I think one of my favorite examples of human frailty in the New Testament is Mark 9:24. A desperate father has just come to Jesus in hopes that his boy might be healed. “…if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” he says to Jesus. Jesus then replies, “everything is possible for one who believes”, and the father of the demon-possessed boy cries out, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!”
You have to know his desire to believe was sincere! He’s standing in front of Jesus, for crying out loud! But he knew in his heart that he still had doubts, and he knew Jesus would know that as well. There was no point in trying to pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes.
I’m so grateful that we can be that real with God. He knows our weaknesses. In fact, He wants us to know and acknowledge them as well! Paul illustrates this when he recalls Christ’s words to him…
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Recently, I was marveling at the fact that I’m enjoying reading and digging into the scriptures. I’ve mentioned in my ‘about me’ section that I’ve never been one for in-depth study of any kind. As a young student, I was quite content to skim the chapters and do just enough to contribute to discussions. I’ve spent many years as a jack of all trades and master of none.
And yet, I find myself longing for time alone so I can read God’s word and other’s insight into it. I find myself desiring to really understand what I’m reading.
I need you to know, that is not normal! I mean, for me it’s not normal. 😉 It is not something I’ve just disciplined myself into a habit of. This is one of those instances where I wish I could peel back my brain and help you really understand how serious I am when I say, it is not in my nature to long to study anything.
So what happened?
Quite simply, God was faithful and showed Himself true!
He was also gracious to remind me recently of a prayer I prayed with sincerity many, many months ago.
It went something like this… “God, I love you. And I want to know you better. I want to live for you and share you with others. But at the end of the day I know that my knowledge and understanding of your word is lacking. What’s more, I know that my desire to spend time in your word is lacking. I don’t understand why I don’t enjoy reading your word like I should. All I know to do is to ask you to give me a passion for your word that is inexplicable. Ignite in me a love for study and time devoted to reading that I know is only possible through you.”
And then I went on about life.
But slowly, over time, I began to realize that God was doing the very thing I had asked Him to do! Imagine that…
I’m learning, slowly but surely, that God really is who He says He is, and He really does what He says He will do!
One of those things He says He will do is to give us the desires of our hearts.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Awesome, right? Sign me up for a worry-free life, all expenses paid!
But we all know that’s not what that verse means … no, it’s even better! You see, God knows that without that little exhortation to “delight ourselves in the Lord”, our desires would be self-centered at best…destructive at worst.
However, when we are delighting ourselves in Him our desires line up with His.
In his commentary, John Gill describes those desires as ones that are “according to the will of God, and for the good of his people”, they “relate to communion with him, and to the communication of more grace from him, and to the enjoyment of eternal glory.”
As I walk with God, I become increasingly convinced that I have no clue what is best; not for myself, not for others, and not for the Kingdom. It’s why I’m so grateful that God is, indeed, good in all His ways.
I used to worry that having my desires line up with God’s would mean giving up things I really enjoyed or thought were good. I’m beginning to see every opportunity for God to shape my desires to be more like His as the greatest thrill possible. For truly…
“…a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:10-11
At this time of year where lots of resolutions are made, I imagine lots of us have purposed to read our Bible more, go to church more regularly, try to do a better job controlling some aspect of our lives, etc. And those are all great goals. However, can I just be a realist for a second? Most of us probably won’t get past February.
Can I make a suggestion?
Instead of setting your goals for the year and working really hard to stick to them, how about asking God to do those things in you.
Jesus promises in John 14:13-15 that, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” These ‘resolutions’ are the exact type of thing that God wants to do for us! That HE might receive the glory!
I thought it was interesting that two separate commentaries (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, and Bible Knowledge Commentary) BOTH begin by pointing out that the concept of praying something “in Jesus’ name” is not like using a magic word or rubbing a genie lamp. Instead it is both a guarantee (like an endorsement on a check) and a limitation. He will only grant us those requests that are consistent with His character and purpose.
Sounds kinda like the whole “desires of the heart” thing, huh?
I can tell you that this has been true in my own life. Long before my prayer that God would help me to love studying His word, I had an even more desperate plea for Him. It went a little like this… “God, I want to want you. For some reason I don’t want you right now, and I don’t want to do the things you ask me to do … but I WANT to want you. Please help me!”
That might have been the most sincere prayer I’ve ever prayed in my life, and God absolutely was faithful to grant me that desire of my heart.
In both of these requests I’ve shared with you I see some commonalities.
1. These were both prayers from a place of acknowledging my weakness and dependence on God.
2. Both prayers were for things that were undoubtedly in line with God’s desires for me as well.
3. Both prayers would result in something that would bring honor and glory to the Father.
So what is it you’d like to ask of God?
Are you where I was so many years ago, simply needing God to give you a genuine desire for Him to begin with?
Do you need Him to ignite a passion in you for His word? For service? For Worship?
Does God need to be the one to equip you to overcome a stronghold or pattern of sin?
Do you need wisdom or discernment in a difficult situation?
Give Him the opportunity to show Himself faithful in your life!