The Power of Intense Desire
THE POWER OF INTENSE DESIRE
Mark 10:51 – And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Christianity is not an invitation to become a moral person. It is not a program for getting us in line or for reforming society. It has a powerful effect upon our lives, but when transformation comes, it is always the AFTER-EFFECT of something else, something at the level of our hearts.
At its core, Christianity begins with an invitation to DESIRE.
What is “desire”? According to the dictionary, it is defined as “a wish; a longing expressed with a wish.”
In our key text, the question Jesus posed to blind Bartimaeus was – “What do you WANT?”
That’s the way Jesus relates to people – he is continually taking them into their hearts, to their deepest desires.
Augustine said, “Longing is the heart’s treasury.”
Jesus stirred blind Bartimaeus’ desire and deep longing to the surface and when Bartimaeus expressed his deep desire to see, Jesus healed his blind eyes.
This morning, I want to talk about desire, specifically, ‘THE POWER OF INTENSE DESIRE’.
George Eliot said, “It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good and we must hunger for them.”
But what if we’ve lost the desire to hunger for the beautiful and the good? Then it is a tragedy.
(I) THE TRAGEDY OF A LOST DESIRE
I would like to illustrate the tragedy of a lost desire through a parable:
Illustration: Once upon a time there lived a sea lion who had lost the sea. He lived in a country known as the barren lands. High on a plateau, far from any coast, it was a place so dry and dusty that it could only be called a desert. A kind of coarse grass grew in patches here and there and a few trees were scattered across the horizon. But mostly, it was dust. And sometimes wind, which together make one very thirsty. Of course, it must seem strange to you that such a beautiful creature should wind up in a desert at all. He was, mind you, a sea lion. But things like this do happen. How the sea lion came to the barren lands, no one could remember. It all seemed so long ago. So long, in fact, it appeared as though he had always been there. Not that he belonged in such an arid place. How could that be? He was, after all, a sea lion. But as you know, once you have lived so long in a certain spot, no matter how old, you come to think of it as home.
Something awful has happened, something terrible. Something worse, even than the fall of man. For in the greatest of all tragedies, we merely lost Paradise- and with it, everything that made life worth living. What has happened since is unthinkable: We’ve gotten used to it. We’re broken in to the idea that this is just the way things are. The people who walk in great darkness have adjusted their eyes. Regardless of our religious or philosophical beliefs, most of us live as though this life is pretty much the way things are supposed to be.
Think with me for a moment. How has life turned out differently from the way you thought it would? If you are single, did you want to be? If you are married, is this the marriage you hoped for? Do you long to have children, or in having them, are you delighted with the course they’ve chosen for their lives? Your friendships – are they rich and deep and lasting as you want? When the holidays roll around, do you look forward with eager anticipation to the time you’ll spend with the people in your life? And afterward, as you pack away the decorations and clean up the mess, did the reality match your expectations? How about your work, your place in the world – do you go to bed each night with a deep sense of having made a lasting contribution? Do you enjoy ongoing recognition for your unique success? Are you even working in a field that fits you? Are you working at all? Now, what if I told you that this is how it will always be, that this life as you now experience it will go on forever just as it is, without improvement of any kind? Your health will stay as it is; your finances will remain as they are, your relationships, your work, all of it. IT IS HELL.
By the grace of God, we cannot quite pull it off. In the quiet moments of the day we sense a nagging within, a discontent, a HUNGER, A DESIRE for something else. But because we have not solved the riddle of our existence, we assume that something is wrong – not with life, but with us. Everyone else seems to be getting on with things. What’s wrong with me? We feel guilty about our chronic disappointments.
The secret that begins to solve the riddle of our lives is simply this: we are the sea lion who lost the sea. Life as usual is not the life we truly want. It is not the life we truly need. It is not the life we were made for. If we would only listen to our hearts, to what G.K Chesterton called our “divine discontent”, we would learn the secret of our existence.
We must return to the journey. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we must pick up the trail and follow the map that we have at hand. DESIRE, both the whispers and the shouts, is the map we have been given to find the only life worth living. You may think you are following the map of desires when all you are doing is serving it slavishly, unthinkingly. It is not the same.
Many people have abandoned the journey of DESIRE. They have lost heart. They are camped in places of RESIGNATION or INDULGENCE or TRAPPED IN PRISONS OF DESPAIR. Life provides any number of reasons and occasions to abandon desire. Certainly, one of the primary reasons is that it creates for us our deepest dilemmas. To desire something and not to have it- is this not the source of nearly all our pain and sorrow?
But there are 4 bible characters who dare to embark on the journey of desire and hunger what God has in store for them. They would not accept the status quo of a fallen life. They press in with great intensity and tenacity in their desire for the highest inheritance they know that God has in store for them. Because they dare to intensely desire even at the expense of disappointment and criticism, they change their tragedy to triumph and their burden to blessing.
(II) THE 4 PEOPLE WHO HAVE INTENSE DESIRE
Let’s study how the power of intense desire changes these 4 groups of people:
Genesis 32: 24-30 (NIV) – So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
After Jacob sent off his family and herds, he was left alone.
Twenty years before, Jacob had met the Lord when he was alone at Bethel and now God graciously came to him again in his hour of need.
God meets us at whatever level He finds us in order to lift us to where He wants us to be.
Jacob had spent most of his adult life wrestling with people. He had contended for the birthright and had succeeded (Gen 25:29-34); he had contended for the blessing and succeeded (Gen 27); he had contended with Laban and succeeded (Gen 31). He had contended with ‘men’ and succeeded. Now he contended with God, the Wrestler and failed.
Jacob had arranged everything for meeting and appeasing his brother Esau. Now, God is going to take him in hand and order all things for him. To learn this lesson and take this low place before God, Jacob must be humbled. He must be lamed as to his own strength and made to limp. Jacob’s new name was to be henceforth the constant reminder to him that he had learned and was never to forget this lesson; that it was not he who was to order and arrange his affairs but God; and his new name, “Israel”, henceforth to be, him that “God commandeth.” As Jacob the supplanter (the deceiver) he had “prevailed” but now as Israel God would command and prevail.
When the hollow of Jacob’s hip was touched by God and rendered helpless, all Jacob could do was CLING. The angel said to him in verse 26- “Let me go, for the day breakth. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” With the seat of his strength being touched, he learnt to say, “I will not let thee go; I have no other refuge now; I cling my helpless soul to thee.”
It is not until we fully realize our own helplessness and nothingness that we are brought to cling to God and really DESIRE His blessing. Jacob fought in his weakness. Encouraged by his new name, Jacob was emboldened to ask, “Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him’ (V29). Such grace! Relentless grace – crippling grace – transforming grace – and now a gracious blessing.
Jacob’s life is the story of relentless grace – tenacious grace, contending grace, intrusive grace, renovating grace. Tenacious in that it would not let him go. Contending as it was always battling for his soul. Intrusive because it would not be shut out. Renovating because it gives him a new limp and a new name.
Jacob refused to accept the consequences of his supplanting and manipulative character. After God had wrestled and broken him, he still dared to desire for the divine blessing. Today, he is known as one of patriarchs of OT. He is the one whom God declares, “Esau I hate but Jacob I love.” His patriachal blessing was given because he intensely desired for God’s blessing. His faith and his desire release the power of God to change him from a supplanter to a prince and even averting an imminent crisis of murder.
So many of us are like Jacob today. We struggle independently of the God whom we believe and love. We want to be part of his plan but alas, we make our own plans – and we never truly succeed. Then a crisis comes through which He lays his hand upon us (life becomes so dislocated – out of joint) and we have an appalling sense of our own incompetence and weakness. This is the great hour – the hour of grace, because from there on our walk is never the same. It is the momentous time for you to capitalize your crisis and dare to desire intensely for the grace of God – to change your hopeless situation into a blessing.
Because Jacob dared to press in with intense desire for God’s blessing despite his obnoxious and manipulative character, he experienced the power of transformation.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)-Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I have given birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
Jabez was one of the descendants of Ashur and he had a big problem: his name. His mother, going through extraordinary labor pains, named her poor baby “Pain.” This is what “Jabez” sounds like in Hebrew and the child was stuck with this label.
In our culture we treat names as irrelevant and disposable. We generally do not believe that a person’s name is important or significant. But not so in Jabez’s day. Names were thought of as summing up a person’s central character.
So Jabez came into the world as the “man of pain,” According to ancient beliefs, pain should have been his destiny. But Jabez did not resign himself to the fate inflicted on him by his name. We do not know how pious Jabez was, but we do read that he was more honorable than his brothers and that he knew to turn to God as the solution to his problem. He cried out to God and pleaded with God to turn aside the life foreshadowed by his name. He asked boldly for God’s blessing and entreated the Lord to turn aside any harm that could result in pain. And God granted his request.
