Desires That Bring Fulfillment
Desires That Bring Fulfillment
In his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, the author Charles Swindoll tells a story about the 19th Century agnostic Thomas Huxley (some of you might know that it was Huxley who promoted Darwinism and Humanism in his attacks on Christianity). Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train. He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse drawn taxis and said to the driver – “Hurry, I’m almost late ... drive fast.” Off they went at a furious pace and Huxley sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. After a while Huxley opened his eyes and glanced out the window to notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him he called out “Do you know where you’re going?” The driver replied “No, your honor, but I am driving very fast.”
I think that many of us can empathize with that driver. Our lives are often fast and furious, but unfulfilled. We operate at break-neck speed, but do we really know where we’re going? I predict that today many of you will find that direction you’ve been looking for. Your faith has informed you that God has a plan for you. He created you for a specific purpose, to travel in a certain direction. I further predict that you already have a good idea of what his will is for your life. But you haven’t dared to go after it you can’t believe that God would call you to follow a path that will bring you fulfillment and joy.
Deep within, each of us has desires. Some of them are good while others are sinful. Believe it or not, one of the ways we can determine God’s will is to simply decide what we want to do. Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight.
One of the foundational means of determining God’s will is the Bible. If you make time in his word a part of your daily activities and approach it with prayer, God begins to form your beliefs and ultimately your actions. You begin to taste and see that the Lord is good. Now he can take you deeper in your spiritual life. Here’s how it all works:
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
1. Time spent with God in prayer and Bible study shapes your character.
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” (NLT)
This is a negative command that has a positive implication. Beware of what you let inside because whatever goes in influences what comes out. Garbage in, garbage out as they say in the computer business. On the flip side, if you fill yourself with the things of God, godly things will come out of your life. Your heart is molded to reflect that of God and you begin to do his will. Spending consistent time in God’s word and in prayer put us in a place where he can shape our character. Notice what happened in when the followers of Jesus took to the streets. Acts 4:13 “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Life with Jesus dramatically altered the trajectory of these “uneducated and untrained men.” That’s the way it is with all relationships. We become like the people we hang out with, for better or for worse. Don’t look at prayerful Bible study as purely information gathering. There’s not going to be a quiz and, frankly, no one cares how much you know. The focus of a quiet time of prayer and Bible study is a deeper relationship with Jesus. You want to get to know him, not just know about him. The more you know him, by information and experience, the more you’ll love him and seek to please him. That’s Godly character. That leads to the next point…
2. Godly character can rely on desire to determine God’s will.
It’s true. Look what the Bible says about time spent enjoying the Lord. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)
If you’re seriously seeking God and longing for more of him you’re going to get more. If you passionately want to see God break out in your life and family and church and in the world, God promises to give it. He doesn’t promise to fulfill every whim and want that we could throw at him. The promise to give you the desires of your heart only come if you’ve developed a love relationship with God by sincerely seeking him day after day. It’s like I said: Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight.
King David, who God said, “Is a man after my own heart,” made this statement: “Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?” 2 Samuel 23:5 (NIV) David had a confidence that God would grant him his desires because his desires were given by the Lord himself. The fact is that…
3. God’s will allows great freedom …
A. Freedom to do good. You don’t have to sit around waiting for a sign to do good to other people. There’s no need for a dream or vision. You don’t even have to have a scripture that speaks to it. Feel free anytime you want to “love your neighbor as yourself” to go out and do it. Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, a man who was completely led by God’s Spirit made statements like this: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you,” Romans 1:11 He wanted to visit the Christians in Rome. It was his desire. Because his desire arose from a delight in God he knew he could trust it. Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight. …
B. God’s will allows freedom to scrutinize standpoints where the God’s word is silent.
In the early church there was a big controversy over whether or not Christians could eat meat sacrificed in honor of a pagan god. The Bible contained no prohibition against it. To eat such meat was not participation in idolatry, which is a sin according to the 10 Commandments. Here’s the counsel that was given. 1 Corinthians 10:27, “If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.” (NIV) The decision was up to individual conscience. If they wanted to build a relationship with an unbelieving neighbor they could feel free to eat whatever was put before them without fear of stepping outside of God’s will.
Do you see the great freedom we have? There are numerous issues of life that the Bible does not comment on and God gives us the freedom to choose our response. If God is your delight you can follow your desires in decision-making.
C. God grants the freedom to pursue your dreams. You do not have to wait on confirming signs and visions. If there’s dream within you that’s been shaped by a life of faith, go for it. We have this kind of freedom within God’s will. Look how the author of Romans described his dream: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known …” Romans 15:20 (NIV) The guy who wrote this verse was Paul, the inspired apostle. He pursued God’s will by following his God-shaped desires. I can relate. There were lots of circumstances and confirmations in God’s Word, but there was no miraculous sign given to start Faith Community Church. I had a deep desire to lead a church loosed from traditionalism where Christ was truly the center of every activity and of every member’s life. I wanted to be a part of a church that would pull out all the stops in going after unchurched people. I wanted to pastor a church where the people truly loved one another. I knew deep inside that I wanted to lead a body that would make a difference in people and in the community. Not just maintain a monument of stained glass, 200 year old hymns, rerun programs, and gold-plated decorations. The founding of this church did not arise from a sign of God’s will. The founding members and I all had a deep desire, an ambition and we followed through with that drive. Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight. Having said all that, I now want to offer a word of caution. Not all desire is appropriate. Some desires are contrary to God’s will. Let’s look at some characteristics of APPROPRIATELY ALIGNED DESIRE First, appropriately aligned desire…
1. Conforms to the truths of the Bible. If your desire tells you violate any of God’s clear commands in the Bible you can be sure that it’s not God’s will for you to act on it. The only way to nail this one down is by spending daily time prayerfully searching the scriptures for yourself. You will never know God’s will nor live it out if consistent time in the Bible isn’t a lifetime habit.
In general, if your desire leads you “to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself,” you can be confident that your desire has been shaped by the Lord. Appropriately aligned desire is selfless rather than selfish. You become a giver rather than a taker. Another characteristic of appropriately aligned desire is that it …
2. Requires faith. Remember how previously I told you that we have great freedom where the Bible is not specific. That’s true. But even here we have to be careful. One the one hand, the authors of the book of Romans said that it’s okay to eat meat sacrificed to an idol. But, on the other hand, it may not be okay for all people. Romans 14:23 “But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” (NLT)
This is not saying that we throw out absolutes. There are definite standards of right and wrong. God’s word is clear on most issues. However, where the Bible is silent we may disagree over the rightness or wrongness of certain activities. The author of Romans makes it clear that for some people, eating meat dedicated to an idol would be a sin because they believed it was an offense against God. For others, it was okay because they saw idols as superstitious nonsense. The advice is that what ever you choose to do need to come from faith. If in doubt, don’t do it.
The Bible doesn’t talk about movies. Some Christians put limits on the type of movies they will watch. They won’t view any thing rated worse than PG. I applaud that decision. Others will watch an R rated movie under certain conditions. Donna and I attempt to be discriminating about what we watch. We don’t limit ourselves to a particular rating, but do consider the subject matter and sexual content. If there’s nudity or if the story line is ungodly we don’t rent it. There’s a lot of freedom here. The only prohibition God would put over what we view is that we not watch things that awaken lust or other inappropriate desires. If in doubt, don’t do it.
Another way you can tell if your desire is appropriately aligned is that it …
3. Calls for increasing levels of commitment to Christ. God-shaped desires draw us closer to Christ. If our longing is God-given the focus of our desire is always going to be Jesus Christ. If your desire tells you to offer less of yourself to the cause of Christ you can bet that it’s not properly aligned. Note how our lives are to be characterized: Romans 12:1-2, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (NLT)
Sacrificial living will be the result of godly desires. The person, however who does not delight in God, doesn’t desire much of him either.
Tim Hansel writes some Christians say with their lifestyle, “I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.”
In the book of the Revelation, there’s a church full of people like that. They are rebuked by God because they were following their desire. The problem was, their desires were not shaped by a delight in the Lord. Revelation 3:15-19, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ’I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
Hot coffee or a cold drink, that’s what satisfies a thirst. Nobody likes lukewarm coffee or a warm soft drink or glass of water. That’s the way God feels about Christians who are halfhearted in their commitment to him. It makes him sick, nauseated. God-given desire will lead you to higher levels of commitment that please the Lord. Finally, appropriately aligned desire…
4. Propels you to prayer. It works in a cycle. You’re prayerful so your desires are appropriate. Your desires are appropriate so you’re prayerful. It would be insane and dangerous to act on all desires without seeking God. The assumption is that you’ll connect with him in prayer before acting: James 1:5, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God calls us to constant conversation with himself. That’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It’s not that you go around mumbling the Lord’s Prayer all day or constantly maintain a folded hands, closed eye posture. Your delight in God will propel you to prayer. You’ll want appropriately aligned desires and be driven to seek God constantly.
Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight. This is a potentially dangerous sermon. I believe that everything I’ve told you is true. Let me caution you to make sure that you are delighting in God because only in Him will you find fulfillment in life. He must be your overriding desire or your feelings will always be misplaced. If you really want to find God’s will, and His fulfillment, you’ve got to want God more than anything else in the world.
There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge." Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?" "Knowledge, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile.
Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again. "Wisdom," "O great and wise Socrates,” the young man sputtered.
Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?" Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..."
Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?" "Air!" he screeched. "I need air!" "When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."
If you’re not seriously seeking the Lord, don’t follow your desires. They’ll lead you astray and bring ruin to your life. But on the other hand, if you want God more than your next breath, take stock of the passion you have within and “go for it.” Your desires can determine your direction if God is your delight. And then you will be fulfilled in life