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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

What to Do when You Desire Something Else More than God

Bread

Desire Other Things More

Too often we desire other things more than God.  Maybe it’s revenge, or sexual sin.  Maybe it’s a new car, or fame.

But Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-30).  Which means we should desire God more than anything else.

So what can we do?

Good News

The good news is that God tells us what to, in Psalm 119:33-40.  The author of this psalm is desiring other things more than God.  We see that in v.36, where he prays —

“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”

He is asking God to increase his desire for the Word.  And the reason he asks this is because he desires other things too much.  Maybe he’d rather click on Facebook or go to the gym, even though he’s had no time with God.

So it’s clear — he’s desiring something else more than God.

We can see this also in v.37, where he says —

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things…”

The fact that he asks God to turn his eyes FROM worthless things, shows that his eyes ARE LOOKING AT worthless things.  Maybe he’s envying his neighbor’s new barbecue, or he’s struggling not to look in wrong ways at the woman down the street.

So the psalmist desires other things more than God.  But in these eight verses he is bringing his sinful heart to God, and asking for help.  So what does he ask for?  What does he say he needs?

What Do We Need?

We might think his greatest need is self-discipline.  That he just needs to STOP wanting Facebook or the gym so much.  He should just STOP envying his neighbor’s barbecue, or thinking about the woman down the street.

But the psalmist does not ask God for self-discipline.  He knows that’s not going to solve the problem.

What he asks for is life — spiritual life.  This is so important he asks for this twice.

“…give me life in your ways.” (v.37)

“… in your righteousness give me life!” (v.40)

What he needs is spiritual life.  He needs a fresh filling of wonder in God’s glory, delight in God’s love, amazement at God’s mighty works.

Why does he ask for this?  Here’s an illustration —

Dried-Up Crust or a Warm, Tasty Loaf

Imagine that you are hungry; completely famished.  On your left, on the ground, is a cold, dried-up crust of bread — sin.

But on your right, on a table, is a warm loaf of buttery bread fresh from the oven — Jesus Christ, the bread of life.

And you are desiring the cold, dried-up crust more than the warm, buttery bread.

Why would you do that?  The only explanation is that you are not seeing the warm, buttery bread.

You are hungry and need to eat something, but all you see is the dried-up crust.  So you want the dried-up crust you do see more than the warm buttery loaf you do not see.

That’s exactly what’s happening when you desire something else more than God.  Your heart is hungry — for pleasure, joy, peace, satisfaction.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

But your sin is blinding you so you don’t see Jesus Christ, the all-satisfying the bread of life.  All you see is the dried-up crust of sin.  And so your heart desires the dried-up crust more than the fresh, warm loaf.

“Give Me Life!”

That explains why the psalmist asks God to give him life.  He needs the Holy Spirit to help him see and taste the fresh, warm loaf.  Once that happens, his heart will be changed.  He’ll have no interest in the dried-up crust.  He’ll love the loaf with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

But think of how tragic it would be if, instead of seeking a taste of the loaf, he just tried really hard not to want the crust — “Must not desire the crust.  Must not want the crust.  Must not think about the crust.”

That’s what we do when we rely on will-power to make us stop desiring other things more than God, instead of relying on the Spirit’s-power to show us God so clearly that all our desires are satisfied in him.

So what can we do?

Turn to Jesus Christ just as You Are

As we saw, the psalmist has sin in his heart (Psalm 119:36,37).  But he knows that as he turns to God by faith alone, he can be assured of forgiveness and of being counted as perfectly righteous (Genesis 15:6).

We today can be even more sure of this, because we now see how God can do this — through Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

So even though you have sinful desires in your heart, turn to Jesus Christ just as you are, by faith alone.  You will be assured that God has forgiven you, loves you, and will help you.

Ask God to Teach You His Word

That’s what the psalmist does (Psalm 119:33-34).

He knows sin is blinding him so he can’t see and feel that God is his all-satisfying bread.  So he opens up God’s Word, and asks God to teach him the Word.

Join the psalmist in doing this.  God will remove your blindness, and you will see the warm, buttery bread.

Ask God to Change Your Heart

No matter how much you desire something else more than God, God can change your heart.  He can give you such a taste of the bread that you lose all interest in the crust.

So join the psalmist, and ask for God’s heart-changing work (Psalm 119:36-37).

Keep Praying 

Twice in these eight verses the psalmist asks God to give him life (Psalm 119:37, 40).  I think that might be because  God does not immediately pour upon us all the life he has to give.

Maybe the psalmist asks for life in v.37, and God gives him a taste of his glory.  But the psalmist wants more.  He needs more.  So in v.40 he again asks for life, and knows that God will give him even more.

So keep praying.  Keep asking God to give you understanding.  Keep meditating on his Word.

Fresh-baked bread is on the way.

Questions?  Comments?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Overcoming Sin and Temptation

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27 Responses

  1. Jason Belk says:

    This is something we do at salvation (see Christ and turn to Him as our treasure) and need to be reminded of regularly. I pray my heart seeks Him more today, thank you for the reminder.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Wow! I think this is what I have been thinking about lately, or similar to what I’ve been thinking about.
    Thanks
    I think God wanted me to see this.

  3. Josh Camacho says:

    So helpful…thanks so much Steve.

