When it comes to cuisine I confess have an appetite for foods that aren’t good for me. For instance, I love baked potatoes but only if they have cheese, butter or sour cream on them. In fact I like all three on them at once. That combo is actually very unhealthy for me yet I have an appetite for it.
When I am hungry I genuinely believe, no I know, that a baked potato with all the fixings will satisfy me and make me happy. And it does but it is bad for me and the more I have it the more that I want it. My problem is that I have an appetite for greasy carbohydrates and I enjoy them immensely. I’ve cultivated that over the years. I suggest there is probably a similar food story you could tell.
The crazy thing about appetites is that you can change them. I have gone lengthy periods of time in my life where I have eaten salads, fruit, vegetables, leans meats and plenty of foods rich in omega 3’s and loved them. During those periods of time I have felt physically bad when I indulged in greasy carbs. We can actually cultivate a healthy appetite by indulging in healthy food and abstaining from unhealthy food. Heathy foods can actually satisfy us and make us happy if you and I will cultivate an appetite for them.
In reading Galatians 5:16 in my devotions I was reminded of a simple parallel spiritual truth. It states “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”. This is so straight forward we can miss it. Simply stated, the things of the Spirit, that which is spiritually healthy for me, can actually satisfy me and make me happy if I cultivate an appetite for them.
So often I see myself and other Christians I know gravitating to behaviors that make us happy though they may not please God. I have said in my heart and others have said to me “I know but this makes me happy” or “I know but I don’t want to be unhappy”. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think wanting to be happy is wrong. I also think if you don’t want to be happy you are crazy. I believe however doing that which displeases God in order to be happy is both unhealthy and destructive. There must be a better way.
So how can I be happy and still please God. Galatians 5:17 says “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” That seems like a miserable existence to me. Beyond that in Romans 8:8 we read “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
What should be clear is that my fleshly desires, my appetites, are the problem. In fulfilling these desires I experience a temporary form of happiness but it is both temporary and unhealthy. Cultivating and then giving into those appetites will produce the works associated with the flesh also found here in Galatians 5. Listen to Paul’s words in verses 19-21 – “ Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery (drugs), hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If any of these works are characteristic of our lives it is a sure sign that we are cultivating the wrong appetites and living in the flesh and surely not pleasing God.
What also should be clear is that if I cultivate an appetite for the things of God’s Spirit by walking after the Spirit I will cultivate another set of appetites. Because my appetites will change what I do to find satisfaction or to find happiness will change as well. It will be that which pleases my God. Please note what the life that cultivates an appetite for the things of God’s Spirit produces – “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23. If these qualities are a regular part of my life it is a sure sign I am walking in the Spirit of God’s strength and that I am pleasing the Lord. I’ve cultivated the right appetites.
This same principle regarding appetites is found in the Old Testament in Psalm 37:4 when it says “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Does this verse mean the LORD gives my wicked heart its desires? No, of course not! What happens when I delight myself in Him is that my heart and its appetites change thus He is able to give me the desires of my heart because they please Him. Again, it is all about cultivating the right appetites.
It is interesting to me that the very first Psalm starts out with the word “blessed”. That word literally means “O how happy”. As we read further we find out who this happy individual is. The rest of verse 1 says “Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful…” The primary influences upon one’s appetites are who and what we give our ears and eyes to. This individual is happy because he or she is not allowing fleshly influences to cultivate their appetites.
Psalm 1:2 then gives the positive aspect of the happy individual. It says “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” This individual is happy because they are allowing God’s Word through their meditation upon it to cultivate in them the right appetites. In other words we should want what pleases God to make us happy and that only happens as I cultivate the right appetites.
Galatians 6:7-8 bring this discussion to a conclusion when it states emphatically “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” So I can cultivate the appetites of my flesh and reap a mess or cultivate the appetites of the Spirit and reap eternal life both in quality of as well as quantity of life. Let me challenge you and myself today to continually reject the flesh and its appetites and continually embrace the things of God’s Spirit and the appetites it fosters. Bonn a petit.