. “You will be like God” (Genesis 3). If you follow the Bible you will miss out. The real good stuff, the real fun, and exciting stuff are found in all those forbidden things. “That’s where the fun is”. Of course, we end up disappointed. Sin doesn’t deliver as promised. But then the devil says this.
3. It will fulfill you the next time—just try it one more time.
4. He might convince us that the real problem is “other people”. The society we live in, our parents, our mate, etc… are to blame. They are preventing us from being happy, it is their fault. I don’t think that it is an accident that following the rebellion of the ’60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, a victim mentality is being pushed in our culture. For such is a smokescreen and sidetracks people who are unhappy from facing up to the real issue. “I did what all cultural icons said to do to be happy—and I am miserable. Why?”
5. He might feed us the pipe dream, that we don’t need to change, rather, what we need is a change of relationships, job, home, etc…That out there somewhere, is a person, a job, a neighborhood, a new family, or a set of friends, that finally will appreciate us, and then we will be happy. Man, how many books and movies have followed that plotline? The lonely and misunderstood person finally finds “that person”, and they live happily ever after—without having to change a single thing about themselves!
6. Then he turns on us and says, “Well, what were you thinking? Your hopes and dreams were too high to begin with, this life is hard, and nobody gets to have what they want, everyone ends up disappointed, so get used to your little, miserable life”.
7. Then he laughs and mocks us. In fact, he accuses us, and says, “If people really knew you, that is, what you do in private, they would be disgusted with you. You can’t do anything right, you are pitiful. In fact, you might just want to end it all”.
So the truth is, we yield to temptation, not because our desires are “so strong”, but because they are too weak. The decision to sin, to rebel against God, is the decision to settle for the small things, rather than pursuing the great desires. It is where we would rather have a meal composed of Dollar Tree items, than a real home-cooked meal, prepared by a great cook. The people who show up on the First Day of the Week to worship, are not dull or boring people, rather, they are the people who refuse to settle and are pursuing the great things, the great and eternal passions.”