For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Philippians 2:13 NLT
I had the opportunity this morning to share with about 20 of our summer interns from the youth group at CCEsco. It’s always a great blessing to share with young disciples that are experiencing their first real exposure to God’s call upon their lives. I know, for me, that the three summers I spent as a youth intern at my church were incredibly formative. With that as a backdrop I’m excited to see how God transforms the minds, hearts and directions of these teens.
Philippians 2:13, the primary text we considered today, has been a “goto” passage for me for many of the last 10 years. Every semester at the bible college I meet students who are confronted with God’s call and challenged by what, or where, they are to go and do next. My question – which is also my answer – when they seek counsel on the call of God is always the same, “What do you want to do?” For some reason this question is initially bothersome to most. As I’ve talked with dozens of inquiring students in the last 7 years, I believe I’ve discovered the reason why [partly].
Sadly, we have disconnected our will, desire and enjoyment from God’s call and His glory in our lives. Pastor John Piper does a great job identifying this unfortunate reality in the first chapter of his book “Desiring God.” Over the last 12 years of vocational ministry I’ve witnessed these things work in perfect concert as God has directed my path. I have come to see that most often God directs me [first] by desire
Ok, so I anticipate an objection at this point. Yes, desires can be dangerous. My assumption is that the person seeking God’s will and direction is [hopefully] filtering their desires through the revealed will of God, in His word. A fool might say, “I desire to sleep with my girlfriend, ultimately God created me with this desire, He created a way in which I can satisfy this appetite. He must therefore be “ok” with me indulging.” No, God’s word is clear, the body is not for fornication (I have a teaching on this point if needed). The word of God is always our standard. My desires have to be measured by the character of Christ and His word. Adam Clarke was right when he said, “The godly man never indulges a desire which he cannot form into a prayer to God.”
The Psalms are full of verses that seem perfectly suited for greeting cards and calendars. Psalm 37:4 has found it’s way on to many of them (can you imagine the royalties King David is receiving in heaven?).
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4 KJV
As I’ve meditated upon this verse I’ve concluded that there are at least two ways to read it. The common way to read it is to say, “If you delight yourself in the Lord, then He will give you the things that you desire in your heart.” I certainly think this reading is correct, but I believe it’s equally valid to read it, “If you delight yourself in the Lord then He will place [new] desires into your heart.” Haven’t each of us experienced a shifting, if not a wholesale transforming of our desires as we have set ourselves to delight in God? God works in us to desire His good pleasure, and when we desire His good pleasure He delights to grant to us what we desire.
In walking with the Lord we are regularly confronted with crossroad decisions. It is at such intersections that we are challenged with the call and will of God. “God, what path do you want me to take?” In asking that question many times I have often sensed the Lord responding, “Which path do you want to take?”
Upon graduating from high school I, like so many, was confronted with such a junction. I was interested in photography and graphic-design, had a natural ability/talent with computers, and a desire to serve God in a church setting, especially with youth. Three doors stood before me. I knew that whichever one I proceeded through I’d find a way in the will of God to use it as a ministry. To be quite honest, I chose the door I liked the most and enrolled at Calvary Chapel Bible College.
A few months into my first semester at college I found myself faced with something of a dilemma. Bible College was great, the setting was beautiful, but I found that much of what I was learning I’d already received through the school of ministry at my home church. The problem was amplified by fact that I was hindered from being apart of body-life within a church while at the college. A new desire began to form in my heart.
Tuesday, November 17, 1998. That night is indelibly imprinted in my heart and mind. Pastor Jon Courson shared at lectures from Genesis 22, on the sacrifice of Isaac. During his message Pastor Jon said, “Perhaps the Lord has called you to leave the Bible College next semester.” Those words gripped my attention as he continued, “If the Lord tells you otherwise 3 days from now, make sure you listen.”
Five days later, following the Sunday services at my home church, myself and a friend from the college (Chuck) were invited to join the church staff as interns in the new year. As my desire met an open door I immediately chose to return to my home church. Chuck couldn’t understand how I could make such a quick decision without [apparently] praying about it.
The following day I was presented an alternate door when I was invited to join the internet services staff at the Bible College. Desire won out, I returned to CCEsco as a pastoral intern in January 1999. Since that time I have continually seen God work in this manner. The desire to teach at a foreign Bible College extension campus was met one year later by an open door serving under David Guzik in Siegen, Germany. The desire (given in 2002) to take over as the senior pastor of Calvary Escondido was met with an open door five years later.
In many ways I have come to expect that God will lead me by a desire, an open door and the resources or ability to do just what it is I desire, and all for His glory and pleasure. His glory and our joy are not mutually exclusive.