What do you want? Pause for a minute and really think about what you want. Maybe take a minute to write down your thoughts. What do you desire more than anything? If God spoke to you right now and said He was willing and able to give you those things, could you answer Him?

James K.A. Smith is his book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, says “Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.” We are needy people and typically have a long list of desires. Since wants and desires are unlimited and help define us, it is important to know for sure what you want. It is also critical for you to be able to articulate your wants to others, and especially to God. 

God Made You To Have Desire 

The truth is that God made you to have needs and desires, and He is able to give you what you want. Jesus began his ministry by asking his followers what they wanted (John 1:38). And, He continued to ask his followers that question explicitly (Mark 10:36 and Mark 10:51) and implicitly throughout His earthy ministry. There is no better example of this than Jesus teaching us how to pray (Luke 11:2-4). He went on to teach them how to pray with urgency and audacity (Luke 11:5-8). 

Then, Jesus made them (and us) a promise. 

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke:11:9-13)

What If You Want The Wrong Things? 

There is a long history of God’s people who wanted the wrong things. The worst thing about seeking the wrong things is that God sometimes gives us exactly what we want. This is because He knows that in order to show us what we ultimately need, sometimes we have to experience the difficulties and failures that accompany the things we don’t.

The Israelites wanted a false God after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt, so God allowed them to make a golden calf and worship a god they formed with their hands (Exodus 32:1-4). Years later they rejected God and decided they needed a human king. The Prophet Samuel warned the Israelites that having a man for a king would be another form of enslavement. “‘No’ they insisted, ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king”’ (Samuel 8:20-22).

The Bible tells that when we fail to honor God as Lord, our hearts will also want the wrong things. And, because He loves us and is preparing us for eternity with Him, God sometimes gives us those things so that we come to the end of ourselves. 

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25)

The downward cycle of sin is made perfectly clear in these verses. First, we don’t honor God as Lord. Secondly, we follow our desires without seeking God’s perfect wisdom, exchanging truth for a lie. Then, God gives us over to our sinful desires in order to show us that they will not satisfy us.

For many, this cycle is used as an instrument of God’s mercy. God uses our sin to arrest us and cause us to repent and return to His unfailing grace. For others, the cycle of dishonoring God goes on for a season and the person caught in the sin-cycle continues to spiral downward and they step further and further away from God. 

Let God Renew Your Desires 

God used the prophet Nathan to arrest King David and open his eyes to the effects of his sinful desires and deadly actions. You can read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 (link), it’s David’s humble response that show us how to confess and turn our hearts over to God. 

Here are the words he wrote in Psalm 51 as a response to the events in 2 Samuel 11. They demonstrate the posture we should take when we approach God in need of renewal and forgiveness, and remind us of God’s desire to reverse the sin-cycle and create new hearts within His people. 

  1. See God as God and ask for mercy: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me" (Psalm 51:1-3). 
  2. Name your sin against God: "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:4-5).
  3. Understand God wants to restore you:  "yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place" (Psalm 51:6).
  4. Ask God to restore you: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:7-12).
  5. God will renew your desire to please Him: "I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness" (Psalm 51:13-14).
  6. God will give you a renewed desire to praise Him: "Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings" (Psalm 51:15-16).
  7. God will renew your heart and desires: "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar" (Psalm 51:17-1).

God Wants To Fully Satisfy You Forever

You might be thinking those promises are great for breaking the cycle of serious sin, but you haven't committed adultery or murdered anyone like David did. But, God’s Word reminds us that we have all done this in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-30). However, for most of us, our most serious sin is simply not desiring God and His will as deeply and passionately as we should. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We have a God who is able and willing to completely satisfy us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (The Romans 8:33). The question for us is wether or not we will allow God to repair the broken parts of us that we try fill with sinful actions and desires. Our command is to seek God first—His kingdom and His righteousness—and let Him supply all of our needs (Matthew 6:33). Once we know that Jesus is more than a teacher, more than a savior — He is God — and is renewing all things, we surrender and allow Him to inform and renew our wants and desires too.

Join us this week as dig into how to know God’s will for your life and check back at the end of the week for a case study example.

We are needy people and typically have a long list of desires. Since wants and desires are unlimited and help define us, it is important to know for sure what you want.
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