It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: …that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable… (1 Thessalonians 4:3a, 4)
Desires aren’t wrong in and of themselves. In fact, I would argue that desires are God-given. The desires to eat and sleep are absolutely essential to life. Other desires aren’t essential, but they’re still God-given: such as the desires for sexuality, success, and purpose. The thing about desires, though, is that they should never master us.
It’s when desires begin to master us that we become their slaves. For instance, a person with an eating disorder is a slave to his or her desire to eat (or not eat) just as a person with an addiction to pornography is a slave to searching for sexual images. A person who allows his desire for purpose to master him gives his life either to work or to certain relationships or to having owning nice things (just to name a few).
Desires aren’t bad, and since they’re God-given, God’s will is that we would fulfill those desires through Him and His plans. His purpose for food is that we would be nourished not gluttons. His purpose for sleep is that we may be rested not slothful. His purpose for sexuality is a physical and spiritual union between a husband and wife not sexual promiscuity. When we begin fulfilling desires outside of God’s plans for fulfillment, we begin to allow them to master us; essentially we’re proclaiming that God can’t be trusted to fulfill our desires according to His plans and purposes.
Paul’s remarks to the Thessalonians was that they should learn to control their bodies – in other words they shouldn’t become slaves to their desires.
Paul understood something very important: if we don’t submit our desires under God’s control then we will submit to our desires.
What are the desires in your life that need to be submitted to God? It’s His will that your desires should not control you but that you would trust Him to fulfill them according to His means and purposes. To hear more about desires, check out my recent sermon, “The Devil Made Me Do It.”
Father, thank You for the gift of desires. The fact that You created us to have desires adds joy and meaning to life. Please help me not to allow my desires to control me but to remember that, through the cross, I have power over them. Help me to submit my desires to You so that You may fulfill them according to Your plans.