This week, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Spiritual Roadblocks.” It’s construction season once again in the great state of Pennsylvania. Although none of us like road construction, we all like cruising down a smooth, freshly paved and painted highway at full speed. It gives us a sense of freedom and adventure like anything is possible. We may not like construction, but we sure do love the benefits of when the job is complete!
This is much like our spiritual lives. We love to quote about the full and abundant life that Jesus promises us. We love the freedom that He grants us. We love the invincible feeling of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We love cooperating with God as He blesses us and does the miraculous in and through our lives.
* Sermon Bumper Video *
When God decides that it’s time to do some construction in our lives, we’re not so thrilled about cooperating with Him. We don’t want to slow down or even worse, stop altogether. We’d rather be over in that other lane that is flying right on by us.
Together, we’re going to learn about some dangers that commonly exist in our lives that require God to do a little construction work in us. God desires to take care of them before these small roadblocks grow into destructive hazards. We’ll trust that just like road construction, the end result will be well worth a short season of waiting and working.
Last week, we learned about the spiritual roadblock of the world. We clarified that it isn’t the world itself that is bad, but only when we begin to worship the creation instead of the Creator. We learned from 1 John 2 more fully what we need to be cautious of when it comes to the wrong type of love for the world.
The spiritual roadblock of the world is one of the lust of the flesh. This happens when we are lead and driven by our emotions and the feelings of our flesh and not by the Spirit of God and His truth.
The spiritual roadblock of the world is one of the lust of the eyes. This happens when we long jealously for the things around us. We want that new phone, that better car, that bigger house, that close of a relationship, that opportunity for advancement, instead of longing for Jesus and all that His Kingdom offers.
The spiritual roadblock of the world is one of the pride of life. This happens when we trust in our own power, or own resources, and the stability of earthly things like my job instead of trusting wholly and completely in Jesus’ power, His resources, and His Kingdom’s stability.
This week, we’re going to learn about the spiritual roadblock of hunger. One of the things that makes the roadblock of the world so difficult is because we were made by God to crave. We were created with an inward hunger and thirst. We long to fill this void in our lives and we naturally fill it with the things of this world because they are the things that we can touch, smell, see, hear, and taste.
Throw some thickly cut bacon in the oven and just wait for the entire house to begin craving bacon. When you’re out playing a round of golf and an unexpected thunderstorm comes raging through with all of its wind, pelting rain, and chunks of hail, you crave the shelter of that nearby pavilion. When you are discontentedly single and you drive past that couple walking in the park holding hands and laughing together, you crave that kind of relationship in your own life. When your bladder is full and you hear the trickling of water, you crave a nearby restroom for relief.
When all you do is fight and yell and argue and bicker, you crave peace. When you’re at work and hear the sound of that exhaust roar past, you crave the freedom of your bike and the open road. When you’re standing around at work and all of the guys are talking about last night’s game, you crave knowledge of a sport you could care less about otherwise. When that song comes on the radio, it takes you back and you crave the better days of your past.
We are constantly craving something. All that it takes is a smell or sound or sight or touch or taste and in an instant, our craving can radically change. It’s funny because it causes us all to look a bit like this guy:
* Dug – Squirrel scene from UP *
God created us with an innate craving. Sure, He intends for us to enjoy the things of this world, but He also created us for so much more. It’s simply a reality that nothing of this world will ever truly satisfy this craving within us. The only one who can fill that craving is Jesus and a continual, healthy relationship with Him. The things that we were created to crave are heavenly things that nothing in this world could ever replace.
It was this lesson that an entire generation died off without ever learning. Their hearts were too hardened and their heads too stubborn to learn that it is God’s Presence alone that will satisfy our cravings. Instead, when they were set free, they craved their slavery. When they were miraculously given bread, they craved meat.
They found a reason the whole journey to grumble and complain about something instead of being thankful for what God had done for them and where He was taking them. Parents can well relate to how God felt during that wilderness journey, I’m sure! I think it would be a good idea for us to learn from their lesson so that we don’t have to learn it the hard way, too, right?
It is God alone who will satisfy our desires with good things. When we faithfully do our part, God faithfully does His. Life really becomes as simple as this, living by God’s word and not whatever craving arises in our lives.
1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
This same test is also how Satan tempted Jesus, knowing that what His flesh was craving.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Making decisions based on the craving that we are having here and now often creates spiritual roadblocks for us that lead to many hurts and regrets in our future. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t give in to the cravings of His flesh, but remained obedient to what His Heavenly Father was calling Him to and I’m sure that He doesn’t regret that now! Not everyone made such wise decisions. Take Esau as an example:
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
Making decisions based on the craving that we are having here and now often creates spiritual roadblocks for us that lead to many hurts and regrets in our future. Probably even before Esau took that last spoon-full of stew, regret set in for the decision he had made.
The devil still today knows just what temptation to lay out before us at just the right time. He leverages our cravings believing that we won’t choose to use self-discipline to remain obedient to God’s plans and purposes for our lives. To do so requires humility on our part and alertness and patience.
1 Peter 5:6-9
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
The devil prowls around waiting to devour us with our own cravings. It never ceases to amaze me of the stories that people share about how they left an argument with their spouse and they just happened to run into their old high school fling. Stories of how someone received a bonus check to pay off some bills, but then they received an incredible offer in the mail for a family vacation instead. Stories of how you fully decided and committed yourself to quick drinking, chewing, or smoking, then the pressures of life come on intensely and in your moment of breaking, a buddy offers you up one. These situations are not coincidental or accidental, our enemy knows us very well.
Thankfully, we’re not alone in our struggles and cravings. We have a great Defender who is with us and for us. Even in Israel’s stubbornness and hardness, God’s desire was to bless them with a land beyond belief full of abundance in every way. They simply needed to be patient and trust God along the journey there.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
Like David did here, we all need to remind ourselves and encourage ourselves in the Lord, building ourselves up in Him. We need to remind ourselves of all of the benefits promised by Jesus. He promises to satisfy our desires with good things. We simply need to hang in there and trust Him and His timing.
This also implies that the desires within us are not evil in and of themselves. This isn’t something that the devil wants you to realize. He wants to accuse you for having your cravings and desires altogether. Instead, it is what we choose to fill those desires with that are either good or bad. God’s desire is to satisfy our desires with good things that bring life and blessing.
Satan will leverage these desires to cause us to derail ourselves from God’s plans and into things that bring death and curses. He will tempt us to settle for lesser things here and now instead of the better things that are a part of God’s plans for us.
According to the Federal Reserve, Americans carry an average of $137,063 of debt per household. This is clear evidence that we don’t like to wait on the things that we want. We’d rather borrow now, have it now and pay three times as much for it in the end. It’s nothing to see 20-30% interest rates on credit cards and loans for those with low credit scores. How much better to patiently save and pay for things with cash than to take on these crushing loads of debt?
This morning, God is encouraging us to curb our fleshly cravings. Yes, He wants us to enjoy this life that He has given us and this world that He has entrusted to us. However, these things should be fringe benefits of life and not the focus and priority of our lives.
God is encouraging us this morning to press into Him, to hunger and thirst for His Presence, and to long for the things from His Kingdom. Even as Jesus reminds us:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
That word for righteousness is defined as the correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting in God’s sight. If we hunger and thirst for God’s way of thinking, feeling, and acting, God will satisfy our desires. In fact, the promise of God over and over is not only that we would be filled, but that our lives would be filled to overflowing with such abundance that we cannot contain it.
Since we were created to crave, let’s crave the more valuable things in life. Let’s crave the presence of God and for more and more of His Kingdom.