A few years ago a young man tried to interest me in weight lifting. He was naturally diminutive. But regular and strenuous work-outs had built him into the muscle man that he wished to be. He explained to me that if I would but follow his advice I would soon have a young lady at my side. That was his intention and it is no surprise that some months later just such a one, looking doubtless for love herself, had attached herself to him.
The young couple illustrates a truth that needs no proving, for we all know it is so, that the human heart cries out for love and fulfillment. Men long to be powerful and ladies to be beautiful. The youth long for a joyous time, and the entire hurting race seeks for peace.
Our desires, or their ancient predecessors, were implanted in our nature by our Maker. Their intended use was to draw the attention of the person to noble ends and worthy purposes. Adam’s desire for food, his hunger, would draw his attention to the blessed purpose of taking nourishment. A nourished man is more fulfilled, more perfect in his physical aspect, than a malnourished man. He is, in that respect, more like God.
God has placed in man’s nature a set of desires that, unhindered, would draw him towards godlikeness. Our desires might prevent us from settling down wholly contented with our present state. But Satan, fearing the searching sinner, has left nothing undone that might lesson the force of our desires for godlikeness. He would keep us from searching longer by filling our hungering soul with husks and chaff, sugar-coated though they be.
Beauty and a Cheap Substitute
In women especially God has placed a desire to be beautiful. When we speak of a beautiful person, we understand that more than physical qualities are implied by the title. The desire to be beautiful, in God’s plan, would fill with concern the maiden given to irritation or pettiness. It would lead her to seek to beautify her character, to sweeten her disposition, to “adorn” herself with “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” 1 Peter 3:4-5.
Such seeking would do inestimable damage to the devil’s kingdom. For that reason Satan has miserably cheated the feminine portion of our race by training them to think of only a superficial beauty and to put the hours that ought to go into inward adorning into an outward decorating of the person. If the hours devoted to such superficial personal enhancement were rather spent in seeking a glorious character how many virtuous women there would be!
Love and a Painful Alternative
And women are not alone victims of an even more vicious cheat. The heart’s desire for love and companionship, a reflection of God’s desire for the same, would pull us to Him. After receiving a letter from a self-confessed lonely young man, Ellen White wrote (and it was her own 19-year old son who had written her):
Your only safety and happiness are in making Christ your constant Counselor. You can be happy in Him if you had not another friend in the wide world. Your feelings of unrest and homesickness or loneliness may be for your good. Your heavenly Father means to teach you to find in Him the friendship and love and consolation that will satisfy your most earnest hopes and desires. I fear that you are striving to carry your own burden. It is too heavy for you. Jesus bids you cast it upon Him that He may carry it for you. There is an experience for you to gain in faith and trust in God. He is faithful who hath promised. You must exercise faith in the promises of God. 11MR 357
Satan, distrustful of the power of his worldly attractions to hold the heart that seeks for intimacy with the Father, fears nearly as greatly the moral power of a truly loving and lovable family. The power of intelligent and well-placed intimacy would create such a foretaste of heaven as to make eternity with God nearly irresistible.
And so Lucifer has presented sexual indulgence as the object for which our intimate yearnings were intended. Sex, exciting and transitory, outside of the secure framework of the marriage covenant, is only the most superficial fulfillment of the desires that would draw souls to their Savior. Where God offers forever love, acceptance, truest friendship, and Divine presence in the family, Satan’s cheat offers broken hopes, unwanted children, and aching of the deepest sort. By that trick love-seekers find, not the God that would hold them close, but disillusionment and a deadening of that deep desire.
Joy and a Fleeting Facade
Love is not the only fruit of the Spirit for which man craves. Divinity has made joy an object of human desire. A desire for joy enables man to press through the greatest of difficulties. It was “for the joy that was set before Him” that Jesus endured the cross. That joy was possessed by faith in the promises of future fellowship with His creation.
