The word desire is a big one and determines whether a person will be saved or lost. In Genesis 3, one of the saddest chapters in the entire Bible, it is used twice. The chapter begins with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They could still be there except for the event that happened later in the chapter. While lingering around the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the devil, speaking through a serpent, acted the part of a salesman intent on selling Eve his product—sin. She fell for his seductive trick, and since that day he has been successful in recruiting millions of other salesmen throughout the world to seduce the masses and sell his product.
A good salesman knows there are just a few steps needed in securing a sale. First is to get the attention of the prospective customer. If they refuse to listen, then you are just wasting your time talking, but once you have their attention, they have to be convinced that they need the product. People very rarely buy something just because they need it. Need is not enough. After they are convinced that they need it, the third step in securing the sale is getting them to want it. If they desire it enough, they will buy it. Then, persuading them to take action on their desire is easy. There are many books on salesmanship describing these steps.
This was the tactic used by the devil to arouse in Eve a desire for his product. Sin in its raw form is not desirable, so to be successful in selling it, the devil had to disguise it by lying. The devil is the father of lies. He succeeded in creating in Eve such a desire for his product that she was willing to disobey God to get it.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6.
There are gigantic industries in the world today whose purpose is to get you to desire something enough so that you will be willing to disobey God to get it. It is the goal of the devil to destroy the Kingdom of Christ and bring grief to the heart of God by destroying His creation. He knows that if he can present sin in an attractive way and awaken the desire for it, he has his victim in his snare and another soul will be lost. The method he uses is tried and successful—he is a super salesman. The product sold is never named sin, only the good points are emphasized and always the consequences are withheld.
Think this through. Because sin is a product with deadly side effects that will bring death, pain, suffering, and all kinds of trouble in a person’s life, in order to sell it, you have to figure out some way to sugar-coat it to disguise the truth.
In II Thessalonians 2:8–12, Paul says, “Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie [that you can be saved in sin], that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
The two reasons these people are condemned is that they do not believe the truth and have pleasure in unrighteousness. What is unrighteousness? I John 5:17 says, “All unrighteousness is sin.” Simply said, people enjoy the pleasure of sin.
Eve very quickly lost the desire for what she was promised by the serpent when she saw the sad result of her choice. “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16. Immediately the freedom she experienced in her paradise home was lost. Her desire now was going to be controlled by her husband. She lost what she had by listening to the devil’s sales pitch and by allowing him to arouse in her a desire for something that God had forbidden. The devil continues today, successfully in a multitude of ways, to awaken a desire in individuals for something that God has said is bad, in order to secure their destruction.
The Creator knows His creatures. The Bible teaches that God knows your every desire. David said, “Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You.” Psalm 38:9.
Knowing each person intimately and the desire of every heart, God has the ability to gratify these desires. But you may ask, If God knows about my desires, why does He withhold them? I’ll give you six reasons.
Wrong Choices –
A person’s desire cannot be satisfied if that desire is wrong and they want an evil thing. That was Eve’s experience.
“The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away. The desire of the wicked shall perish.” Psalm 112:10. People desire evil things, and therefore their desires are not satisfied. Actually, one of the most awful things that could happen to a person is if God fulfilled their desire. But God knows what awful things would happen to you if He did give you your desires, so in mercy He withholds what you want. (See James 4:1–4.)
For some it is their desire to always be first. “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35.
This desire first manifests itself in the family and in the church when somebody wants to be in control. To those who want to be first, Jesus said that desire would not be gratified and they would be last. The devil wanted to control the angels, and it caused his expulsion from heaven. A study on the life of Jesus reveals that He who was in fact first, having all authority and power, gave it all up to demonstrate to us how we should live not wanting to control other people.
No one desiring to control another will be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said to His disciples, “You just have one Lord.” If we have only one Lord, what are we? Oh, somebody says, “I’m an elder in the church. I’m a deacon in the church. I’m a pastor. I’m an evangelist.” If you are a Christian, you are a servant, first of the Lord and then a servant of other people.
There are certain texts in the Bible that are often made prominent and others near them that are left out. One such example is Ephesians 5:22, 23. It says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church.” For some reason, when people read that, they never read verse 21, because it is telling you that every one of us is to be in submission to others around us. Somehow we forget that one!
Talking to the elders, Peter said, “Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; … Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” I Peter 5:3, 5.