Jabez’s prayer was not particularly profound; he asked for land and to be kept from pain that he believed his name would bring him. What makes this little episode so important is not so much WHAT he prayed as THAT he prayed. He was not afraid to turn to God with his most deeply felt longings and to state them in a straightforward way. One does not get the feeling that Jabez checked whether his prayer was proper; he went right to God’s throne with what was on his mind. This is prayer in its truest, fullest sense – the unscripted and spontaneous cry of the child of God before the Heavenly Father.
Jabez’s prayer should be an example to us. The simple story of Jabez shows us a man who felt in distress and turned directly to God. What is most striking about his prayer is its directness. Jabez had certain desires, and he put them before the Lord exactly as he felt them.
Christians should never be afraid to go directly to God with their requests exactly as they need them. God is our Heavenly Father and we have a direct relationship with him as sons and daughters. We should always feel free to express ourselves to him even if we think our requests are silly, self-centered or even wrong. God knows what we are thinking. We will not shock him by coming to him with our innermost feelings.
Just as Jabez prayed from within his own life and situation, so should we. Each person is accountable to the Lord for the specific role in life to which God has called him. This is the Christian doctrine of vocation. Each person, regardless of what station in life he occupies, has a calling from God. We should never make another person’s experience or calling the standard by which we measure ourselves, no matter how appealing the other person’s life may look. Our measuring stick is God’s call for us, not other people.
This doctrine of vocation applies to Jabez as well. God responded to his prayer and increased his land.
What did you inherit from your parents? Pain like Jabez? And worse are your parents expecting you to end up like their lives in pain? For some, your pain comes in the form of a dishonorable birth – you are an illegitimate child; you are child of a kerida or a prostitute or a single mom. There is reproach surrounding your birth.
Many of us today are living in the reproach of our background [you are an illegitimate child/an abandoned child/an adopted child], our financial status [your family is the poorest in the barangay] and even family’s occupation [your mother is a prostitute/your father a criminal or drunkard]; your educational attainment [you are not even a high school graduate]; your vocation [you are jobless/you are a manual worker and not a professional] and marital status [you are nearing 40 and still single/divorcee/single parent].
I notice that reproach can even come to those from a rich family. Sometimes I see guys shunning away from ladies from distinguished family because the guys feel they can’t measure up to their riches or even ethnic group.
Recently, Singapore released a statistical finding – it shows two categories of people unable to get married in Singapore: Female graduates from the Universities of Singapore and Male Singaporeans who do not have a high school diploma. These are the reproaches the society heap on us.
What are the reproaches that you are inheriting from your parents, your society and your country that is causing so much pain in your life?
Jabez’s pain was his birth and his mother expected him to live out his life in pain. But he intensely desired that God remove this reproach and bless him instead. He expressed that desire candidly in prayer and God heard him and blessed him.
Because Jabez dared to press in with intense desire for God’s blessing despite his painful background, he experienced the power of the removal of his reproach.
3. THE WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE OF BLOOD
Mark 5:25-29 (NLT)- A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I only just touch his robe, I will be healed. Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.
Here is the third bible character who shows divine discontent over the lot of her life – a sickness that drains her physically and financially. She intensely desired for a change in her situation. She was aware of a better condition available. The Bible tells us in verse 27- “She had heard about Jesus.”
Not only that, she knew what action to take- “For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed” (Verse 28).
But the action she had to take involves sacrifices- she might be punished as an unclean woman (because of her bleeding as well as gender) for touching a male and she had to press in through the crowd –“When she heard of Jesus, came in the PRESS behind, and touched his garment” (KJV) Notwithstanding the risks, her intense desire for a change propelled her to press in, touch the robe of Jesus and she was healed.
Is there a significant dissatisfaction with the current reality of your life? Are you sick and tired of a physical sickness that is draining you physically and financially? Or for some, are you “bleeding” profusely for a long time, spiritually, financially, mentally and emotionally? Deep down you know there is more than this to your life. You have been listening to many sermons about Jesus. But today, you don’t want just another sermon. You have this intense desire for a CHANGE in your situation and you want to press in to touch Jesus. You know deep in your heart, that one touch will heal you of your bleeding.
