Peter Horrobin

International Director of Ellel Ministries

We Can’t Have It Both Ways

Galatians 5:17, NIV
“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

Recently I had a day off and for most of it I had time to myself. I could do whatever I wanted, and I felt so blessed. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was out, and I had a plan – to go for a lovely, long, slow run. I was really looking forward to this, but then a complication arose – the surf report predicted that the waves would be fantastic. Now I had to choose between these two equally attractive options. Honesty compels me to admit that a childish, almost petulant frustration took hold of me. “But I want to do both!” I inwardly exclaimed. But the reality was, I had to choose one thing to the exclusion of the other.

Thankfully I realised quickly that I was being silly and that I shouldn’t be frustrated, but grateful. However, this episode did make me think again about the obvious truth; the act of choosing in itself limits our options. If we turn left, we can’t turn right at the same time. Or as the English idiom so neatly puts it: “You can’t have your cake and eat it”.

There’s a choice which we, as Christians, need to make all the time. Do I opt for indulging in sin, or do I choose to please the Holy Spirit? One option truly does exclude the other. There’s no vacuum between the two, and we can’t have both at the same time. It really is one or the other, God’s will, or my own. What I (my selfish, sinful nature) wants, stands in opposition to what God wants. Being a Christian means wrestling with this reality.

A big problem arises when we try to have both. Many times, we want God’s blessings as well as indulging in sin. This can result in being caught in a no-man’s land, where we end up not having the fullness and enjoyment of either option. We end up frustrated and upset. We might even grow angry with God. James’ Epistle tells us that a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8), clearly not a happy place to be!

In case you were wondering how my day went, I ended up choosing to go surfing, and the waves were very good indeed. The forecast didn’t disappoint. When we choose to please God, rather than ourselves, we get a lot of good too. Yes, we have to give up the things that our sinful nature cries out for, but these things only lead to death. May God help us to keep on making the right choice.

Prayer:/strong> Father, I recognise that what my sinful nature wants is the opposite to what You want for me. Please, forgive me for when I’ve tried to have it both ways. I want to choose to deny sinful desires and ask that You enable me to do this. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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