Let’s look at some of our most common desires. Material desires: Lydia was a businesswoman who dealt in textiles (see Acts 16:14). She was one of Paul’s first converts to Christianity in Europe. Can you imagine what it took for a woman to succeed in business in such a male-dominated society? She was so successful she owned her own home. And it was large enough to become the meeting place for the first church in the history of Europe. Of all the religious edifices built over the centuries—Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, and the Sistine Chapel—the first European church was in the home of this businesswoman.
Now, if your desire to make money chokes out your generosity, causes you to live in debt, or creates chronic dissatisfaction, it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. But making money, creating good products, and keeping people employed are God-glorifying things. ‘It is God who gives you power to get
wealth.’ (Deuteronomy 8:18) Have you ever wondered why you enjoy tinkering with engines or working with your hands? It’s because you were made in the image of a creative God who engineered this unbelievable cosmic machine with forces and energy so transcendently mind-boggling that people devote brilliant scientific careers to understanding even a tiny bit of it. Whether you’re mechanically or scientifically oriented, it’s spiritual—and it counts! The Bible says, ‘THE Lord… has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.’ (Psalm 35:27) And when your desire for material success is to glorify God and bless others, He will help you to succeed.
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The desire to achieve: The first thing God said to Adam was, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and have dominion.’ (Genesis 1:28) The reason you have such a strong desire to accomplish something in life is because God created you to ‘do it’. Few people were more motivated by achievement than Paul: ‘My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus.’ (Acts 20:24) God didn’t take away Paul’s desire to achieve; He harnessed it so Paul could fulfil God’s will. A strong career drive accompanied by the desire to learn and achieve can be good things—unless they lead to workaholism, worshipping status, neglecting prayer, and manipulating other people. When that happens, you need to reevaluate your motivation.
But if that’s not the case and you find yourself growing in God with a fire inside you to accomplish something—go forth and achieve. Exercise dominion! Use your ability to accomplish good things for others. At that point, whether you’re contributing to a meeting, adding value to a team, or formulating ideas, you’ll know it’s more than just you. When you develop relational skills that enable you to bond with clients and associates, you can simultaneously pray for them and bless them. As you experience joy in your achievements, your life is pleasing to God. A word of advice: every now and then, remember to stop and thank Him that you get to do something you love!
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Relational desires: Jonathan was heir to the throne, but he voluntarily gave it up because he knew his friend David was God’s choice to be king. Jonathan desired to be a friend more than he desired to be a king. How often do you find that? And he didn’t become David’s friend because he was pursuing some ‘discipline of spiritual friendship’. He simply liked David, and that friendship changed the course of Israel. We all have relational desires we don’t pursue. Unless a deep, meaningful relationship falls into our lap, we give up. However, friendships like that don’t just happen; Jonathan had to overcome unbelievable barriers to build a friendship with David.
Sometimes you will have to do the same, and God will help you. Author John Ortberg writes: ‘My friend Chuck has the spiritual gift of breakfast. He meets people in a Southern franchise called the Waffle House. The waitress loves to wait on him because he tips well and makes everybody laugh. He’s… really funny and utterly unguarded about his own brokenness, which makes people open up to him like tulips in the sun… He feels God’s presence most powerfully when he sits in the Waffle House and is allowed to see someone’s soul. It’s not the coffee that brings people to him; it’s the rivers of living water flowing out of him
‘If you’re naturally shy, here’s a tip: chances are the person you’d like to reach out to is shy as well. Go ahead, make contact and see what happens. Who knows, you could be the answer to their loneliness and they to yours.
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Physical desires: The Bible tells us to feast, eat, drink, celebrate, sing, dance, shout, and make music—all things we do with our bodies. These appetites, desires, and delights can actually become a way of remembering how good our God is. The physical is not separate from the spiritual; indeed it is God’s Spirit who makes our bodies come to life. The Bible doesn’t condemn you for wanting to be physically attractive. Now, this needs to be kept in perspective: ‘Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.’ (Proverbs 11:22) The same principle applies to men. But God did create our bodies.
So can we get real? God made us with a love of beauty. Some stylists started what they called a ‘hairdressers’ ministry’. Perhaps that sounds strange to you. After all, the only hair stylist mentioned in the Bible was Delilah, and when Samson went to her, things didn’t go too well for him. But serving people by cutting their hair can be a good thing.