Because the woman with the issue of blood dared to desire intensely for God’s blessing despite all the social and religious taboo, she experienced the power of healing.
4. THE FOUR FRIENDS OF THE PARALYTIC MAN
Mark 2:1-5, 10-11 (NIV)- A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, brining to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”…….He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
There are times we don’t have a desire for a change in our lives. It takes the intense desire of our good friends to press in for us for God’s blessing and such is the case of this fourth example – the 4 friends of the paralytic man.
We are told that Jesus was preaching in a house at Capernaum and a big crowd gathered there to hear him preach. Four friends carrying the mat with their paralytic friend on it, couldn’t enter. So they entered by the roof. Houses had flat roofs that were easily accessible by means of an outside stairway. It would not be difficult to remove the tiles, laths and grass that comprised the roof and make an opening large enough to fit their friend through on his mat.
We must admire several characteristics of these 4 friends, qualities that ought to mark us as “fishers of men”. For one thing, they were deeply concerned about their paralytic friend and wanted to see him helped. They had the faith to believe that Jesus could and would meet his need. They did not simply “pray about it” but they put some feet to their prayers and they did not permit the difficult circumstances to discourage them. They worked together and dared to do something different and Jesus rewarded their effort. How easy it would have been for them to say, “Well, there is no sense trying to get to Jesus today! Maybe we can come back tomorrow.” No! They pressed in for the touch of Jesus on behalf of their friend.
When our Lord saw the paralytic being lowered to the floor, he went to the heart of the man’s problem – sin. Not all sickness is caused by sin but evidently this man’s condition was the result of his disobedience to God. Even before He healed the man’s body, Jesus spoke peace to the man’s heart and announced that his sins were forgiven. Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need; it costs the greatest price; and it brings the greatest blessing and the most lasting results. Of course, a while later after the pronouncement of God’s forgiveness, Jesus healed the paralytic man.
Sometimes your friends have no desire to return to God because of their sins. They are too ashamed to come back to this church. But you, as their friend, have a deep concern for their condition. You know they are paralyzed in life, whether figuratively or literally, because of sin. Do you have the qualities like those 4 men – to put your concern into action, to do something differently and unitedly with other friends of yours, to carry your friend nearer to the Lord? Even if there are obstacles along the way, do you dare to try new ways and new things just to get your friend near the feet of Jesus? You all have many friends from this church who have fallen away from God because of sin. Today, they are not doing well outside. They are paralyzed. They need to hear the pronouncement from Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven, so that they can be made whole again in their lives.” What are you doing for all these fallen and sinful friends of yours?
Because the four friends of the paralytic man dared to desire intensely for God’s blessing, despite the spiritual problem of their friend and the circumstantial obstacle, the sick friend experienced the power of God’s forgiveness and restoration.
Let me end my message today by continuing the story of the sea lion:
Illustration: Had you journeyed in those days through the barren lands, you might have seen the sea lion for yourself. Quite often in the evening, he would go and sit upon his favorite rock, a very large boulder, which lifted him off the burning sand and allowed him a view of the entire country. There he would remain for hours into the night, silhouetted against the sky. And on the best nights, when the wind shifted to the east, a faint smell of salt air would come to him on the breeze. Then he would close his eyes and imagine himself once more at the sea. When he lay himself down to sleep, he would dream of a vast, deep ocean. Twisting and turning, diving and twirling, he would swim and swim, and swim. When he woke, he thought he heard the sound of breakers. The sea was calling to him.
This morning, God’s blessing is calling to you. Don’t settle and resign to your present state of life – a disjointed life like Jacob, a painful life like Jabez, a draining life like the woman with the issue of blood and a sinful and paralyzed life like the paralytic. Let Desire awaken your faith and hope in Christ. Let Desire push you nearer to Christ. Let Desire propels you to cling on to God like Jacob, to cry out to God like Jabez, to touch Jesus’ robe like the woman with an issue of blood and to break through the roof of Jesus like the 4 friends. Then the blessing of transformation, the removal of reproach due to your birth and background, healing and the forgiveness of sin will dawn upon you. We are not meant for the arid land. We are meant for the sea. DARE TO DESIRE! AND DESIRE IT INTENSELY!
END OF SERMON
SERMON OF PAS LILY.
PREACHED AT EFC IC 1ST SV ON 22 MAY 2011