Environment Is Stronger Than Willpower
“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)
For my mom’s birthday one year, a creative friend made her a poster board plastered with chocolate bars. Each chocolate bar was part of a sentence like, “Your friendship is worth $100 Grand.” To my surprise, she didn’t eat the candy. Every time I went into her home office, I had to look at those chocolate bars. For months I was tempted to “enjoy” my mom’s birthday gift for myself!
Finally, I asked my mom if I could cut open the wrappers and throw away the chocolates. That candy-laden environment was winning against my willpower. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I came to a breaking point: Either eat the candy, or change the environment.
Environment is stronger than willpower. We may have all the willpower in the world, but when we’re constantly surrounded by chocolate (or another favorite treat), we will eventually give in.
Today’s key verse warns believers about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Those chocolate bar decorations certainly represented the lust of the flesh, a physical temptation, for me. Whether your goal is to eat healthier or to pray more, it’s crucial to create the right environment to reduce temptation.
If my temptation is food, I must make my home a safe place to eat. I can’t buy junk food in the grocery store or stock my cupboards with it and expect to resist the temptation for a late-night snack. Instead I’ll do better to fill my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to create a better environment. It’s not always easy, but I find when I make the decision beforehand to walk past the breakroom and the box of donuts waiting on the countertop — over time — it becomes easier to resist.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his first attempt was with food. The devil said, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b, NIV). But Jesus answered, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4: 4b, NIV).
Notice Jesus didn’t say people don’t need food. He said that man doesn’t live by food alone. We can lean on the promises of God’s Word when we’re tempted to indulge the lust of the flesh.
Maybe you don’t have a problem with food. Maybe your struggle is prayer. I understand. Sometimes I want to pray, but my flesh says, “I’m too tired” or “I don’t need to pray; I’ve got this handled.” Just as I can create a healthier environment by eating whole foods and attending an exercise class, I can also create a prayerful environment.
What’s been helpful for me is to begin each day by praising God for who He is. I place my Bible right next to my bed so it’s the first thing I reach for. I’ve also developed new habits like not checking social media until I check in with God in prayer. When I first started this new routine, I would even put a sticky note over my phone to remind me.
A positive environment can inspire you to make the choices you want to make. Don’t count on willpower to defeat the lust of the flesh. Rely on the Holy Spirit and wisely build an environment for positive change and accountability.
And if you ever receive a bunch of candy bars for your birthday, here’s my advice: Share them with others and get them out of your house as soon as possible!
Dear God, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me take care of my physical body and my soul. Show me how to turn away from the lust of the flesh. Reign over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (KJV)
Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Take stock of the current environment for your body and soul. What are some potential hazards in your house? It could be food, social media, television, relationships, etc.
What will be your plan to escape temptation and walk in freedom?