I’ve been thinking about desire a lot lately. What is it I truly desire? The question has arisen in the context of my desires seemingly having been thwarted yet again. Is this what I really desire? God are you really in this? How many times can I take the mocking gut punch of unrealized desire? What DO I want?
The question may seem rather simple at first glance, but stop and ask yourself. What is it YOU desire? I suspect for some the answers may come quickly, but upon further honest reflection may reveal themselves to be fairly unaligned with those of the Kingdom or else on a flat out carnal and worldly trajectory. In which case, the question needs to be asked again, “What is the real desire lying underneath these misguided ones?” For others, I suspect the question, “What do you desire?” is so deeply and spiritually intimate that only with great difficulty could they respond with anything that felt like an authentic answer.
This appears to have been John and Andrew’s difficulty and response to the question when it was posed to them (John 1:35-38). By the way, have you ever noticed that the Holy Spirit sovereignly determined that the first recorded words spoken by Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel are just this: “What do you want?” And notice John and Andrews fumbling response. Uhhh…ummm…glance at each other…“Where are you staying?”
Really? Where are you staying? You guys left Galilee and travelled all the way down to Bethany on the Jordan River opposite Jericho because you heard of a prophet named John. This wild man was saying things that so captured your heart’s desire that you left your home and work to go listen to this voice calling in the desert: “The Messiah is coming the Kingdom of Heaven is near get ready… Repent!” You were expectant...so expectant that you become a disciple of the Baptist. Then one day he said to you “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Look, the Lamb of God!” You immediately set off to follow this Man because your heart’s desire was aflame with the thought that He might be the Messiah. But when He turns and asks you “What do you want?” all you’ve got is “Where are you staying?” Really? “Where are you staying?” Wow…C’mon man!
That was NOT what John and Andrew really wanted to know. That was not their true desire. Their true desire was much deeper, as their lives will go own to bear out. But the initial question Jesus poses is so simple and yet profoundly penetrating that John and Andrew’s laughable response betrays just how hesitant our own hearts can be to acknowledge what it is we truly desire. Ask yourself again, “What do you want?”
Several years ago, after 20 years of operating in the corporate world to make ends meet, I realized that I was operating against myself and that this was NOT what I desired. But as for what I did desire…well, I was in good company with John and Andrew. Years of struggling to align my vocational God given gifts and personhood with an occupation that paid, had been fruitless and utterly exhausting. Cistern digging always is. Coupled with the growing apostasy I was witnessing in the ecclesial world around me made the question “What do you want?” feel almost tormenting. Then the day came when I heard God speak to me from His words to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. “Mike, repent and do the things you did at first”. For me, this meant a return to that which has since been expressed through the Trinity In Me website and Trinity Assembly & Fellowship. This has in fact been my desire.
But as I said, I have been thinking a lot about desire lately. Not just because my desire is still far bigger than my current experience, but particularly because now, three years later, I have heard God speaking to me again through that same passage. Only now He has focused me in on the reality that the repentance and doing the things I did at first are not in fact ends in themselves. The original context of those words in Rev. 2:5 were written to a very committed and persevering group of believers. Jesus commended their perseverance saying “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary…You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” But these persevering believers had lost something. So Jesus tells them to repent and do the things they did at first as the means, not the ends, to recover that which they had lost. And what was it that they had lost? It was their first love.
So how does this loss of first love relate to desire? It’s the word agape. You see in antiquity the word agape did not originally carry all the Christian meaning of the highest form of divine love which we rightly understand it to refer to today. Rather, is simply meant “to prefer” or “a preference”; it was a “discriminating affection which involved choice and selection.” A discriminating affection which involves choice sounds an awful lot like desire to me. With that said, I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to translate Rev. 2:4 as “You have forsaken your true desire.”
Somewhere along the way the Ephesian church had allowed their persevering duty to eclipse their first love…their true desire. But when it comes to down priorities, Jesus has a very strong mind about the place “desire” should hold relative to “duty”. It’s possible to be very dutiful and be far from one’s true desires. And when that happens, Jesus calls us to repent and do the first works with the objective of recovering our first love…our true desire. He calls us reprioritize our duty as “elder brothers” in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, within the context of our true desire; namely table fellowship with the Father and within the Father’s house. In other words intimacy, shared life and the joy of communion.
At the end of the day, or perhaps more appropriately at the end of our days, isn’t that really what we want? Isn’t the joyous celebration of the Father’s acceptance and the transparent fellowship of family in His House what we really long for? This was David’s true desire: “One thing I ask of the LORD this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4). In the 23rd Psalm David tells us of this desire again saying “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” And of this goodness associated with dwelling in the house of the Lord, David expected a portion of it in this life saying “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14)
This sounds like a desire worth selling out for doesn’t it? Well apparently, not everyone shares David’s desire. For that wasn’t what the elder brother really wanted. Oh, he wanted a party to be sure. But he wanted a goat not the fatted calf; he wanted his friends but not his Father. Here is the dutiful one who has lost his first love and buried his true desire under the rubble of resentment at what he perceived to be his Father’s thwarting of his lesser desires.
“What do you want?”
In the Prodigal Parable, Jesus makes it clear that the elder dutiful brother could have had whatever he wanted, because his father had already given everything to him. But he never asked. And he never asked because he didn’t really know or trust his Father’s heart toward him. It was all his but he never had because he never asked for it. He lived like a hireling not a son.
This never asking and not knowing or trusting our Father’s heart towards us when it comes to our desires is something Jesus addressed very directly on a several occasion. In Matthew 7 He says to ask, to seek (the same Greek word used in “What do you want?”), to knock. Jesus expects us to have desires, he expects us to ask for them and he expects us to knock on the door of the Father as sons. We are to ask as sons not as orphans do with their desperate begging prayers coming from their poverty mentality. We are to ask as sons not as slaves with their reluctant prayers of sanctified unworthiness. No, we are to ask as sons who are expectant of privilege and anticipating our Father’s lavish and scandalous generosity. We are to bring our desires to our Father, from whom every good and perfect gift comes from (James 1:17). Jesus further unplugs us from “elder brother” views of our Father’s character when he reminds us that though we are evil, we give to our children who ask us. Will God, your Father, be less generous to you who, though fallen, give without cruel deception to your own children? Never! Your Father is far more loving and generous to His children. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all- how he will not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things.” (Rom. 8:32)
In Luke’s account of “Ask, Seek and Knock” the key there is that the friend asking “had nothing” and he knew he had nothing. In other words, it’s only the desperate who have consciously given up scheming and trying to arrange for their life and desires that will ever find the shamelessly unembarrassed motivation to ask God for their true desire.
And to show that we should not lose heart, give up or faint from exhaustion in our asking, seeking and knocking Jesus gave us the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18. Here the point is not that we have to pester God until He finally gives in to us, but rather to trust His heart even in the seemingly long delays. Sadly for some, the loss of heart to trust the goodness of their Father’s heart makes even the “unjust judge” seem a better option. At least you have the hope of wearing him out with nagging persistence. But that’s the very point Jesus is making. Just as God is far better giver of gifts to His children than you are, so also God is not anything like an unjust judge. The parable is speaking to our not losing heart in the goodness of God in the face of our unanswered prayer and as yet unrealized desire. “…will not God bring about…” v. 7; “…he will see that they get…” v. 8. Yes, indeed he will.
So how do we interpret the frustrating delays and the apparent thwarting of our desire? And more importantly how do we respond?
“He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity's sunrise.” -William Blake
"Take the very hardest thing in your life; the place of difficulty outward or inward and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom" -Lillias Trotter of Algiers
 HELPS Word Studies http://biblehub.com/greek/25.htm