Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why do I do What I do?

Why do we do what we do? Have you been there before? You lost your temper with an inconsiderate driver, a coworker, or even one of your church members. You told yourself you would never do that again, and yet you did. You flew into a rage and it wasn’t even something that important. You hope they will forgive you and not tell anyone else about it.
            Maybe it is your battle with pornography. You feel so dirty every time it happens. It could be your loneliness. It could be your anger at God for not giving you a mate yet.
It could be the emotionally drained moments when you have given all you have to minister to others and then come home with no one to share your heart with. What would happen if the church or your missions agency found out about it? You have promised God that you will quit, but nothing seems to help. Why do you do what you do?
            Your flirting has gradually taken the credibility out of your ministry.
Others turn their hearts away when you get up to teach because it’s become a stumbling block. You are not actually getting physically involved with anyone. It just makes you feel good to catch their attention, have intimate conversations, and know that they would be interested in being in a relationship with you if you were interested in them. You know that you should behave differently, but there seems to be something deep inside of you that keeps calling to that way of relating with others. But why do you do it?
            You have always been a compulsive shopper. It’s not that big of a problem. You still are doing great in your ministry, it’s just that you now have accumulated over $15,000 in credit card debt, are cutting corners illegally on your taxes, and have not tithed in the last 10 months. You have told your fellow staff members that you give your tithes anonymously because that just seems more biblical. The real reason is because that keeps others from holding you accountable. Being single has definitely helped keep your secret. You have pledged to God that you will get your finances in order, however you are now enslaved and you have no idea how to free yourself.
            Our actions will always be driven by our strongest desires. When we look at life in any culture we find this truth. It is our deepest longings that drive us to do what we do. It is in these moments that our private longings are made public through our words and our actions.
            Everyone has some desire in their lives that is more important to them than anything else. Some desire value, control, or image, so they make their career first priority and begin to neglect the other parts of their lives. (Family, friends, God, Health, etc.) Some desire comfort and pleasure so they put their focus on entertainment, luxurious furniture, vacations, food, or sex, while neglecting self-control, exercise, good spending habits, healthy eating habits, pure relationships, or difficult tasks. Some desperately desire to be “loved” by others so lower their standards and do whatever it takes to receive this counterfeit “love.”
            It works the same for everyone in the world. Whatever is the most important thing in their lives will direct how they live and the choices that they make. Here are some scenarios where this principle would be evident.
            Your group of friends is together. One good friend of yours is not able to be there, and the others are gossiping about him. Is your desire for loyalty and honesty strong enough that you confront your friends? Or maybe you long for peace and people’s approval so much that you remain silent, or even join in the laughter. Whichever desire is stronger will determine how you respond.
            You made a mistake. You thought you were right, so you argued about it, but you were wrong. Now your relationship with another is broken and in need of reconciliation. The outcome depends on which desires are ruling your heart. If your strongest desires are for love, community, and peace then you will do what is required to make things right. If your strongest desires are pride, reputation, and respect then you will either stay silent and ignore that the conflict exists, or you may go as far as continuing to argue for a point that you know is wrong.
You feel alone. You have surrendered to God’s call on your life and taken a position thousands of miles away from your family, friends, and possible candidates for marriage. You have sacrificed for the kingdom of God and have started to feel like a martyr. Your attitude of resentment towards God has been growing. A single missionary of the opposite gender has moved to your area. For you they don’t seem like a candidate for marriage, but you start spending time together. Your desire for intimacy and your feelings of entightlement lead you into a tempting situation. You both are open to the idea of a secret physical relationship.  What will you do? What everyone else does. You will follow your strongest desires. If your desire for integrity, holiness, and evangelism are stronger, then you will remain pure and distance yourself from this relationship. If your desire for intimacy and feeling loved is strongest then you will become sexually involved with this other missionary and remove any anointing of God that might have been on your life and your ministry.
            Life is complex. “Why do we do what we do?” Scripture describes our inner struggle in James 4:1-2 in these words. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God."
In the next chapter we will see how scripture addresses this issue of desire and behavior. It will become clear how only God can transform our desires into what they need to be. It is more than an issue of priorities. It is an issue of the heart.

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