Which kind of cake do you fancy? Do you love the strawberry tinged? Or are you the black forest type? Maybe yours is the banana flavored. Or perhaps you prefer one with vanilla? For those without a sweet tooth maybe none. One thing is for sure, if you do love cakes, it is never a nice experience to eat an amazing slice and not be able to have more. In line with the old adage, we at times feel like having the cake we have eaten.
Of course we cannot have it both ways. You can either keep the cake and forfeit the delight of sinking your teeth into it, or you may enjoy your slice but then have it no more. Yes, I know you could get another, but you will still not have the one you ate.
The proverbial cake is not very different from the believers’ “cake”. By definition it would be those aspects in our Christian walk that we do not want to give up and yet desire the fruit that is promised when we do forfeit. Ever experienced that before? Well, it is possible that you have.
Let us consider a few Biblical examples alongside typical life experiences.
To have contentment or pursue money
It is not a bad thing to have wealth or great possessions. God wants us to have enough, for ourselves and to allow us be a blessing to others. However when we place too much value on what we own, then it becomes a problem. It is stressful to pursue abundance. There is fear of losing it all, or simply having less than what is deemed sufficient. It is possible to become so consumed with making money that every life decision is based on securing more.
Additionally, we may allow what we own to become our identity and try to draw fulfillment thereof. It should go without saying that this can never really work. There will always be a new goal to reach, higher pay to earn, or better property to purchase. That which is material was never meant to give us contentment. Only God can do that.
In Luke 18:18-23, the Bible tells of a rich young ruler who knew about God but had no satisfaction. The young man was perplexed. He could not understand why he was miserable and yet owned so much. He believed his riches would bring him a sense of fulfillment but as is often the case, they fell short. What is interesting though is that he actually tried to live the right way. He kept the commandments as best as he could. But his heart was knit to what he owned and not to God. This made him doubt whether he would be accepted into eternity. Hence the question he asked.
When Jesus saw him, He discerned the problem and soon provided a test to expose the root of the man’s unhappiness. He said, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Jesus made it clear and simple for him. He could not love his wealth as well as God. He had to choose one. The young man finally understood. If he wanted true contentment (and eternal life) he needed to give away his wealth. Sadly, he chose to keep his possessions. It was too high a price to pay as far as he was concerned. God does not require that we all sell our assets but He does tell us not to serve money. Being too attached to wealth is a sign that it is ruling our hearts.
We do not know for sure if the young man changed his mind later in life but if he did not, do you think what he kept was better than the eternal joy of heaven?
We cannot be materialistic and content.
To have peace or liberty for your eyes
Tranquility of mind (and soul) is something that very few seem to have in the age in which we live. We somehow always tend to blame circumstances for our troubled minds but that is not always the cause. Sure sometimes we go through difficult experiences and it affects us, however more often than not, it is what we consume with our eyes on a daily basis. There is a correlation between what we see/read and what we think.
The majority of our media consumption today comes from our mobile devices. A study has shown that time spent on these devices grew by 460% in the last decade. It is close to impossible for the average person to spend an hour without glancing at their device. So should we blame the technology? Yes and no. Yes because most of the people behind these technologies are driven by money and will do anything to keep your attention. Furthermore they tend to make you consume what you did not ask for.
And no because we still have a choice.
It is a harder choice than say the 1950s when the only media content people received regularly was a newspaper. And they were more cultured than anything we read today. Things catered for themselves then, but nowadays we must purposefully limit what gets into our minds. In Matthew 6:22 Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light…” Just like a lamp, what we see is responsible for determining the brightness or darkness of our soul. If you allow yourself to see a lot of dark things your soul will be affected. If you spend much time viewing the positive (especially God’s Word) then your soul will have more “light”.
The challenge then is how we can choose to view more of the positive than the negative. Of course when it comes to self-control we cannot do it alone, so we must begin with prayer. Afterwards it would be wise to first de-clutter your device. Get some free time and look through it. Remove anything you do not find useful. Then comes the hard part (which you can do gradually): desist from going places online that tend to give you negative experiences or those that produce content that you know is contrary to God’s Word. Just do it little by little, God is gracious and patient. If it is painful know that with time it will get easier and you shall reap the benefits. You shall have a significantly more serene mind (and soul).
We cannot consume the negative and have peace.
To have faith or be a skeptic
When we think of unbelief, the first thing that may come to mind is not believing at all. But unbelief includes doubt or skepticism In fact, most times it is mentioned in the Bible it refers to doubt. As we pray to God and wait for Him to answer, doubt often creeps in. That is why it is important to know whether we are actually waiting in faith or in this veiled doubt.
And how can we know? We shall use a verse in the Word to test what we believe.
“…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). You are probably familiar with this verse. The key word is works. But what are works? To make it simple, just consider them the action you take that agrees with your expectation. It could be anything from just keeping a good attitude to travelling to the remotest part of the world to serve God.
As mentioned above, it is only faith when it agrees with what you expect or prayed for. Let us take an example from Scripture.
Jesus had been invited to a wedding party in Cana. Unfortunately for the hosts, they ran out of wine before the feast had ended. There was a small crisis that needed to be solved urgently and Mary asked Jesus to help. He obliged and requested some men to fill large pots with water. That wasn’t so hard, they quickly filled the pots. He then said, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”
Okay, now their actions had to match their expectations.
If they truly trusted Jesus they would act like it and they did. They acted as they believed, carrying wine by faith. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, he called the bridegroom and praised him for reserving the best for the conclusion of the wedding.
We cannot have faith and act contrary.
To receive love or remain indifferent
Let us be clear first, God’s love is unconditional but most peoples’ affection is not. We will likely be treated the way we treat others. Therefore for our own good, it is important that we relate to those around us in an amiable, selfless and caring way.
If we are never concerned about others, what will move them to be concerned about us? In Luke 6:38 Jesus says, “…the measure you use will be measured back to you.” Just think back at a time someone reciprocated your good deed and you will discover it was more or less the same measure as what you did for them. Generous people may do a little more but usually you get what you give.
Now think back at the times you did not treat someone so well or had an argument where you said something hurtful to them. It is likely they replied with the same measure of unkind words. So we see that it works both ways: with the good and with the bad. Let us do our best to care about others unconditionally then we will have no shortage of love and support when we need it.
We cannot be uncaring and receive love.
To conclude, we should remember that whenever God asks us to make sacrifices it is only so that He can bless us with good. It is impossible to live the way we choose and yet receive all the blessings He has for us. Not because God puts conditions to those blessings but because of the world we live in. He knows what works and what doesn’t so He tells us the best way. Our freewill will always remain but we just have to remember that we cannot have that delicious cake and eat it too.