    We have been talking through Psalm 119 in my small group. What precious words of instruction for the soul seeking God. Praying for our family at Mercy Hill. Blessings brother!

  4. Natasha says:

    This is exactly what I was thinking this morning but couldn’t put into words! Thanks!!!

  5. Jon says:

    Wow. Great illustration. Helps to make those verses really clear.

  6. Brenton says:

    So true– I loved the bread metaphor. I’ve noticed this principle in my own life, that when I desire the more base activities and pleasures of man, it’s because I don’t really feel the power of the alternative.
    This was really evident for me with scripture study– I’d think about reading, then think of something else (something easier) to do, and pick the more frivolous option. In the end I was left unsatisfied over and over, but it was HARD to change. The change came through my diligent effort and the Savior’s help; I felt the power and truth of the word, and then it fulfilled me. I desired it because I knew it was there. I choose to believe and Christ helps me change.

    A good man I know also wrote an article about this subject that opened my mind to “choosing to believe”. I’ll post the link here, and I’d love your thoughts on it!

    http://goo.gl/3vJe50

    • Steve Fuller says:

      So glad the bread metaphor encouraged you, Brenton. And there certainly is truth to the “choosing to believe” approach.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  7. Roy says:

    How do we know God gave him what he asked for?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      That’s an important question, Roy. Thank you for raising it.

      I believe we have many reasons to conclude that God gave him what he asked for. One is in v.26, where he says that God answered his prayers.

      Another is the fact that since these requests are in God’s Word, we can be confident they are God’s Will, which means he will give them to us.

      Another is the fact that God promises that when we come to Jesus Christ by faith, he will satisfy our heart hungers and thirsts. I see that in passages like John 6:45 and John 7:37-38.

      I hope that helps — and thanks again —

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  8. Roy says:

    Did the woman at the well ask for the living water?
    Did the Roman Soldier recieve help with his unbelief?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hello again, Roy.

      I’m not sure I understand the point of these questions. But I’ll take a stab at it.

      The woman at the well did ask Jesus for water, but it’s clear she was asking for an unending supply of physical water (John 4:15).

      And I think the Romans soldier’s question you mention is the one in Mark 9:24, where he says “I believe; help my unbelief.” So did Jesus help him? The passage does not say explicitly.

      But Jesus did heal the man’s son, which shows that Jesus did not view the man’s prayer negatively. And even if the man only had a mustard-seed of faith, Jesus taught elsewhere that even that tiny amount of faith will stir God to respond with miracle-working power (Matthew 17:20).

      So I think we have every reason to conclude that Jesus did help this man with his unbelief.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  9. Jeneal says:

    I’m in the process of planning a women’s retreat and one of the topics that we are in the process of choosing from deals with desiring things more than God; thus, making them “idols” in our lives. I really think this would be a great way to break down some of the struggles we face with desires because it is so easy to think we can handle them on our own. I often tell myself don’t do…, don’t think about…, etc., but really all that does is put the … in the mind, keeping it at the forefront of my thoughts. What I really need is for Jesus to be at the forefront of my thoughts and by relying on his abilities instead of my own I believe is possible to break the pattern of sin in our lives. Thank you for this article

  10. DavidJ says:

    Yes, I agree that choosing to fix our eyes on God and his promises is the key to getting our heart redirected. I’ve heard a pastor say it’s like getting over your old girlfriend by thinking of your new girlfriend. I love Jesus’ promise in the book of John, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

  11. Lars says:

    So you just pray to God with faith to give you true love for him?
    Seems too simple.

  12. Jeff says:

    But I have a gluten allergy!

  13. Bill Schuler says:

    A friend of mine once said, “We wake up in the flesh every morning.” This has been my experience. I need a heart change every morning! Thank you for such a wonderful encouragement. “His mercies are new every morning.” Bless you brother! 🙂

  14. Hope says:

    Have a question about wanting and covetousness. Wanting becomes a sin when we yield to it. However, how do you tell if the want is valid?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great question, Hope. Thanks for asking it.

      I believe God’s Word teaches that a desire is sinful either when it is explicitly condemned by God’s Word (like sexual desire for someone other than our spouse), or when we desire it as a way to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

      The deepest longings of our hearts can only be satisfied in knowing God through Jesus — not in money, friends, possessions, careers, sexual pleasure, etc.

      So let’s take the desire to be healed from a sickness. That’s not a wrong desire. But it’s important to understand that what we REALLY need is God Himself.

      We should pray for healing, and take steps to be healthy — but God may choose to withhold healing as a way to give us even more joy in knowing Him.

      And if that’s the case, then we would be content without healing, because we know we will have more of God, and that it’s God himself that we need more than anything.

      I hope that helps.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  15. swaroop says:

    Very well written. I had same questions in my mind. Why does sin seems to be more enjoyable than God? Do I fear and obey God only because I need his help? What if I had everything I ever wanted , will I still fear and obey God? Is my love for God just a sham?

  16. swaroop says:

    Very well written. I had same questions in my mind. Why does sin seems to be more enjoyable than God? Do I fear and obey God only because I need his help? What if I had everything I ever wanted , will I still fear and obey God? Is my love for God just a sham?

    I always wonder will I ever love God with all my heart ,will all my soul and with all my strength? Will ever be able to do that?

  17. Jonee Carter says:

    This was a nice word I loved it and I really learned so much from

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