Ray Dawes, Hillingdon
Men seek to satisfy the desires of their soul, and their lives reflect these inner yearnings. Inward desires, therefore, are of supreme importance because they prompt our actions and mould our character. The natural man is controlled by the desires of the flesh and of the mind, Eph. 2. 3; thus selfishness, covetousness and pride characterise him. The Christian, however, being a new creation in Christ, should be marked by desires after God and holiness. The Christian faith is not a heavy burden to bear, consisting of rules and regulations, but it brings us into that liberty which causes fresh spiritual aspirations to spring up in the soul. It is found to be the perfect law of liberty and we desire to do the very things that we ought to do, Jas. 1. 25. The Spirit of God also develops spiritual yearnings within the believer’s heart, some of the more important of which are evidenced in desires after the Person of Christ, the Word of God, the assembly gatherings of the saints, spiritual gifts and the salvation of souls. Let us see from various scriptures that this is so.
The Person of Christ
The dominant desire should be to know the Lord Jesus Himself and enjoy His presence increasingly - for “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee”, Ps. 73. 25. These words find their true expression in the life of the apostle Paul whose desires were heavenwards where Christ is, and, latterly, he had a burning desire to depart and to be with Him forever, Phil. 1. 23. Indeed, he had nothing on earth he desired above Christ, Phil. 1. 21, and heaven’s only attraction was his Risen Lord. Has Christ won our hearts in this way? For occupation with His Person leads to conformity to His character; it is the road to holiness.
When first manifested in humility, men saw no beauty in Him that they should desire Him, Isa. 53. 2. In a coming day, however, when revealed in His resplendent, regal glory, the Lord Jesus will be “the desire of all nations”, Haggai 2. 7. Every heart will long for Him then, but God has already “shined in our hearts, to give the fight of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, 2 Cor. 4. 6. We perceive His beauty now and exclaim, “Yea, he is altogether lovely”, “all of him desirable”, Song of Sol. 5. 16 newberry. Are desires after Christ paramount in our fives? They should be for He is the beloved Son, the Lord of fife and glory. Oh! begone empty religions, passing pleasures, petty pride, and worldly ambitions. Let “the desire of our soul” be “to thy name”, Isa. 26. 8. The Lord’s desire is ever toward us, Song of Sol. 7.10, and if this fact is cherished, longings for Him will be awakened. What can compare with Christ? Let us follow Paul’s example and count all else to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, “that I may know him”, Phil. 3. 10.
The Word of God
The natural instinct of babes is to 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. We are exhorted to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”, 1 Pet. 2. 2. Where this desire is absent, there is no evidence of life in the soul. The milk of the Word sustains and strengthens spiritual life. Private reading and meditation on the Scriptures, far from being an irksome duty, should be the joy of the new babe in Christ, and listening to the unfolding of its truth by godly teachers should be his delight. For, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk . . . precept upon precept; line upon line”, Isa. 28. 9, 10. Little may be understood, but the soul is fed and strengthened as the Word is imbibed. Young and old believers neglect the Word of God at their peril. What a solemn responsibility devolves upon the one who denies the Word to the souls of the young, substituting for it light entertainment which can become a snare. This needs special emphasis in these days. Spiritual growth is induced only by desiring earnestly, assimilating and obeying the Word of God.
This Word has brought us new life, 1 Pet. 1. 23, and will last when all flesh has withered and its glory faded away. We must not spend ourselves on natural things (the flesh) or pursue that in which the flesh may glory. We must feed upon the living and enduring Word. Here is an important command to heed, therefore, namely to desire the sincere milk of the Word.
Concerning God’s words: “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold”, Ps. 19. 10; they are above earthly riches. “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food”, Job 23. 12; it is above natural food. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart”, Jer. 15. 16; they are above worldly joys. Hence to gain true riches, spiritual food and heavenly joy, the Word of God must be the soul’s desire.
All the great men of faith were men of the Word; it was the secret of their power and godliness. Joshua was to meditate in the law continuously, Josh. 1. 8. Ezra meditated deep and long before he could be described as “a ready scribe in the law”, Ezra 7. 6, 10. Daniel knew the law, so he refused the king’s meat, and later “understood by books”, Dan. 1. 8; 9. 2. Paul often refers to the Old Testament Scriptures in his writings, using phrases such as “it is written”, “the scripture saith”. He speaks to Timothy concerning being “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine”, 1 Tim. 4. 6. Let us similarly delight in the Scriptures so that our life and character may develop according to God’s intention for them.
