Over the years, I have observed many things in my children. They love to be tickled. They love to have piggyback rides. They love to laugh. They love animals. They love their grandparents. One time when Nana and Papa were coming to visit, Ayva’s anticipation of their arrival was so great that it spilled over into her telling me, “Dad, right now I love Nana and Papa more than you.” If I know anything about my girls, it’s that they both love deeply and passionately.
Another thing I’ve noticed, and this could be about any child, is that they clearly don’t recognize the difference between need and want. To this day, both of my daughters think we need a puppy. They think we need popcorn and marshmallows in the house. But hopefully, we adults know that the difference between need and want is miles apart. I need to lose weight. I want chocolate cake. These two are opposed in order to make me miserable.
Any responsible parent teaches their children the difference between needs and wants and tries to instill in them the concept of prioritizing. Hopefully we are instructing them to pay their bills before buying goodies. In church we teach that God is more concerned with my needs than my wants, and that seems to be true. God usually gives us what we need instead of what we want.
Give us this day our daily bread
In fact, when it comes to God, we are need driven. Jesus even leads us this direction when he modeled for us how to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). We sing songs in church, “I Need Thee Every Hour” or “Lord, I Need You” and these songs speak of our utter lack of power to defend ourselves against temptation or to be righteous before a holy God. God saves us, keeps us, defends us, sanctifies us, and will one day resurrect us completing his work to redeem us. We need Him to do all of these things on our behalf because we are powerless.
Earlier today I was sitting, praying, with the room around me darkened. This particular time I began with a confession to Jesus that I need him. Honestly, I felt a bit dispirited. Inexplicably, I had a feeling of, “What am I doing here?” So I dove into my prayers crying out, “Jesus, I need you!” The Holy Spirit stopped me mid-sentence. In that moment it became clear to me. Saying that I need Jesus (or any of us) is stating a fact; it’s like saying fire is hot, or that water is wet. And Jesus was telling me that is where I have lived far too long – in the realm of fact.
Think about it, if my relationship with anyone were purely factual, that relationship would be rather cold. I would know plenty about the person in question. I would even know that it is beneficial for other people to befriend this person because of the benefits of friendship. But it’s almost as if my testimony about that person was based entirely on what I had observed that person do in the lives of others.
“I know you need me. You know you need me. But do you want me?”
This is where I found myself this morning. So when the Holy Spirit stopped me, he said to me, “I know you need me. You know you need me. But do you want me?” My immediate response was, “Of course!” But as the meaning of that question sank in, I buckled under the weight of the conviction. I know beyond any doubt that I need Jesus. I need him in everything. I need him to even hold the very fibers of my being together (Colossians 1:17). But the question before me penetrated deeper than needs. It went straight to desire. Do I want Jesus? Do I desire him? Or does my want for chocolate cake take . . . the cake?
Needs may portray our utter weakness, but wants portray what we love dearest.
We tend to minimize wants, but I think Jesus is actually very concerned about our wants. Why? Needs may portray our utter weakness, but wants portray what we love dearest. You may know all the facts about Jesus Christ, all the facts about the Gospel, and you may have even believed them by faith and was saved. But your wants give insight into how much you have surrendered to Christ.
Can you, along with the psalmist, say, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8)? Delight is no small matter to the Lord. He said to his own people that if they could not serve him gladly then he would hand them over to their enemies (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).
Therefore the most important question for everyone who believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ is this: is there anything in my life that I want more than Jesus Christ? And here is where I found myself this morning. For all the sermonizing, all the preaching, all the flapping of my mouth I have done about loving Jesus more than I love my sin, I still have wants that compete with Jesus.
I want to be debt free. I fight the temptation to buy lottery tickets. I fight the temptation to cheat on my taxes. What do I want more: to obey Jesus and be honest in how I gain wealth and pay debt, or take a route that might be quicker but unethical or unlawful?
I want to be well thought of and respected. I fight the temptation to look good and please people. Do I want Jesus more than dignity and respectability?
Those are just two.
What does your list of wants look like? Do you want Jesus more than anything? Does your desire for Jesus change all the other wants in your life? It should. Many of the wants that the Holy Spirit showed me this morning weren’t bad things, but elevated above Jesus and they become very bad things. My prayer for myself and for you today is that our desires would be transformed and that Jesus would take his place as someone we not only need but someone we deeply want.