God wants our desire, not our doing
As humans, we are do-ers.
We take care of things and people. We have careers, jobs, and hobbies. We run companies and Bible studies, we manage households and calendars, we feed our families and our pets. We mow the lawn, we buy birthday gifts, we serve, and we do.
When we look to our God, we often come carrying that same attitude. What should I do, God? Where do you want me to volunteer? How can I get involved in church? How can I make other disciples? What should my quiet time look like?
This isn’t a new phenomenon of 2020. All throughout the gospels, we see people asking Jesus what to do. They approached Jesus the same way they would approach the rest of their life- making sure they were doing the right thing:
What do I need to do to be doing the works of God? (John 6:28-29)
What must I do to be saved? (John 16:30-31)
What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17)
As I read Jesus’ response to these questions and hear God’s heart throughout the Bible, I’m beginning to believe He isn’t concerned with our doing, but with our desire.
Feeding Him vs. Feeding on Him
Mary and Martha. This story is familiar to most Christians, but this year as I’ve read it, it hit me in a new and deeper way. I suppose I always saw two ways to interact with God, two different types of women- either you’re a Mary or a Martha. Either you’re good at rest, or you’re always busy, and that’s just who you are.
I’ve read one tiny little red book that messed up my life. Adoration by Martha Kilpatrick. In it, she helped me see that Mary and Martha aren’t two different types of people, it’s one choice we all have. Either we will be busy feeding God, or we will feed on him. Either we will be distracted with work, or we will sit in complete worship. Either we come with our own ideas, or we open our hands to complete surrender. Either we are in charge, or we weep at the feet of our master, our father. These two women give us a picture of the internal choice we all have.
If you re-read the story in Luke, you’ll see that Marty was literally serving the son of God. Literally. She was cooking for him and hosting him, she was welcoming his disciples and preparing her home. Can you imagine anything more important? We make jokes about the Queen of England stopping over your house- imagine if it was the creator of the universe!
But as she is running around and busy, she notices her sister is doing nothing. Mary is sitting next to Jesus, just listening. Not helping, not serving, not doing, just being. With frustration she turns toward Jesus and says “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Jesus didn’t say “Your working is important”, “Thank you for serving me”, or “I see how you’re giving to the kingdom”. He said ““You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
God doesn’t need our help, he wants our relationship. God doesn’t need our doing, he wants our desire. He isn’t looking externally at our actions and how hard we are “working” for the Kingdom, instead he looks at our motivation, our heart, and our hunger for Him. He doesn’t want our doing, he wants our desire.
God looks at our desire
As I go back and read in scripture all the places where people ask what to do, I’m shocked at Jesus’ answers. They aren’t about doing, but about internal thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and desires.
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
I’ve “known” this is true in the New Testament. While the first half of the Bible feels a lot more about doing, rules, and laws. But recently as I was reading in Romans I was BLOWN AWAY that the heard of desire, faith, and internal motivation was looked at, even in the Old Testament!
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.
Are you asking the right question?
Every time I talk about this new deeper knowing, enjoyment, and intimate relationship I’m enjoying with God, I am asked the same questions that we see over and over in the Bible.
Hannah, what did you do different?
Hannah, what does your quiet time look like now?
Hannah, what did you change so that you enjoyed time with God?
Hannah, what did you do?
Friends, it wasn’t a change in my quiet time that made me want more of God. Wanting more of God changed my quiet time. Wanting more of God changed my calendar. Wanting more of God changed my priorities. I didn’t have a “doing” problem that made my quiet time boring, I didn’t have a “doing” problem that made me prefer Netflix over time in my Bible. I had a desire problem.
We always have an outward response to our inward motivation. My inward motivations were fun and success. Everything in my life that I worked toward was to get to one of those goal posts. If it wasn’t fun and wasn’t advancing my career or making me look good, I wasn’t doing it. Literally.
This is why Psalm 73:25 became such a big deal in my heart and life as God started changing me- “There is nothing on earth I desire besides you”. Instead of fun and success, God started to change my heart and my desires for HIm. As my inward motivation was sculpted, my outward response dramatically changed.
I set down my serving, my volunteering, my “read the Bible in a year” plan, my small groups, and traded them for a lot of quiet time with God that no one sees and no one else benefits from. My desire has become God. My longing has become to be near to him.
A.W. Tozer says “You have exactly as much of God as you want”
This is why fasting was so big for me this past year. It wasn’t based in my doing- “God, look how much I’m giving up for you!” Instead it was “God, I am removing these things from my life. Will you fill me with desire for you instead?”
You know what’s funny? Remember what God said the greatest commandment is? Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That doesn’t sound like doing- that, my friend, is desire.