It is a truism, but worth repeating, that our lives are the reflection of our inner cravings. Inward desires therefore are of supreme importance, as they mould life and character. The Bible states that the natural man is controlled by the "desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph 2.3); thus selfishness and pride characterise him. The Christian however "is a new creation" in Christ (2 Cor 5.17), and should have desires after God and holiness. The Christian life does not consist of endless rules; on the contrary the Bible says it is "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1.25), and we now desire to please God and not self - note Paul's succinct comment: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom 8.6). Consider now some desires that should characterise believers.
The Person of Christ
The dominant desire should be for the Lord Jesus Himself; to know and enjoy Him more and more, in the spirit of the psalmist: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Ps 73.25). Paul had this perspective of earth and heaven; Christ filled his vision, for he counted earthly things "loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3.8), and was also drawn to heaven by "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ" (Phil 1.23) and "that I may win Christ" (3.8). Alas, men saw in Him "no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53.2), but in the day of His glory He will be "the desire of all nations" (Hag 2.7). Every heart will long for Him then, but to the saints now "he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (Song 5.16). Is He the desire of our hearts, and does He fill our vision?
The Word of God
The Bible says, "As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet 2.2). Naturally babes long for milk, which nourishes the new life. In the spiritual realm, all who have received eternal life manifest that life in their desire for the milk of the Word of God. Without this desire there is little evidence of divine life. The milk of the Word strengthens and sustains the new life, as the prophet said long ago: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk…precept must be upon precept…line upon line" (Is 28.9-10). We neglect the Word at our peril, we must desire, assimilate and obey the Word of God which "liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet 1.23). The psalmist says, God's words are "More to be desired…than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey" (Ps 19.10); again "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (Ps 119.97). All the great men of faith have been men of the Word - it is the secret of godliness and power. May we be "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine" (1 Tim 4.6).
The Assembly of Saints
It was a great privilege for an Israelite to enter the Temple, or even to "rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Ps 84.10). Year by year the godly Israelite looked forward eagerly to the feast days, when they went up to Jerusalem - "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord" (Ps 122.1). No wonder David said, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Ps 27.4).
The "Temple", or "House of God", is not a material building in this present Christian era, but a spiritual structure, the Church, composed of all true believers as its "lively (living) stones" (1 Pet 2.5), which is growing "unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph 2.21), until its completion at the Rapture. The Church, the Body of Christ, is invisible, indivisible and invincible (Mt 16.16-18). The term "church" is applied to a local company of Christians "gathered together in my name" (Mt 18.20), the name of the Lord Jesus, and referred to figuratively as a temple in 1 Corinthians 3.16. Such a company is also designated as a "house of God" (1 Tim 3.15), and thus reverence and obedience should mark us as stated: "holiness becoming thine house, O Lord, for ever" (Ps 93.5). The psalmist says, "Lord I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth" (Ps 26.8). Do we appreciate the local company of saints? In spite of present religious confusion New Testament principles are still relevant and applicable and the Lord has promised to be with the "two or three" (Mt 18.20). Have we the desire to be present at the assembly meetings?
"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 14.1). We tend to think that gifts (I refer to post-apostolic gifts) are given at conversion by the Spirit of God, and we are to discern the gift and exercise it accordingly, but we are told that gifts may be desired. This opens up great possibilities. Is there a work that needs to be done? Desire to meet that need and the Lord may graciously confer the gift to do so. If the motives are love for the Lord and the saints, as the above verse indicates, the desire will not be tainted by pride or self-gratification. Paul was a special vessel, but is there not a relationship between his desires for the welfare of the believers and his God-given ability to build them up? He longed to establish the saints at Rome (Rom 1.11), and he desired fruit among the Philippians (Phil 4.17). Desires and gifts seem inter-related. Spiritual leadership requires gift; note that eldership commences with a spiritual desire, "If a man desire the office of a bishop he desireth a good work" (1 Tim 3.1). A strong aspiration is a prerequisite for a prospective overseer. What a challenge this is to us all! There is great spiritual weakness among us; may we desire the necessary gifts to meet the varied needs.
The Salvation of Souls
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Rom 10.1). So passionate was Paul that he would count himself "accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom 9.3). A soul that has had a genuine experience of God in Christ becomes anxious for the spiritual welfare of others. Paul, soon after he was saved, began to witness (see Acts 9.28-29), and regarded this as a debt to the unsaved he had to discharge: "as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also" (Rom 1.15).
Are we fired with similar ambitions? "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (Ps 51.13). The early believers "went every where preaching the word" (Acts 8.4). When last did we speak a word for the Saviour? We all have a sphere of witness, may our spirits be stirred up like Paul's was in Athens (Acts 17.16).
May we pray, "Lord, all my desire is before thee" (Ps 38.9); and know "he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps 37.4).