Image from Population Coach
May I assume the headline got your attention? Here’s the back story. On a recent fishing trip I had a conversation with a fellow fisherman who turned out to be a fellow follower of a guy who knew a lot of fishermen. He acknowledged a struggle with alcohol overconsumption, “It’s so hard to say no. The angel on one shoulder says ‘Just say no,’ and the demon perched on the others says ‘Just say yes.’”
So, in a flash of either idiocy or brilliance, I responded, “Just don’t say no…to temptation.” His look likely appeared like yours at reading the headline. But here’s my thought. When we concentrate on the temptation, even to say no, we focus on it and our attention easily goes to the pleasures we would lose. And make no mistake, sin has pleasure and benefits. Without that, we wouldn’t do so much of it!
The Bible acknowledges that we can choose to “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25, NAS). Put your energy into saying no and your attention flows to the pleasures you’ll lose. So, don’t say no. By that, PLEASE don’t think I’m suggesting you to cave in and sin. Instead, say yes to what you gain by saying yes.
Here’s an example. Some time back I struggled with online porn. At the moments of temptation, I typically found more reasons to say yes than no. But I noticed that when I unsuccessfully said no to temptation, I struggled to worship the following Sunday. That too is biblical, our sins increase our distance from God, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). My worship began in guilt and shame, and my intimacy with God suffered. I also noticed that when I said yes to fully getting into worship, the porn temptation grew weaker. Why? I intentionally balanced the long term gains and losses.
I focused, not on the passing pleasures of sin, but on the long term pleasures of coming into the marvelous presence of God in worship unstained. Guess which proved stronger?
One caveat: I suggest you do this analysis before facing a recurring temptation. Set your mind, not on the passing pleasures of sin, but the long term intimacy with God that nothing else can match.
Kick Starting the Application
Most of us face a sin issue that haunts us, so yours may not match mine nor my fellow fisherman. But what sin grabs onto you? How successful have you been at just saying no? Is it more natural to think of its pleasures then? What pleasures most attract you? Have you noticed an increased distance from God when you give in? For you, what benefits from obeying God will overpower the pleasures of your sin?