People will share problems with their hairstylist that they won’t share with anybody else. So you can see how that can be a real ministry. This group gave complimentary haircuts to physically and mentally challenged folks. Then they travelled to Costa Rica to serve young women trying to escape a life of prostitution. They honoured and freely served bodies that had not been freely served for a long time: bodies that had been turned into objects. What’s the point? You may need to get a new concept, a Biblical concept of what is truly ‘spiritual’.
Responding with Grace
Jesus told His disciples, ‘Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow.’ (John 13:14–15) Whose feet did He wash? Peter, who denied Him; Thomas, who doubted Him; Judas, who betrayed Him; and all the others, who would desert Him. In other words, ‘Give the grace you’ve been given.’
You don’t endorse the deeds of your offender when you do. Jesus didn’t endorse your sins by forgiving you. Grace doesn’t tell the daughter to like the father who molested her. It doesn’t tell the oppressed to wink at injustice
The grace-defined person still sends thieves to jail and expects an ex-spouse to pay child support. Grace isn’t blind. It sees the hurt full well. But grace chooses to see God’s forgiveness even more. It refuses to let hurts poison the heart. The Bible says, ‘See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.’ (Hebrews 12:15) Where grace is lacking, bitterness abounds. Where grace abounds, forgiveness grows.
Peter writes, ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.’ Growing in Bible knowledge is a lot easier than growing in grace towards those who hurt you. The first requires a good memory; the second requires a Christ-like character. So how do you ‘grow’ in grace? By practicing it with everybody you meet, in every situation you find yourself.
Set The Right Example!
The punch line in a cartoon reads, ‘No matter what we teach our children, they insist on behaving just like us!’ We smile, but it’s a very serious matter. One expert says, ‘We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.’ Your children may sometimes doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. So:
(1) If you want them to have a quiet time with God, you have one.
(2) If you don’t want your children using foul language, watch what comes out of your mouth.
(3) If you don’t want your children to smoke, drink, or do drugs, you leave them alone.
When you say one thing but do another, your children may still love you, but eventually they’ll lose respect for you. And what’s worse, they’ll think, ‘If the principles you preach don’t work for you, why should I try them?’ Your example will have more impact than all your exhortations. Read these two Scriptures carefully. The first is found in the Old Testament: ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done.’ The second is found in the New Testament: ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.’ (2 Timothy 1:5) Thousands of years separate those two Scriptures, but the truth they teach is timeless: so set the right example!
14 Questions about
When you know what your God-given assignment in life is, and that God is on your side, you become virtually unstoppable. Will you make mistakes? Of course, but God loves you enough to correct you, redirect you, and get you back on track. ‘How do I go about discovering my assignment?’ you ask. Here are fourteen helpful questions to ask yourself:
(1) What desires have been living in me most of my life?
(2) What motivates me to work hard and be productive?
(3) What keeps me going forward when I’m worn out?
(4) What makes me refuse to quit when I meet with resistance?
(5) What do I do that doesn’t seem like work?
(6) What do I do that brings a positive response and support from people?
(7) What am I doing or what’s happening in my life when doors seem to open automatically and effortlessly?
(8) What do wise leaders and godly counsellors think about my work?
(9) What makes me feel good about being who I am?
(10) What makes my creative juices flow?
(11) What am I willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish it?
(12) What am I doing that I’d be proud to offer for God’s approval?
(13) What would I do without being paid for it if I could afford to?
(14) What would I be willing to withstand Satan on, in order to accomplish?
Prayerfully consider these fourteen questions, and they will shed light on your God-given assignment in life.
You Must Break With The Past
Do you remember the prostitute who anointed Jesus? ‘A woman came, having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.’ She gave her most precious possession to Jesus. Not only was it extremely valuable, it was also part of her sex appeal. Breaking it open was her way of breaking with her past. She was giving up her former life by giving that jar to Jesus. Remember the revival that broke out in Ephesus? Those who practised sorcery burned their scrolls publicly.
The value of those scrolls was estimated at 50,000 drachmas. A drachma was a silver coin worth a day’s wages. That’s 138 years of wages! They could have sold those scrolls and pocketed the money, but they would have been selling their souls. Instead, they made an $8.4 million statement of faith. Our problem is that we want God to do something new for us, while we keep doing the same old thing. We want Him to change our circumstances without having to change us at all. But if we’re asking God for new wine, we will need a new wine skin.
Change is a two-sided coin that reads: Out with the old, and in with the new! Most of us get stuck spiritually because we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Spiritual routines are a crucial part of spiritual growth, but when the routine becomes routine, you need to change it. What got you to where you are, may not get you to where God wants you to go next.