As we grow closer to the Lord we grow in a greater awareness of our need for His grace and power to enable us to please Him and glorify Him even as Jesus the Perfect Man always did. (Psalm 40:7-8; Romans 7:22, 8:29) Yet, our Lord doesn’t want us to just need Him though He does want that and we do need Him and He loves to meet our genuine needs. But He also wants us to want Him, to desire His Person and to want Him supremely more than anyone in heaven or earth as the psalmist says above in Psalm 73 or as David says in Psalm 131:2: “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child [resting] with his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me [composed and freed from discontent].” Here David shows us that he just wanted to be with the Lord like a child that just wants to be with his mother even when he is not nursing, not needing anything from her but only wanting to be with her.
Our problem is we want God and….; and the list is long. In the Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer the author identifies one of the main problems (sins) that limits our deep, joyful and soul-satisfying experience of intimacy with God. “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the and lies our great woe. If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.” In teaching on Tozer’s book my friend Ken Boa put it this way: “Like greedy little children on Christmas morning, we run past the presence of God to get at the presents from God. We begin to view God as a sanctified Santa Claus who is only good for stuffing our lives full of goodies. Or we treat him as a religious genie who, if we rub him the right way with our prayers and promises, will grant us our fondest wishes. Eventually, we lose sight of God’s presence altogether and only pursue the and stuff.” Instead of coming to God with open hands to get more stuff from Him, we need to come to Him with open arms to embrace Him with love and gratitude for Who He is and all He has already given us. (See http://www.lensykes.com/archives/1789)
If you are like me, “wanting” God more than anyone or anything is not always the case and yet I have come to see this attitude as sin (the sin of idolatry) and thus a call to confession and repentance. Years ago I read John Piper’s book, When I Don’t Desire God (meaning when I don’t desire God supremely) and have found it very helpful in this process of growing in wanting God more than anyone or anything. I have been regularly praying four prayers from Scripture that Piper suggested in his book that will help to move our hearts toward desiring God supremely. In the English Standard Version (ESV) translation the first letter of each Scripture is I.O.U.S. (like an iou) and this helps us recall it when we first began to pray these prayers.
I “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life (or revive my life) in your ways.” (Psalm 119:36-37) In this prayer we are asking God to work in us a desire to read His Word which teaches us the value of eternal truths in contrast to temporal or selfish gain which has no spiritual or eternal value for us or others. And we are asking God to turn our eyes away from worthless things whether it’s too much television or other things that have no spiritual or eternal value. To have our lives revived in God’s ways is asking God to make us more like Jesus Christ which is God’s desire and goal for our lives. (Romans 8:29)
O “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) We need the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit (“open my eyes”) when we read God’s Word in order to “see” with spiritual eyes how wonderful God is. I think of this as seeing more wonderful things about the Lord as I read Scripture. I mark my Bible with words like “wow” or “amazing” when God does amazing and wonder-filled acts.
U “Unite my heart to fear your name (or “give me an undivided heart to fear your name).” (Psalm 86:11b) In a positive sense this is a whole-hearted (versus half-hearted) desire to please God, to please the One we love supremely. In a negative, but also motivating sense, it is the fear of God’s chastening when we disobey Him and loss and regret at the judgment seat of Christ. (Hebrews 12:5–11; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11) I recently wrote a lengthy newsletter on the fear of the Lord because it is so misunderstood and under-taught in our churches today. (See at: http://www.lensykes.com/archives/1830)
S “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, who was the richest king of Israel and had it all, said, “All is vanity….under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) What he says in this sad book is that life is so unsatisfying when you don’t live it for the glory of God. (See my summary of Ecclesiastes at: http://www.lensykes.com/archives/20) Yet Jesus said if we hunger and thirst for righteousness we shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) Note what this Scripture and prayer asks for: Lord may I be satisfied with Your steadfast love for me which was demonstrated so powerfully and clearly at the cross. In other words, all of us as believers have already received God’s steadfast love so the prayer is not asking for more stuff from God but for a renewed and fresh revelation of how satisfying it is to personally experience His unconditional love for us. Then we can “rejoice and be glad” even in the midst of our difficult circumstances. Yet this often includes taking the time in heartfelt prayer to honestly and emotionally “cast all my anxieties on Him” and remembering that “He cares for me.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) When we fail to share our burdens with Him and recall and experience His steadfast love we start looking for this soul-satisfying love in all the wrong places and we will never find it.
“Our union with God, which will only be fully realized in heaven, is the deepest longing of our hearts. No person, no possession, no experience will ever fill that empty ache until at last we see Him face to Face. But as we wait for Him to come and get us His bride, we must not try to fill this sacred, holy place in our soul with lesser lovers (idols – Luke 8:14). Holy longing for Him will expand our soul to its fullest capacity so when He comes we can receive all of Him and thus know Him more fully for all eternity.” (http://www.lensykes.com/archives/26)
SONNET OF LOVE
My All in All, I love Thee so; tis strange,
My status small would dare a King to love;
Thou did this tryst of man and God arrange
When clothed in flesh Thou came down from above.
Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, keep me
Ever loved and loving through earthbound years
Unto eternal spheres; know Thee deeply,
As I am known in joy, in pain, in tears.
Thy beauty pure, dear Jesus, Lord, my heart
Has won for aye; Thy blood opened the door,
Entrance to give by freedom from sin’s dart;
My life bought by the suffering Thou bore.
Thou first loved me, drew me away from harms;
My soul rests in Thy everlasting arms.
Kristen Sykes – July 21, 2008
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen