“You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
~Psalm 145:16 (NIV).
There are many more negative references to the field of ‘desire’ in the Bible than there are positive. This we know personally because we all struggle controlling our desire. At the worst extreme is the criminal element that wantonly expose their ravenous desire to an onlooking world prepared to judge and condemn.
Many, many of us have been trapped by this oft-times sensual desire for the things of the world. Again, it’s a temptation saving none.
We think of controls for this group of problems and we automatically think of self discipline. It has to come first. And so, therefore, we give it first place.
Then we wonder why it doesn’t work. “Why am I less self controlled than I want to be? I desire to control these temptations. So, why can’t I?”
This gets down to the most basic level of controlling what we eat, how often we shop, and even how often we watch television—disregarding for a moment substance abuse, theft, sexual assault etc, which are manifested pretty much in exactly the same ways, just pushed further into vast extremes.
Self discipline is vital, but there’s more behind it.
What Underpins Self Discipline?
This is a very good question. My mind is saying love for self; an appreciation of what is good versus what is not good; then, a dedication to this truth. There is probably more, but these are useful for the purposes of the discussion.
If we believe in God, i.e. we believe in him and that he has our best at his heart, we can believe that there is a place for us and our desire to co-exist with happiness and peace.
There is such a place.
God wishes for all his believers to experience this blessing of enjoying the fruit of the world, equally, in good proportion. God does not wish that we transgress ourselves or others in gratifying our desires. We need to know this implicitly.
What then underpins this power for self discipline?
It’s the correct belief in God, love for self, knowing right from wrong, and using the powerful will of the mind to simply agree with the foregoing. It is also fundamentally augmented by the Spiritual power of God, particularly in breaking down stronger cases of misaligned desire.
The Key to Controlling Desire
Leading on from the previous section, the key to controlling desire must be to agree with God’s order in life (viz., Psalm 145:16); that he provides adequately for all. This is at the mind level. That is, it’s at the rational, logical level.
At the heart level—our inner committed belief system where we really believe i.e. the test of the power of our belief—we must also agree and be entirely congruent in this, that desire is a good thing that just has to have common sense applied to it; that a healthy self discipline (or self love, which is modelled on God’s love) is wholesome. Doing what is good for us is God’s will.
Knowing and living these two truths—states within the mind and heart—allows us to ensure we do the practical thinking and deciding such that our desires are affirmed and then optimised over time.
We have many good things at our stead—things God has provided and continues to provide, by his grace. When we appreciate these things, each individually as they are, we’ll always optimise our desires.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.