What Do You Want?
By NANCY PATRICK
I have recently mentioned that my church, First Baptist Abilene, has an interim pastor while the church seeks a new senior pastor to fill the position vacated by Dr. Phil Christopher last fall. Our interim, Dr. Matt Cook, works for an organization called The Center for Healthy Churches. Among many aspects of church needs, the Center helps churches transition between pastors.
Although these transitional times can present difficulties within a congregation, I happily report that our church has done extremely well during this interim period. Matt has served in various capacities during his career, but during this time in his life, he has blessed me and our church. God blessed him with a personality that complements almost any group of people.
You know how some people can enter just about any situation and make everyone feel comfortable? Matt fits that description well. In spite of his being a biblical scholar, he never puts on airs to advertise his intelligence. Rather, he speaks to us as equals, and somehow, he seems to perceive our spiritual needs as he preaches insightful sermons each Sunday.
A recent sermon planted some nagging thoughts in my mind. It made me question my life, my choices, my values, my goals, my attitudes, and every other aspect of my spiritual life. The sermon focused on John 1: 35-42, specifically the question Jesus asked some disciples whom he spotted following him. He looked at them and asked, “What do you want?”
That question seems quite broad on its face. What do you want—food, job, house, car, family, status, or something else? As the story unfolds, Jesus’ purpose in his question becomes clearer. The disciples avoid answering by asking Jesus an unrelated question about his lodging. Jesus simply replies, “Come and you will see.”
With that invitation, the disciples went with Jesus the Rabbi and Teacher and spent the entire afternoon learning at his feet. We can imagine the content of the afternoon’s discussion by the disciples’ immediate reaction of going to tell others they had found the Messiah.
We don’t know if the disciples ever answered Jesus’ question, “What do you want?” We do, however, know that He gave them what they needed, and that became what they wanted. This story struck me because I don’t know what I would say if Jesus asked me, “What do you want?”
I would like very much to say, “I want you, Lord.” My problem is that my reality does not always correspond with my ideal. I remember once reading The Helper, a book by Catherine Marshall, in which she details a long battle with tuberculosis. She describes how she diligently prayed for healing, promised God all sorts of sacrifices, and became frustrated with God because he would not give her what she wanted—healing.
After struggling three years to find health, Marshall finally surrenders to God by accepting her disease and her life with it. She then goes on to explain how that surrender taught her the primary lesson about the Christian faith. The answer to the question “What do you want?” must be “Jesus.” If we want peace and satisfaction in our lives, we must want God above all else in the world.
As I thought about my own desires, I discovered that I had a long list of things I want or wanted, and God was not on it. I don’t mean that I don’t want God—I want Him in addition to many other aspects of my total life.
Matt told a story about a man who was offered the position of president of a college. One of his friends asked him why he would want the job, and the man began a long list of reasons he would not like the job. His friend interrupted and reminded the man to answer the question about why he would want the job. After contemplation, the potential president said he would want it for status in the community.
I think we can easily see why the man should not accept the job. His motivation was a shallow, selfish desire for prominence. My list? I won’t divulge the details because I am too ashamed to admit them. Most of them relate to my desire to control my life and the lives of those I love.
Rather than wanting what I have, I often want to change what I have—to tweak it into exactly what I want. In other words, I have spent a large portion of my life being ungrateful because many things did not turn out the way I had planned.
Matt’s sermon has convicted me of my ingratitude and arrogance as I pondered my answer to Jesus’ question, “What do you want?” Psalm 23 states, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the biblical context, “want” does not mean “desire”; rather, it means “do without.”
I have so many blessings—solid family, good health, abundance of material blessings, and opportunities to seek God’s direction for my life. I never do without because God supplies my true needs. A beautiful song entitled “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad may bless you as it has me. Listen carefully to the lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5xEYgGr6ms.
In our materialistic world, people can easily become sidetracked to focus on things that do not matter to God. Just as God wants me, he wants all of us. In return, he desires that we want him with our whole beings.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing