Updated: Aug 28, 2022
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What if you could get what you really want?
We all have desires. Some of them are healthy, some are unhealthy. Some are deep, some are shallow. Desire itself is not something bad - God has created us with desire! To find true fulfillment, though, needs some digging in to desires.
What is the real (deep) source of the desire? What are we doing with the desires? How or where are we trying to find fulfillment of those desires?
One of the dangers that we are all vulnerable to is the IG Trap!
No, not IG as in Instagram. IG as in Instant Gratification.
Instant: "right now", not "now now" or "just now"
Gratification: pleasure, especially when gained from the satisfaction of a desire
It is the tendency to give in to temptation by rationalizing (making excuses) to avoid short-term pain (or cost), to indulge in fleeting pleasures, even though you know your choice will ultimately hurt you in the long run. It is a self-sabotaging habit. Sometimes we realize we are in a battle and sometimes we don’t even realize there is another option.
You know that doesn't get you where you want to go. Yet, you give in to it time and again. It's the battle of cheap desires and deep desires. It's your emotional brain versus your logical brain. The emotional part of your brain wants to click 'Add to Cart', have some more dessert, and watch another episode. The logical part of your brain knows you should save for retirement, hit the gym, and get some rest.
Dopamine triggers impulsive behavior that brings temporary pleasure. After the initial gratification has worn off, you are left with feelings of regret, unfulfillment, emptiness, discouragement, anxiety, stress, tension, and overwhelm. So, you go back for more, and the cycle is perpetuated. Together, high-stress environments and an instant gratification tendency fuel addictive behavior. Hence, the Instant Gratification Trap.
Living with instant gratification conditioning caps your spiritual growth:
Why study the Bible when you can Google an answer?
Why pray when answers seem slow?
Why come to church or Life Group when you've got so much else to do?
Why fast when food makes you feel good?
Why wait when God doesn't seem to be doing anything?
Why stay in counseling if you're not seeing fast results?
The themes of the Bible stand in stark contrast. On one hand, we read about patience, self-control, waiting on God, enduring, persevering, growing, and being built up - "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" to quote Eugene Peterson's book title. On the other hand, we read about blessing, peace, joy, fulfillment, and contentment. We read about calling, inheritance, and power. We read about something that begins now and stretches to eternity. Could there be a link? Absolutely.
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There are three things that are always opposed to the Kingdom of God and the will of God. The instant gratification idea goes all the way back to Genesis 3, is re-enforced by our world system, and is complicated by us not understanding what our deepest desires really are.
I. The DOMAIN OF DARKNESS (Rom 1:25) The enemy works by deception (lies) and distraction (from your calling)
Look out for:
The "promise" of all you ever wanted, by doing things your way, according to your scheduling, (instead of God's). It is the Genesis 3 story on repeat - humans believing the lie that God is holding out, and so we attempt to acquire wisdom on our terms. The Greek word for "witchcraft" (Acts 19:19) is peri-erga which means to go 'around the work', that is, take a shortcut. Interesting.
II. The WORLD SYSTEM (2 Tim 3:1-5) The environment and culture we are in. It is the place of desensitization and relaxation (dropping your guard and conforming).
Look out for:
HEDONISM, the pursuit of pleasure. The popular narrative encourages you to choose self-indulgence over self-discipline, shortcuts over slow and steady, quick fixes, and silver bullets over the long game. Marketers have jumped on this because it sells. "Lose 10kg in 7 days. You deserve a holiday on a tropical island. We would love to lend you money (even though you are blacklisted). You NEED this"
IMPATIENCE. Our world system is incredibly fast-paced. We want whatever we want, and we want it NOW! When we don't get what we want, we feel anxiety, tension, frustration, and disappointment. We don't like to wait, ever.
III. The FLESHLY NATURE (Gal 5:17) This is where we battle temptation and rationalization, a conflict of cheap and deep desires.
Look out for:
Temptation, urges, and impulsive behavior. Thinking (wrongly) that all desires are bad. God puts deep desires inside of you. In Ephesians 3:20, Paul writes "To the one who is able to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine…" and the psalmist writes about God giving you the desires of your heart. Avoiding, repressing, or denying your desire is not healthy. This is non-attachment, or detachment, a concept found in many eastern religions. Part of this Battle Plan is rather to get you to dig into what your deep desires really are, and how to truly meet them.
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Ephesians 1:17-23 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. 20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— 21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
In this passage, Paul is praying a "change of perspective" prayer. He's asking that God would give his readers a deep revelation of the hope of His calling, the wealth of His glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of His power.
The incredible news of the Gospel is that God Himself initiated a rescue mission to redeem and restore people to Himself through Jesus' finished work on the cross. There is an invitation, a calling, to step into the Kingdom of God from now, into eternity. His Kingdom is one of righteousness, peace, and joy. It is one of increasing blessings. It is the place where every deep desire is fulfilled in the fullness of the one who fills all things - Jesus. The bottom line: there is an invitation to a better way.
You are called. In fact, you are called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have been called (Eph 4:1). There is an invitation to be accepted and a path to walk that leads to true fulfillment, rather than fleeting pleasures. The hope, or confident expectation, of His calling, is an invitation worth accepting and radically reorganizing your life around.
Verse 18 can be read in two ways. First, God's people are His (God's) glorious inheritance. Second, God's people have a glorious inheritance. Both are true, and both are good news. Either way, inheritance has to do with....WAITING. It's the "now" and the "not yet" The Holy Spirit is the downpayment, the seal, the guarantee of the inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14. That means that you already get to experience some of the inheritance in the "now", and there is more to come in the "not yet"
Think of inheritance as both the motivation to overcome temptation and the destination to keep moving toward.
You have an inheritance. You are God's inheritance. No other temporary pleasure can come close to that. That's the promise, the confident expectation. Nothing is going to change that. That is the motivation. In between the now and the not yet, is where we practice waiting. This waiting is not a passive, sit back, do nothing waiting. Rather, it is an active waiting, an enduring perseverance, in the sense of complete trust in and reliance on God's timing, and being faithful in the meantime. The wealth of His glorious inheritance - that is motivation to wait well.
Waiting fights entitlement and teaches you inheritance. Waiting fights pride and teaches you patience. Waiting fights ambition and teaches you vision. Waiting fights insecurity and teaches you identity. Waiting fights the ungratefulness of not having enough, so you can be thankful when you have more than enough. - Chris Estrada, Finisher
God always provides what He requires. He provides the power for you to accept His calling, the power to be patient, and the power to overcome every temptation. The power Paul is writing about here is the power of the Holy Spirit. One key perspective shift to make in breaking out of the instant gratification trap is that when you decide to put your faith in Jesus, in effect the 'old you' no longer lives, and it is Christ that lives in you. Instant gratification is self-serving, but following Jesus is a giving up of self - you have been bought with a price.
The immeasurable greatness of his power - that is all the inspiration ( from in - spirit) you need. And that power begins to produce in you the very things that you need - patience, self-control, and the things you desire - peace, joy, love.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
God's plan for you is to walk in His calling, toward His inheritance, by the power of His Holy Spirit - this is the path to true fulfillment.
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The annihilation or suppression of desires is not the goal. Behavior management, while helpful in the short term, is not a long-term solution. Relying on willpower to resist temptation has an expiration date. So, how does one break free of the instant gratification trap?
1. See the Big Picture
God's plan for you is to walk in His calling, toward His inheritance, by the power of His Holy Spirit - this is the path to true fulfillment. He has got so much more for you than a cycle of instant gratification can deliver. He has put God-desires and God-dreams in your heart, and He wants to see them come alive in you! The starting point to overcoming instant gratification is to begin to believe that there is another, better way. Your deepest desires can be fulfilled by God in a way that you never thought possible.
2. Change your Language
Instead of saying "I can't resist" or "I can't help it", make a simple but profound shift to say "I can choose". "I will not be controlled by my impulses". By doing this you move from agreeing with (and reinforcing a life) to agreeing with (and reinforcing) a truth. Even if you don't see the fruit of it at first, keep at it. It takes time!
3. Clarify Your Desires
Ask yourself, "What do I really want?" Surface (or cheap) desires point to deeper desires, and it takes some time to figure out what real desires behind the surface desires are.
Your cheap desire may be for a caffeine fix, while your deep desire is for proper rest.
Your cheap desire may be for a vacation, while your deep desire is for peace.
Your cheap desire may be for an adrenaline rush, while your deep is for an abundant life.
Your cheap desire may be for scrolling on social, while your deep desire is for human connection.
Your cheap desire may be for alcohol, while your deep desire to escape the stress of life.
Your cheap desire may be for porn, while your deep is for lasting intimacy.
Your cheap desire may be for the latest fashion while your deep desire is for acceptance.
Your cheap desire may be for more possessions while your deep desire is for comfort.
Your cheap desire may be for finances while your deep desire is for security.
What “cheap desires” have you been using to try to meet your deeper, holy desires? It's important to note that not all cheap desires are bad. However, the trap is triggered when cheap desires mask deep desires on an ongoing basis.
Imagine how transformative clarifying your deep desires could be for you? If you know what they are, then you can start a journey to truly meeting them - walking in your calling, toward inheritance, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Who knows where your God-given deep desires may take you? Here are some thoughts to get you started:
I want to live more simply.
I want to live with less financial pressure.
I want to live without anxiety.
I want to wake up each morning saying, “Can you believe I get to do this?”
I want to learn more about a particular topic.
I want to live content.
I want to live at peace.
I want to live in freedom.
I want to know I am making a difference.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
4. Create a Purpose Statement
Once you have started the process of figuring out what you really want, it is helpful to spend some time crafting a purpose (or mission) statement for your life. This is something that keeps you focused and on target.
(By the way, this is the journey that we invite you to go on over three weeks every month at FREE Lunch - you can sign up here).
5. Battle Temptation with the Word, not Will Power
When Jesus faced off with the enemy in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), He used the Word to overcome temptation, not willpower. Will power is a finite resource. You need something that is more powerful - the Word of God.
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
How do you resist the devil? You declare the Word of God.
6. Practise Patience
Intentionally put yourself in situations that require patience. Take the long queue.
Buy it next month (you might even change your mind by then). Take time out in your day to pause, disconnect, and be quiet. This practice will help you build a delay-for-decision between impulse and response. When you have a delay, you can make a better decision.
7. Start a Rhythm of Fasting
Fasting before God is a powerful way to practice self-discipline. It focuses on the Spirit and starves the flesh (literally). It was what Jesus was doing (under point 3). Fasting goes with prayer, of course, otherwise, it is just a diet and not a spiritual discipline. I started a rhythm of a one-day-a-week fast from food - I say rhythm to avoid being legalistic about it - and have found it incredibly transformative.
8. Get Someone in Your Corner
As with every battle, it's extremely helpful to tell someone a) what you are struggling with and b) what you are doing about it. Invite their input and encouragement, and give them permission to ask you the hard questions.
Scriptures to meditate on
Recommended Reading / Audiobook
There will be times when you give in to your impulses. The key is not to let that deter you, but rather to learn from it. How did you feel afterward? Was it beneficial? What was the trigger? What could you do differently next time? Have grace for yourself. It's a journey, and it takes patience and perseverance. And with the power of the Holy Spirit in you, it is fully possible to break free from the trap of instant gratification.
Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up, Prov 24:16
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