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Just Thinking

I Was Just Thinking … About Defeating Covetousness

The Bible teaches that certain attitudes of mind and heart give Satan a foothold in our lives. For example, Ephesians 4:26–27 says that to allow anger against others to persist is to give place to the devil. 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 urges us to cast down all those attitudes (“arguments”) which scorn the knowledge of God. Those attitudes which we need to cast down are very strong. Paul compares them to fortresses which can be overcome only by the use of special weapons through which we avail ourselves of the power of God.

What all these attitudes have in common is that they try to ridicule God’s declaration of the good things he purposes to do for us. God has said, “I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). But the evil attitudes which we must overcome all say in one way or another that whatever joy or sense of fulfillment there is for us will be ours only if we work hard and wisely enough to be able to boast about having accomplished it.

The following is a partial list of such attitudes: covetousness, self-pity, bitterness—an unforgiving spirit, jealousy, envy, despondency, remorse/regret, self-adulation, and anxiety. These attitudes scoff at God’s promise that he will bring us into a glorious future if we simply bank our hope upon him and move along as he opens doors for us.

Take covetousness. It is the conviction that we will enjoy fulfillment only if we gain some possession or status which God has afforded someone else rather than us. This attitude of discontent permits no rest of soul until the sought-after goal is achieved, and so it rejects Jesus’ invitation to find rest for our souls as we let him govern our lives. To be sure, there are certain things we must have in order to fulfill the particular plan God has for each of us. But God knows just what we need (Matthew 6:31–32), and he has promised to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). This means that as we follow the Lord’s leading, he will work to supply each need in due time. Consequently, we rest content with what we have at the present moment (Hebrews 13:5).

How then do we overcome covetousness? If choose to allow discontent to gain the ascendancy in our heart, what is the weapon that is mighty through God that will enable us to pull down this stronghold? The weapon consists of promises God has made, like Philippians 4:19 and Hebrews 13:5, which flatly deny what covetousness, or discontent, tries to affirm. So, when covetousness threatens our peace of mind, we search out such Scripture passages and decide to believe these rather than the lie involved in covetousness.

Scripture teaches that when we believe, God unleashes his supernatural power to overwhelm evil attitudes like covetousness. Romans 15:13 says, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” As we thoughtfully consider the riches of God’s promises, he will unleash his great power to roll back the forces of darkness. In other words, God’s promises, found in the bible, are the weapons of our warfare that  will enable us to pull down strongholds. When we resist Satan in this way, he flees (James 4:7), because the promises of God expose him for the liar that he is. It is by banking our hope on God’s promises that the peace of God dwells in our hearts (Colossians 3:15) and we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).

Naturally, to carry on such a warfare it is essential for us to spend time reading and meditating on Scripture so that we can quickly and appropriately apply the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

Daniel P. Fuller

March 1976

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