The Assembly of Saints
It was a great privilege for an Israelite to enter the temple, or even to be within its precincts “for a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had 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 Israelites 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. Little wonder that 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. He whom God described as a man after His own heart, had a great desire to dwell in His house.
The temple, or house of God, is not a material building in this present Christian era, but a spiritual structure composed of all true believers. These are as living stones, 1 Pet. 2. 5, and the spiritual house continues to grow unto a holy temple in the Lord, Eph. 2. 21. This use of the figure of a building refers to the universal or age-long aspect of the Church. The figure is applied also to a company of Christians gathered together in the Name of the Lord Jesus in a particular locality. Such local companies of believers give a practical expression to that holiness and order which mark that complete Church which eternally shall be a suited habitation for God. Each local church is designated a house of God, 1 Tim. 3. 15. The Christian’s desires should be ever toward the local assembly, loving the saints and the occasions of gathering together with them. Gathered together in a spiritual fashion, the beauty of the Lord in the midst is more readily portrayed and appreciated. Seated at His feet in the house there is instruction for all and spiritual enquiry can be made of Him.
Do we desire to dwell in the house of the Lord in this sense? The religious differences around us make it very difficult for some believers to discern the true way of gathering. Where there is a sincere soul, however, with an overwhelming desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, such an one will seek out a scriptural assembly, undeterred by the confusion around. The question the two disciples asked the Lord Jesus in John 1. 38, “where dwellest thou?” still evokes the same answer, “Come and see”. For us today there may be a similar hallowed experience if there is the desire after it and we may know what it is to abide “with him that day”, John 1. 39.
Seldom does one consider that gifts can be desired. We tend to think that at conversion some gift is given, and it is up to us to discern its nature and exercise it accordingly. In addition, however, we are told plainly that they may be desired. “Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts”, 1 Cor. 14. 1. This opens up great possibilities for us all. 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.
Such desires spring from love. If love for the Lord and His saints is the motive, as the first phrase in this verse suggests, the desire will then be unadulterated with pride and self-gratification. We know that Paul was a special vessel for the Lord’s services, but is there not some relationship between his desires for the welfare of the saints and his God-given capacity for building them up? He longed after those at Rome, Rom. 1. 11, and desired fruit amongst the Philippians, Phil. 4. 17. By virtue of his gifts his desires were wholly satisfied.
What a challenge this is to us! There is great need for teaching, exhorting, comforting, cheering, and visiting amongst the people of God. There is need for spiritual elders to guide in assemblies; this work can also be desired, “if a man desire overseership, he desireth a good work”, 1 Tim. 3.1 Newberry. Let us be exercised and desire the necessary gifts from God to meet the needs around us.
Salvation of Souls
“Brethren., my heart’s desire ... for Israel is, that they might be saved”., Rom. 10. 1. So deep and real was this desire of Paul’s that he could count himself accursed for Israel’s sake,, 9. 1-3. Anyone who has had a genuine experience of God’s grace in Christ, and has received salvation, becomes anxious about the spiritual welfare of the unconverted. The apostle Paul immediately began witnessing to others after his conversion, Acts 9. 20, and later he regarded this as a debt to the unsaved that he was bound to discharge, putting heart and soul into evangelism. He writes, “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 the same enthusiasm? If the joy of our salvation floods our soul, we will teach transgressors God’s ways and sinners will be converted to Him, Ps. 51. 12, 13. The early believers went everywhere preaching (or gossiping) the Word, Acts 8. 4. How we need a more fervent desire to be awakened in our hearts to seek the lost for the Saviour. Are we active amongst children, unsaved relatives, business colleagues, friends and neighbours? There is a large sphere in which all of us should witness and bring souls to Christ. To lose the desire to see souls saved, marks an exceedingly low spiritual state. May God graciously stir our hearts as He did Paul’s, when we look out upon a people bound by superstition and sitting in the shadow of death; cf. Acts 17. 16. We can preach, we can speak, we can pray and we can live, to extend the influence of the Gospel.
Here then are some desires which should characterise spiritual Christians. Let us allow the Spirit to sow them in our hearts and may we be exercised before God to see them manifested in our lives, saying, “all my desire is before thee”, Ps. 38. 9. For such souls, there are the guaranteed promises of scripture, “he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”, Ps. 37. 4. Should carnal desires grip us, it could be sadly true of us, as of some of old who lusted in the wilderness, “he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul”, Ps. 106. 15. The final issues are settled, “the desire of the wicked shall perish”, Ps. 112. 10 but “the desire of the righteous shall be granted”, Prov. 10. 24.