Joy by faith, a fruit of the spirit, belongs alone to Spiritual men. Only they may be filled “with Joy of the Holy Ghost.” But every man wants that joy; every man is seeking for it. If the church lived in such a way that its possession of this gift was apparent, some men would line up to hear the gospel that could fill their heart’s desire.
By middle age the hopelessness of attaining joy has settled down over many. But youth are still seeking it with energy and for them the enemy has spread a special trap. The joy that heaven offers fails neither in trouble nor in pain. Not so Satan’s intoxicating and transitory substitute, fun.
Worse yet, pleasure-seeking robs the seeker of the joy he might find in the duties and work that take up the larger portion of the life of all but bums. Occasional bursts of “fun” may pepper the misery of boring jobs and house-work. This is the best Satan can do. His substitute for unyielding joy is an up-and-down experience that deepens with each down and requires a more exciting rise to achieve even the same level of fun that lesser activities provided the day before. The pleasure-seeking absorbs the very energies and efforts that, emanating from the heart’s desire for joy, might have led to a faith-based always-growing joy.
Peace and Deadened Senses
The 90’s were known as the decade of depression. I have wondered if this decade might be the first to be named the same as the last. The Bible diagnoses the general ailment.
“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Is 57:19
But men must have peace. Riches and homes would be sacrificed for it. Marriages are sacrificed daily in an effort to find it. The forces of evil know that heaven offers the genuine article at a price that multitudes would accept if they only knew it would fulfill their heart’s desire. To give up a sin-polluted life for true peace! What more could man want? If Satan did not find a way to deaden the senses of pain and hurt that the sinful life brings, those whose lives have “bottomed out” would turn in great numbers to the “Balm of Gilead.”
Satan can not well create a substitute peace for he can not remove the stressors. The homes he has broken, the friendships he has torn, the diseases he has encouraged through intemperance, these he does not propose to mend. But he offers, as the basest substitute for peace, coping mechanisms. By stimulating one’s self, hurting one’s self, or by intoxicating one’s self, the deceived one succeeds in temporarily forgetting his troubles. This escape mechanism stands directly opposed to the gospel’s resolution policy. Where the Christian is given tools for resolving conflicts within and without himself, the worldling can forget them at best.
The most common escape mechanisms may be alcohol consumption, smoking, masturbation, and disorders in eating. These evils not only fail to solve the problems that consume the life, they create their own set of problems and by making life less bearable, they make themselves more necessary. This cycle creates a psychological addiction.
Meaning and Mascots
God has given to men a gift that the information age has threatened to take from them, the feeling of accomplishment. The desire to get something done today, to put one’s powers into useful employment and to see the fruit of those labors, this is one of the things that God “has given you under the sun, all the days of your” life. Ecclesiastes 9:8-9. Men stand a little straighter, face life with a little more courage, and know better that they are indeed men when their hands and minds have together accomplished some task.
But the heart’s desire to be usefully employed would lead civilization away from ignorance and debauchery, and for this reason Satan has not been satisfied to leave it alone.
Satan has devised a multitude of ways in which to keep men from serving God. He has invented sports and games, into which men enter with such intensity that one would suppose a crown of life was to reward the winner. RH, September 10, 1901 par. 5
These games tend to make more useful employment seem undesirable, and thus remove one of the joys that was intended to follow men and women day after day in their most humble occupations. After speaking of violent games and their influence, Ellen White wrote:
Other athletic games, though not so brutalizing, are scarcely less objectionable because of the excess to which they are carried. They stimulate the love of pleasure and excitement, thus fostering a distaste for useful labor, a disposition to shun practical duties and responsibilities. They tend to destroy a relish for life’s sober realities and its tranquil enjoyments. Thus the door is opened to dissipation and lawlessness with their terrible results. AH 500.4
By removing the meaning and joy that God has attached to labor, sports and games have degraded men into children, and have only slightly filled the heart’s desire to be successful in enterprise.
Strength and Stuffing
Adam and Eve were assigned, prior to their fall, the pleasant and fulfilling task of training a beautiful garden. But prior to their assignment, God had himself planted a garden in the eastern part of Eden where there were numerous fruit trees. After the fall man was shut out from this garden, but given the privilege of growing his own.
It was also his to feel hunger. Hunger was to lead him to seek nourishment. Eating was not an end in itself; he did not eat just to be eating. He was to “eat for strength, and not for gluttony.” How ironic that the desire that was to motivate men to preserve their fitness has been so misdirected by demons as to destroy fitness.
The excitement of taste, whether by spice or sweet, serves the same miserable alternative God’s plan as the other cheats mentioned earlier. The pleasures not only bring unpleasant illnesses in the long-run, but they deprive the eater of the ability relish a more simple diet. The well-refined tongue can enjoy an apple with greater delight than the spice-accustomed mouth may get from an apple pie.
The over-excitement of both sweet and sour taste buds lessens their sensitivity. In short, a man that eats with a great deal of salt, sugar, or even moderate amounts of spices, in incapacitated in the mouth. His desire to satisfy his suffering tongue leads him to intemperance.
The Idolatry of Desire
While our desires were designed by God to have a part in the eternal uplifting of the human race, they were never intended to discern between best and worst. God left to the reason and the judgement and the conscience the tasks of finding what means would best satisfy the desires for beauty, love, peace, joy, and meaning.
When desires have been perverted to seek after other than godliness, they often become agents of idolatry. Those desires for things forbidden, when indulged, are enthroned in place of Prince Emmanuel. The desires of such a one are truly the ruling powers in his life and he is said by scripture to be one “whose god is his belly.” Rom. 16:18.
By removing the intellectual scales from the eyes of the masses, Christians may help to expose Satan’s cheap supplanting of heaven’s gifts. As the gifts of heaven are shown in blessed contrast to the soul-weakening cheats, the idolized desires will lose much of their respect. When persons see that they are chasing after a plan that will weaken their ability to enjoy their families, their food, their time, and their work, they may well surrender to the One that offers to fulfill their heart’s desire as they delight themselves in Him.
Symbols and the Saints
This grand work of soul winning is the task of the church. God has given the body a series of counsels that will, as they are followed, set the light of the church on a hill and will expose the Devil’s scams. For this reason God has asked His church to refrain from the wearing of jewelry especially in this time of character building. The world is to be left to contrast the superficial beauty that comes from paint and dangling items with that of a beautiful character without it.
For a church member to refuse to cooperate in this boycott of the devil’s cheap trick is itself to make the defective desire into an idol.
To participate in sports with our time, attention, or money, when those sports are a means of the devil to deflect men from true fulfillment, is not wise. But to participate when God has requested a church-wide boycott of these practices is to make an idol out of the desire for sports.
To continue with escape mechanisms rather than confronting and working to resolve (or to accept the irresolvable) problems in our life, is poor planning. But when God has forbidden the escape mechanism of our choice, to continue is to set another god before Him.
When God has designed the home to be a heaven on earth, to still refuse to confess wrongs and to give your spouse needed attentions is to despise the Spirit of Grace that gave so much for you. The cheats of sex-in-place-of-intimacy, whether by porn, masturbation, or pre-marital indulgence, defaces the image of God as expressed in the marriage covenant. Those sins will not be taken lightly.
Let us then put away our jewels, our pleasure-seeking, our sports and self-indulgence. Let us rather retrain our desires to seek after God. It was God’s intention for every member of our race that:
They should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: Ac 17:27
Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.–
Thesis Statement: We should live in such a way as to both expose Satan’s soul-destroying frauds and to also show how God’s children have true fulfillment.
Summary Paragraph: God has placed inside of men a set of desires that were intended to motivate him ever upward. These desires, unfilled, create an unrest that tends toward a search for God. Satan has, accordingly, worked to deceive men into chasing stimulation in hopes that they might be diverted from finding their Savior. God, in response to the fraudulent fulfillment of the God-given desires, has asked His church to live in such a way as to call attention to the fraud by exemplifying true heart-fulfillment.