In Part 1, I talked about discovering that whenever I got that feeling of wanting my own way and not willing to yield to a different direction, then in fact I was entering the pressure of temptation and about to feel some heat from the ensuing battle between my flesh and spirit. Ending Part 1, I mentioned about the two types of rewards: Flesh or Spirit.
The reward of the flesh
You know you are getting the reward of the flesh as you feel a rise of vindication within yourself, and a sense of ‘knowing better’ how to choose. It’s similar to the sweet smugness that drips into your veins when someone, ‘gets what’s coming to them.’ There is no sense of struggle or burning heat when this path is chosen – just the satisfaction of getting your own way.
The reward of the spirit
This reward is completely different. There is a struggle inside; and it hurts. Sometimes the friction of the conflict between my flesh and spirit is so thick and heavy I can feel a physical manifestation of heat. I am clearly able to see the transition from flesh to spirit begin to happen as the external strife between me and my husband lessens and it becomes one that is between me and God – which leads to true peace – the peace that Jesus gave us: Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. (The reward of the flesh) Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] –John 14:27, interjection added
And as much as I wanted to have my own way AND spiritual maturity; it just doesn’t happen that way. God has designed it to be one way or the other and temptation helps us to see which one we’ve chosen.
No one has to ‘tempt’ you to pull your hand away from a hot fire, it happens naturally. But to purposely put your hand into the heat of the fire, now that’s a different story. There is just nothing natural about that.
I believe that the physical pain of the burn from this fire doesn’t come close to the internal pain from the struggle of the flesh being cut away from the spirit (Heb 4:12; Gal 5:17), when we are being tempted in conflict to not go our own way. We find power to yield to another by going into the heat of temptation, not by turning away from it. Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t find the supernatural power of God outside the heat of the fire – but inside the oven. (Daniel 3:25) The power and rescue came because they pushed in to the heat of the fire.
Can you imagine? They knew what was going to happen to them – they were going to die. They stood patiently as each of them was tied and looked on as the fire was stoked seven times hotter! (vs 19-20) Imagine the internal strength it took for them to stand there and not fight for their lives but instead let themselves be bound because of their hope in God.
Isn’t this what happens during temptation in marriage? The more we deny our flesh as it reasons with our spirit for it to choose self rather than become obedient to the spirit, the more enraged our flesh grows. Just like King Nebuchadnezzar, the flesh becomes full of fury as it demands to have its way (vs 13), and it threatens us with fear of the unknown and mocks us for looking like a fool as we choose the spirit and yield to our husbands.
Each one of those men had to wrestle with the same question of flesh against spirit. They had to choose to exchange the desire of the flesh – to live, for the desire to obey the spirit; with obedience bringing the consequence of being burned to death.
If you’ve been married for any length of time, you know the desire I’m talking about. Things are just not right, again. Trapped with the scorching heat of temptation from conflicts in your marriage. This is when the finger that bears your wedding band suddenly becomes so swollen from the heat and your flesh itches and begs you to take it off, and leave it off — seek freedom for yourself through divorce.
At the end of the day, just like the three who went into the oven, I had to ask the hard questions: What is this temptation revealing to me about myself? Trust in self (way of the flesh) or trust in Him (way of the spirit). Do I have the faith to conquer my flesh? Will I press into the temptation of a heat that is seven times hotter in order to find my Redeemer – or will I run?
I encourage you – Step into the oven, you will find Jesus there!
Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists