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18 March, 2014

Will I Bring Myself Up To This Level? – Self–Gratification or Dealing With Our Sexual Urges

In today’s devotion, most of what we need to know about how to be holy and continue on perfecting holiness, Oswald Chambers combined them all neatly on one small page of his devotion book “My Utmost For His Highest.” I could easily take each suggestion the writer made and write a lengthy post on each of them.  But, today I want to talk about how God has led me to understand where He stands vis a vis dealing with sex while being single and the popular, controversial, and “don’t go there”  subject self-gratification

When I was first brought into the Baptist Church I heard my married pastor preaching about self-gratification. Throughout the whole message that lasted about 45 minutes, I was told “don’t do it because it is a sin.” There wasn’t one word about how to deal with it, or when it will end, or what to do about it. It seems that it was all up to me not to please myself, or given into satisfying my sexual urges.  While I knew nothing about God or the Bible, I decided if I were to remain in the Church and did not want to be a hypocrite I needed to walk like I am told to. So, I made the decision to listen to my pastor’s voice. It is easier said than done of course. Even today I am talking about the subject, I still do not understand God fully. It is easy for someone who is married to judge others or stand in front of the pulpit and tell those in the pews: “DON’T” 

Being someone who has gone through a bad marriage, I know too well what it means to have a truly lousy sex life. But, even someone living out a lousy sex life can never understand how hard it is to be single while God is sitting there watching you twitching, hurting and dying slowly inside with the pain of living out this life with all your faculties and heighten sexual desires, intact.

Earlier in my walk with God, He finally gave me the gift of celibacy. I had no idea that such gift even existed until the Holy Spirit told me about it. The gift of celibacy is such an awesome gift and it would solve these nasty sex scandals we have in the Church. It would stop a brother or a sister from running around to find relief while waiting for a godly partner. So, after God gave me the gift of celibacy, He was also working in my heart to bring me to the place where I would devote my life to Him.

Then, all of the sudden in 2007 I was knee deep into the wilderness with God. To my surprise, I was lying in bed by myself (as usual) meditating on my walk with God and how bad life was, in the wilderness, when suddenly, I felt that I had sexual urges. I was shocked because I took for granted that God will give me the gift of celibacy, indefinitely.

 Before I even had time to ask myself what this was about, the Holy Spirit told me that I no longer had the gift of intimacy. The only thing I could answer was “great, just what I needed.” I still remember vividly when the Holy Spirit told me self-gratification was not an option, then to make things worse He said, you are now sharing this body with me. While He was saying that to me, it was as if He stepped out of my body in the same shape that I was laying on the bed, and He looked like a vapour and the colour of the vapour was so white that there is nothing like this whiteness down here on earth.

I knew my body was the temple of God, I knew self-gratification was a sin. I knew I needed to keep myself cleaned from all filthiness of the flesh. I knew everything that I needed to know, yet, I could not understand one thing “why does it have to hurt so much?” Especially when you know you are serving God so deeply, and you are doing your best to be faithful and obedient to His word.

I find that when I am on that mode where I am living a passionate relationship with God, it is easier to fight the sexual urges. Like Oswald Chambers said in March 18 devotion, “I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit.  And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived”  So when the relationship is at its best, there is no striving to be in agreement with Him and everything is perfect.

I know Oswald Chambers is right and only Christ can get us to a place where we are no longer slaves and bound by our sexual urges. The problem is that, in our relationship to God, like in any relationship, the passion does not burn 24/7, which means you go through times where the emotion of this intense closeness is not there. This does not mean that you are not living a passionate life with Him. But, the emotions subside as life takes over. This is the nature of the Christian life and if we were to live out the Christian life always running on those emotional times when we are in love with Him, we would be like someone on drugs all the time. Then, this life would be way too easy and we would choose God at every turn. 

But, when life gets in the way, things are tedious, and hard. When you have to deal with challenges and hardships, how do you deal with those painful sexual urges?  For most of us I suspect we find solace in responding to those sexual urges right away, so they can at least be taken care of and out of the way. I know, because I have been there and it was one of my biggest challenges to refrain from dealing with my urges in this way. I had to learn to view them like any challenge and temptation that I encounter in the Christian walk.  

