Gabriel Etzel, PhD, serves as the Administrative Dean of the Rawlings School of Divinity and Professor of Theology and Christian Leadership at Liberty University. Follow him on Twitter @GabeEtzel.
Article taken from Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/to-overcome-temptation-do-this
A few years back, I heard someone say that in order to overcome temptation, we should shift our focus from the point of temptation to a greater desire.
I was reminded of this when my wife and I took our kids to Florida for Spring Break. It was the first time my three kids flew on an airplane, and as you could imagine, there was a mix of excitement and nervousness as we prepared for the trip. My kids were enthusiastic about going to Florida, but the thought of the flight caused some anxiety. We kept them relatively distracted during the trip, and I focused hard to keep a smile on my own face, even in the midst of some turbulence.
Consider for a moment what happens when the plane is in the air. During flight, the law of gravity is still at work, but a greater law is also working, the law of aerodynamics. I admit I struggle to remember even an elementary understanding of the law of aerodynamics, but I do recognize that for a time the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity. It is similar to a desire to do something wrong (a temptation) and the need for a stronger desire to help us overcome.
THE DANGER OF SUCCESS: THIS IS THE SOLUTION TO PRIDE
We can learn a lot about overcoming temptation by thinking about this analogy. Too often in my own life, I attempt to overcome temptation by focusing on the struggle itself. I think that if I try hard enough to stop being enticed, then the longings will suddenly disappear; however, the reality is that to overcome temptation, I need to have something bigger and more powerful that pulls me beyond that temptation.
To demonstrate, consider a very common struggle: weight loss. When I am trying to lose weight, I don’t suddenly find desserts unappealing. (Although that would be nice, that has not been my experience.) Instead, the times I am successful at eating healthy occur when I find the desire to be healthy stronger than the desire to eat the unhealthy food. It is not a matter of taste, it is a matter of desire. In addition, when I focus on what I should do (what good and filling things I should eat and drink) instead of what I shouldn’t do, I am satisfied. I’m so full of the things that are good—so focused on filling up my body with what feeds it—that I don’t leave room for the unhealthy things to fill my mind and body.
Author C.S. Lewis reflects on the need for greater desires in his book, The Weight of Glory. He states:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
NEVER FORGET THE GREATNESS OF GOD BY REMEMBERING TO DO THIS
This thought leads me to consider, how often do I settle for something when God has greater things in store?
Scripture also speaks to the need to focus on greater desires. Colossians 3 states, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Further in the chapter, the author encourages his readers to turn away from evil desires such as anger, lust, greed, and slander. Instead, virtues such as love, humility, compassion, and thankfulness should be evidenced within their lives. The author affirms the way to focus on these qualities is by setting one’s minds on higher things. We know temptation is a common part of life, but instead of trying to avoid temptation, we need to fix our eyes on the fullness of God’s glory so that our cravings subside.
On that flight with my family, I knew that the joy of building the memories with them would be greater than the anxiety and work it took for us all to get there. By setting my focus on the joy ahead, I was able to see past the fear. I pray that the same will be true of us all when temptation lurks in the shadows.