Desire: Friend of the Devil, Grace of God By Paul Tripp , CP Guest Columnist

You and I are creatures of desire. Everything you ever choose,  do, or say is the product of desire. Desire not only directs your choices, it  also shapes your dreams. Desire forms your moments of greatest joy and darkest  grief. Desire makes you envy one person while being glad you’re not another.  Desire keeps you awake at night or puts you soundly to sleep. Desire makes you  willing to get up in the morning or causes you to be frustrated at the end of  the day. Desire makes you expectant and hopeful in one moment, and demanding and  complaining in the next. Desire sometimes makes you susceptible to temptation  and at other times defends you against it. Desire can lift you up to God or it  can make you a willing friend of the Devil. Desire can make you celebrate or  drive you to the pit of depression. Desire can make you the best of friends or  cause you to drive people away. Desire can cause you to lovingly edit your words  or make you let it rip with little regard for the damage your words will do.  Desire will make you willing to give or cause you to hoard everything you have.  Desire will cause you to submit to the King or set yourself up as king. Desire  can cause you to fight for freedom or can be the very thing that causes you to  be addicted. Desire can give you power or rob you of the power that could be  yours. Desire is your biggest problem and one of God’s sweetest graces. There’s  one thing for sure: your life and your ministry is always shaped by desire.

The great spiritual war being fought for control of our hearts is a war of  desire. (See James 4:1-4 and 1 Peter 2:11.) Remember this biblical principle:  whatever rules your heart will control your words and behavior. We do not live  by instinct. We’ve been designed by God with the capacity to desire. This means  that everything you do or say is done or spoken out of the want for something.  You and I are always seeking something. You and I are always living for  something. Beneath everything we do is the desire for something. Here the war of  right and wrong is fought. Here the direction of our lives will be shaped. In  your personal life and in crucial moments of ministry response or decision, you  can’t let yourself think that the war for what’s right is a war of behavior. If  you fight the battle of behavior alone, the battle won’t be won. You must be  willing to fight the spiritual fight at the place where your behavior is formed:  in the desires of the heart.

You must humbly realize that every day, in all the situations and  relationships of your life, this war rages. It’s about whether you’ll minister  out of fear of man or fear of God. It is about whether you’ll live to possess  some part of the creation or live to please the Creator. It’s about whether  you’ll minister to achieve some personal success or live in the way the Creator  designed you to live. This war is about what in ministry you treasure the most.  This war is about what set of desires will set the agendas for the way you  respond in the pastoral situations and relationships where God has placed  you.

What Do You Really Want?

I invite you to be humbly honest in this moment. What do you really want? If  you were to respond to the following, how would you fill in the blanks? “If only  I could have ______________ then my life would be ______________ .” It’s so easy  for us to say that we’re living and working for God, when, in fact, at the  street level our lives are often shaped by the anxious pursuit of other things.  Perhaps your desire to realize ministry dreams preoccupies too much of your  thinking and shapes too many of your choices. Perhaps the desire to be  successful has eaten your schedule with frantic workaholism. Perhaps the desire  for physical things has left you empty and in debt. Perhaps the desire to avoid  ministry failure has made you more demanding and controlling than you thought  you’d ever be. Perhaps the desire for physical health has reduced you to fearful  body self-consciousness. Perhaps the desire for control has turned you into more  of a mini-messiah than a servant. Perhaps the desire for comfort and ease has  caused you to be self-absorbed. Or maybe the desire to be affirmed and respected  causes you to ride the roller-coaster of people’s responses. Where does the war  of desire rage for you?

Could you say with the psalmist, “There is nothing on earth I desire besides  you”? Does this sound ethereal and impractically super-spiritual to you? Does it  feel like a moral impossibility? In fact, he is expressing in a phrase exactly  where God wants each of us to be. It’s the reason each of us was given life and  breath. We were made for God. We were created to love him above all else. We  were designed to live with his glory as the single motivator of all that we do.  It’s why we’ve been called to ministry and what God wants to create in the  hearts of others through us. Desire for him was intended to shape all the other  desires.

It isn’t wrong to desire comfort, acceptance, peace,  success, order, or health. In fact, there’d be something wrong if you didn’t  desire these things. But these desires must never rule you, because when they  do, they replace God as the ruler of your heart. Even in gospel ministry, the  move from desire to idolatry is a shockingly short step.

So we all need to cry out for help once more, we all need to seek God’s  rescue and his power. We must all humbly admit there’s evidence in our daily  lives and ministries that the war of desire still rages in our hearts. There are  times when Jesus is our priceless treasure, but there are other times when we’d  rather have other things. This means that we can’t quit seeking his help until  the day when we can say with complete singleness of heart, “There is nothing on  earth I desire besides you.”


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