I went through a few years where God needed me to learn these things. I learned that I have no control over these urges. I definitely did not go out of my way to be exposed to anything that would have got me there. Yet, those sexual urges came without announcement and without an invitation. I learned to cry myself to sleep because the pain could be so intense. However, I also know what it is like when you fight with everything you have, but your flesh can only take so much before you succumb and sin.

When I failed, I could not go to Him because I did not know how to repent, since I knew if I had to go through these intense periods of pain again, I would do the same thing. By the same token, I learned that I rather go to Him without knowing how to repent and continue my walk with Him. Because when your sin causes you to stay away from God, you will find that it does not take long before your heart starts growing cold toward Him. Therefore, I knew staying away from Him was not the best option, even if I did not know how to repent. Make no mistake, I knew how to ask Him to forgive me, I also had remorse in my heart, but there was no repentance for my sin since I could not understand things for myself. There were times where I was angry at Him for not taking this pain away when it is in His power. There were times I felt if He was not going to take the pain and urges away, then, I did not have to feel guilty. There were times where I felt like a hypocrite because I knew God had already declared me holy in 2008, so why couldn’t I live a holy life? You name the emotion, I am sure I have gone through it. 

In my defense, God asked me to remain celibate; I expected it to come with some sort of special self-control gift, at least, curb my appetite.  I also made sure that I never seek to gratify myself, just because I knew it would feel good. I did not spend time just thinking about sex and entertain the idea in mind. If anything I got deeper into the word of God while in pain. I was serious about my commitment to Him and He came first always, even when the pain was intolerable.

I remember asking God, how Paul did it since he was writing about it. As I read Paul’s advise I felt that he had some sort of self-control, so, I was more upset at myself because I did not have his self control. I kept thinking that Paul advise meant that he did not have sexual urges. “But if they can't control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It's better to marry than to burn with lust.” (1 Corinthians 7:9) One day the Holy Spirit said to me, “where did you get the idea that Paul did not have urges?” He then made me understand the key is found in learning to be tempted and not succumb because I have learned to co-habite with my sexual urges. I think I felt worse, because I had some idea that these urges would go away at one point simply because God would take care of them. Another reason I felt worse is because the Holy Spirit did not tell me more when clearly I needed to know more

Over the years, I found out the key to learning to co-habite with our sexual urges is found exactly in perfecting holiness. The past few years I am finding out, the more you are disappearing in Him through this oneness with Him, the more your life is being absorbed by Him, then you learn to co-habite with those urges along with the pain.  It is as if you get a handle on leaving with being tempted like Christ. You have been so subdued by His life in you, that even when you are tempted for weeks and the pain is constantly there, it becomes part of you and part of your life. But, I cannot say I have anything to do with it because I am watching it happening in me. In the same way I have explained in some of my newest posts that I feel I have reached a much higher level of sanctification with God where I am disappearing slowly while He is increasing big time. If you ask me to explain how I am able to live with my sexual urges, I would say exactly what Oswald said “THE HOLY SPIRIT IS KEEPING ME IN AGREEMENT WITH HIS SPIRIT.”  

Through His grace, I have not had sex since 1999. Yes, I went through rough times, but self-gratification was always my last resort. I am now in my fifties, with all my faculties intact, and I can count on my two hands how many times I have given in to temptation. Through His grace in the past couple of years, He is maintaining me. It’s funny to see how I am constantly aware of the urges because after so long from abstaining from sex, these urges come automatically with pain. And God has never answered as to why the flesh has to hurt so much.

Since I am very candid about my life, I talked to almost everyone that I could talk to who are living the single life. It seems whether you are male or female, after a while the flesh hurts big time. The morale of the story is that learning to co-habitate with those painful urges is not easy and it is a lengthy process. Through it all, I learned to remain close to God, even in those moments when I failed Him. I knew He loved me just the same.

Oswald Chambers March 18th Devotion