Some time ago my father-in-law Jack Popjes challenged me to make a list of the things I wanted in life. The idea is to put down initial thoughts that might include things like possessions or accolades and allow the Lord to refine those desires over time. (You can read the original post on his website here. )
Jesus often asked people questions that helped them to get in touch with what they wanted and to name it in his presence. In John 1:35 two disciples of John the Baptist started following Jesus and he turned to them and said, “What are you seeking?” or as the NIV puts it plainly, “What do you want?” A blind man’s desperate cry “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me!” made Jesus turn aside and ask him, “What do you want me to do for you?” in Mark 10:46-52. Wasn’t it obvious? But Jesus wanted Bart to name it.
Some of us get nervous when we think about what we want. We’ve been taught to silence or at least hide our true desires because they are full of sinful “urges”. It’s true. If we’re honest, sometimes the things we want are rooted in selfish ambition, pride, lust, fear, and self-protection just to name a few. These desires come from deep within us and our temptation is to keep them hidden in the dark where they grow in power over us.
But God’s people have long understood the value of bringing those desires into the light and allowing God to “test” them.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any
offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23, 24.
It might sound a lot like “confession” but the process starts with “…search me…test me…” What if we examined ALL of our desires in the light of the Gospel? Is my desire to provide for my family sinful? Probably not. Is my desire to accumulate more accolades and status symbols by sacrificing my relationship with my family sinful? Probably. Is it easy to know when you’ve crossed that line from a good desire to a sinful one? Usually not.
Jesus’ question to these rough and tumble fishermen was probably answered pretty simply. If they knew anything about how to answer, they probably would have said they just wanted to be with him. Read ahead in John 1 and see if you can figure out what John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel were “seeking”. They had no idea they were about to embark on a journey that would turn their hearts inside out and would turn the world upside down.
After some prayerful reflection and editing my “Top Ten” list has now stayed pretty consistent, but I’m constantly refining. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll cross something off this list and get to add another one!