(You can listen to my message on this same topic at http://fbcbf.com/sermons/what-do-you-desire-most)
As human beings, we are so needy for love and respect. God knows this full well. He designed us to be that way. One might think it’s rather cruel for God to create us with such unquenchable desire, but ironically this exists as a product of His own deep desire to be the one who provides love to us. Yes, God does have desires. And how unthinkable it is that His desire burns for us, such messy people in whom He longs to demonstrate His love, grace and glorious Name (1 Jn 4:9-11, Zeph 3:17, Eph 2:4-5, Rom 8:37-39). And in such a lavish portion!
Jeremiah 31:1 says, “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Yes, God desires to meet our desires with the only desire in the whole universe that trumps every other thing: Himself.
The past four months God has been working on my heart and soul in this area. The Lord has been asking me this burning question: Natalie, what do you desire most? The Lord knows how susceptible I am to things that do not satisfy. He knows that I am tempted to abandon my first love, just as He told the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4. And I really want to desire God. I want him to see that I love Him. I want him to be pleased with me. But He asks me again. And again. And it’s not some kind of audible voice. I don’t hear God speak to me. But it is a whispering from the Holy Spirit, convicting my heart of all the things that rival Him.
As I wrestle with this in my heart, I answer surely I desire You, Lord. Surely I desire only you. And at times, even for weeks, I can say this with confidence. And I really do desire God above anything else or anyone else around me. But then almost suddenly I can get distracted and find myself tempted by other desires. Quickly I’m aware of how much I fail to desire God faithfully with consistency, as misdirected desires start to rival the One person who deserves my all.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about brokenness serving as a haven for Jesus to meet me in the torrent of my desire. And how choosing Jesus elevates my perspective. And it does. How helpful that truth has become in my own life.
But as life happens and temptations come, I’m now traversing this season of learning how to return to that broken place when my pride won’t let me.
I tell God that I’m fine and that I’m strong enough to suppress what I want. I tell Him that I’m choosing Him and I’m forgetting about it, just like I told Him I would. But I feel so stretched and torn and pressed…and I’m fighting for control, fighting for perfectionism in my ability to deny myself, forgetting that I’m supposed to just let go and be broken.
Through these moments, God’s bringing me back to the place where I have nothing left but Him. And my awareness of this remains ever clear. The only thing I know to do is to be broken and let the Lord increase my desire for God. And He always satisfies in those moments.
God’s teaching me that what I desire the most has the potential to determine the quality and trajectory of my life.
My desires determine the quality of my life because what I desire the most will determine what I do…what I think about…how I spend my time…what I spend my money on…what I expect out of life… and who I trust in. All of these things can cause me intense anxiety and distress if misdirected. In other words, if I put my desire in things that do not last and do not satisfy, I will not be fulfilled long-term. It’s a daily struggle but one that deserves time and attention as we strive to evaluate our hearts to line up with our identity in Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
My desires will determine the trajectory of my life because what I want will determine where I walk. My desires guide me even when I do not realize it, which can really be a very dangerous thing. But also a very powerful thing if directed toward the right things, or ultimately, God.
So, yes, what I desire most will determine the quality and trajectory of my life.
But when my desires become misdirected…in success, money, love, attention, hopes for the future, relationships and so on, what a letdown it is realizing how truly unfulfilling they can be.
Misdirected desires meet their match eventually. When we are faced with the object of our desire and find it not enough, how devastated we are in the wake of recognizing its inability to do what we hoped it would do for us. For me, it opens my eyes to my own neglect of the One who can truly satisfy and that is Jesus.
John MacArthur says this, “Holiness is never formed in those conformed to their unredeemed desires.” Wow. How important it is to surrender our desires to the Lord, asking Him to redeem them and direct them towards the One who truly is the desire of our souls. Jesus. When my desire is for Jesus, misdirected desires have no power.
The psalmist knew the power of desiring God all too well.
Psalm 84 speaks of the psalmist’s deep desire for the courts of the Lord and the joy of pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem, despite the difficult journey along the way. I like to think of our lives as one on pilgrimage to the holy city of the Lord, awaiting His return to take us home to be with Him forever.
This psalm encourages me as I read these words of passionate longing for God. He truly desires God with his whole being. His heart is content just thinking about being at God’s door. And I long so desperately to emulate that.
In Psalm 84:1-2 it says,
“How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.”
I love that the “soul” is identified here as the part of him that longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord. Not the heart. But the soul. The soul is the eternal part of who we are. The soul is redeemed by Jesus. The soul connects us to God. The soul will determine our eternal destiny. So for the psalmist to say that his soul, or the very deepest and most crucial part of his essence, longs for God is so revealing about what he truly desires. The deepest part of him longs for God. How inspiring this should be for us. To long for God with the very deepest emotion we can possibly possess, deep down in our souls.
The psalmist goes on to talk about how the natural parts of him, his heart and flesh, cry out for the living God. It’s a natural inclination. He can’t help but cry out to God. His instincts cause him to seek the Lord first. I pray this for my heart and yours. That even our fleshly hearts, which can be so carnally destructive, would ever naturally cry out to God in longing and desperation.
Studying this psalm, I see why the writer longs for God so much. He expresses total comfort and blessing on account of his desire. His desire for God. Yes, his desire causes his own life to flourish because of his surpassing contentment in God. Verse by verse from Psalm 84:1-12, this is what I have found to be true about our desiring God:
When we desire God…
- …where God is matters to us. (v. 1 )
- …our soul is aware of its neediness of Him. (v. 2)
- …we naturally sing to Him in delight. (v. 2 & 4)
- …we see God not just as God but as King. (v. 3)
- …we know where our real strength comes from. (v. 5)
- …seasons of turmoil become seasons of fruitfulness. (v. 6)
- …our perspective on everything changes. (v. 6)
- …He makes even our weakest steps our strength. (v. 7)
- …we long for Him to acknowledge us. (v.8- 9)
- …we seek His affirmation (v. 9)
- …honoring Him with our lives is more important than getting what we want from Him. (v. 10)
- …we are able to trust Him with confidence. (v. 12)
Oh the benefits of desiring God! How this helps me so drastically in my pursuit of desiring God. To be inspired by the psalmist who longed for the courts of the Lord with such zeal, even in a day where the Bible was not available in the form it is today, is such an encouragement. The psalmist had not met Jesus or read His gospels. Jesus had not yet come. But He still desired God with such a passion that so many of us drift from too quickly.
May we take hold of this posture that the psalmist so readily demonstrates. May we emulate this pursuit of our Lord and King!
John Piper says it best→ “God is most satisfied in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I just love that. Not that I always get it right. Quite frankly, I fail a lot. But I strive to get it right. I hope to. Maybe one day I will know how it feels to completely desire God and to find Him completely all I need.
So, practically, how do we make steps forward in our pursuit of desiring God most?
Ultimately, we must have a relationship with Jesus. Then we must recognize who the source of life is, affirming that God truly is the One through whom every single thing was created. Then we must look through our desires to see that the root of our desire is something that only God can fulfill…success, love, affirmation, attention, approval, self-worth, companionship, joy…all these things must be found in God first before all other desires can flourish. And as we see God as the root of our desires, our mind starts to shift and we can ask God to increase our awareness of Him as our true desire. Learning from those who wrote with desire for God in the Bible will also help us to in our pursuit of desiring God. Then we can truly get to know Him as the one we truly long for.
God desires to be the One who meets those deep longings of our heart…to be known, to be cherished, to be noticed, to be admired. If only we could learned how to see past our surface desires and see that underneath, God is to be found…and found sufficient…found satisfactory…found enough.
May we never end up calloused and blinded by our own selfish desires that we drift so far from God. Romans 1:24 says, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” Wow, that is just not something I wish for myself. Even in my darkest, most selfish moments I pray that God would not give me over to my sinful desires. Sure it will always be difficult in the process of relinquishing certain things in our lives… but as we ask God to help us to lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we will surely find it as it says in Matthew 16:25.
I pray that God would graciously redirect my heart towards Him and show me Himself, whose beauty and glory are unmatched. For it is only until we find our ultimate desire in God that all other desires can flourish.
I pray this for you as well. That God would protect your heart, soul and mind from the temptations that war against you, battling for your affections and attempting to dominate your mind.
May God lavish us with His grace and increase our awareness of Him as the true desire of our souls, that we may be most satisfied in Him and in turn, find God most satisfied in us.
Questions for Today:
- What do I really desire?
- Do I recognize that underneath my desires, God is ultimately who I want?
- Why is it crucial that I increase my desire for God?
- What are the benefits of desiring God?
- What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?
“Worthy, Worthy” by Vertical Church Band