January 31, 2020

When You Want the Wrong Thing

By Mike Price

Fulfilled desires are one of life’s greatest gifts. That first bite of chocolate cake on cheat day. Jumping into an ice cold spring on a blisteringly hot summer afternoon. Crossing the finish line after months of training, or staring at a positive pregnancy test after years of waiting. There is something about the fulfillment of a long-held desire that elicits joy in its purest form.

For better or for worse, satisfying our desires has been the endless pursuit of humankind throughout history. Since the garden of Eden, we have sought to gratify our desires through a myriad of exploits. Whether driven by financial gain, relationships, fame, control, accomplishments, or simply pleasure in all of its forms, our culture is obsessed with attaining ultimate contentment and satisfaction.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus makes a statement that flies in the face of everything encouraged by the culture around us: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

Jesus promises satisfaction. This is no small promise in a world where satisfaction is fleeting and contentment is tough to come by. Our culture constantly pushes us to look forward with desire because we will never have all that we need. St. Augustine, an early church father and bishop, alludes to this struggle in his famous Confessions:

You made us for Yourself,
and our heart is restless,
until it rests in You.

Restlessness and discontentment are prevalent in our world, however, Jesus promises satisfaction. How? Through a longing for righteousness. So, what does that look like?

Jesus doesn’t deny or ignore the innate tendency toward desire. He doesn’t encourage us to suppress our desire. Or shame us for desire. Instead, Jesus challenges us to a redirection and intensification of our desires. Many times, we look to enhance or intensify our behavior to reach satisfaction. We do more, we sell more, we workout more, we experience more. I think it’s peculiar how Jesus doesn’t say that the righteousness, in and of itself, is what satisfies; rather it’s the longing or “craving” for that righteousness. It’s not the behavior at which Jesus points our attention; it’s the desire.

In 2020, instead of focusing primarily on doing the right things, what if we ensured we were longing for the right(eous) things? C.S. Lewis hits on this idea when he says that we are “far too easily pleased.” He makes the case that the satisfaction we seek is weak and superficial in comparison to the satisfaction that Jesus offers–that satisfaction being Christ Himself. Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Him, because He has done the work that allows us to rest.

The essence of the Gospel is that Christ has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He is the righteousness for which we long. When our craving for satisfaction and fulfillment is redirected toward Christ Himself, we find fulfillment. To know Him, glorify Him, and grow in Him is to find true peace and rest.

Here are three practical ways we can train our hearts to hunger and thirst for righteousness:

Read Scripture
In theological terms, Scripture is God’s “special revelation” to us. It’s special. It has power. The Spirit of God works supernaturally through the reading of Scripture. It’s not only a historical account of how God redeems His people. It’s “living and active” in the 21st century to mold our hearts and intensify our longings for the Savior that has redeemed us and the Kingdom that is coming.

Come to Church
As Pastor Mike says, “The Church is the center of the Christian’s life, and Jesus is the center of the Church.” If we want to grow in our longing for righteousness and our desire to see Jesus glorified, we need to purposefully spend time with others who are pursuing the same things. Being in community with others not only enhances our walk, but also allows us to be an encourager in someone else’s walk. See you this weekend!

Spend Time in Prayer
Our longing and desire for righteousness is linked directly to our prayer life. Augustine, again, says it much better than I can:

The desire is thy prayers;
and if thy desire is without ceasing,
thy prayer will also be without ceasing.
The continuance of your longing
is the continuance of your prayer.

Our prayers are an opportunity to express our deepest longings. Devote yourself to prayer and see how God continues to enhance and intensify your longing for righteousness.

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