Bondage to Traditions –
Some people are not satisfied, because they desire to be in bondage to human traditions and regulations.
“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Galatians 4:9. These people desire to be in bondage! In Colossians 2:20–22, Paul again addresses the very same subject: “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?”
This constitutes a large percentage of the world that wants to be controlled by the doctrines and the commandments of men, which are never satisfied. Being in subjection to tradition brings a bondage from which you can never get free or be satisfied. These people work constantly their whole life to get salvation and are never satisfied, because they are under bondage to human laws and traditions and the regulations of man. If you’ve died with Christ, you’ve been set free, so don’t bring yourself back into bondage.
Another reason that some desires are not satisfied can be found right within the Ten Commandments that were repeated by Moses just before the children of Israel entered into the land of Canaan. The tenth commandment says, “You shall not covet” [Exodus 20:17], or it could be translated, “You shall not desire.” The word covet means to desire something you don’t have. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Deuteronomy 5:21.
Here God mentions seven things that we are not to desire, and all of them have to do with something that belongs to somebody else. The devil knows human nature and is in the full-time business of getting people to want somebody else besides their own spouse, somebody else’s wife, somebody else’s husband or things belonging to others. Many people think that unless you actually go and physically commit adultery you are innocent, but the commandment says do not covet.
Long before an action takes place the heart covets—wanting somebody or something that does not belong to him or her but belongs to someone else. This is so important that God put it in as the tenth commandment. Covetousness is at the root of every sin that is committed—wanting something that God does not want you to have. That is exactly what happened to Eve, also to King David and to Judas. The devil is a master in his art of deception.
This is a huge problem in Christendom today and in the churches. Ellen White wrote about this: “How many, even in the ranks of Sabbathkeepers, are forming unsanctified connections. Men who have wives and women who have husbands are showing affection and giving undue attention to each other [persons of the opposite sex].
“The heart that loves Jesus will not desire the unlawful affections of another.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, 381. Now that is an interesting statement. I read that statement over and over and over. If I desire the unlawful affections of another, it means that I don’t love Jesus.
“The woman who receives the least manifestation of affection from a man who is the husband of another woman, shows herself to be in need of repentance and conversion. And the man who allows his wife to occupy the second place in his affections is dishonoring himself and his God. This thing is one of the signs of the last days. … Christ will take charge of the affections of those who love and honor God, causing them to center upon proper objects.” Ibid., vol. 10, 185, 186.
I need to tell you something. You and I do not have the power or the ability to control our own affections. We do not have the ability to control our thoughts, or our affections, or our passions. One only has that power. “Christ will take charge of the affections of those who love and honor God causing them to center upon proper objects.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 200. That is a promise you can claim. He, Christ, can control your affections so they don’t go out on improper objects. Desire has everything to do with whether you will be saved or lost.
Matthew 13:17 is a sad verse. It says, “Assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” These prophets and righteous men had a desire that was not satisfied in their lifetime. Because of sin, even righteous desires often cannot be gratified until a later time. In the resurrection these faithful ones will see how the plan of salvation unfolded while they slept. Only then will they see the Messiah and His ministry and be delighted.
Desires Granted –
If you belong to Jesus Christ, every righteous desire that you have will be gratified.
“Then the Pharisees and the Sadducees came, and testing Him [some translations say desired Him] asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Matthew 16:1. His reply was that their request, or their desire was not going to be granted (verses 2–4). What was their problem? Unbelief! There are some people that God wants to do wonderful things for, but He cannot do it because of their unbelief.
Jesus cannot honor unbelief. He cannot answer the prayers of a person who doesn’t believe. One example of this is found in Matthew 13:55–58. Jesus could not do many mighty things in Nazareth because of their unbelief.
Some people’s desires are not gratified because of their unbelief. What you need is to say, “Lord, I’m choosing to trust You. This is what I want, and I’m choosing to trust You that everything that I want, that is a righteous desire, You’re going to give it to me; maybe not now, but You’re going to give it to me.” God gives people what they want. “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.” Psalm 145:19. But look at what it says in verse 16: “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
That can be a very scary text if you demand of God something that in His wisdom He wants to withhold. He could give it to you with dire results! In the wilderness, God had put the children of Israel on a vegetarian diet. They bitterly complained about it and wanted flesh food to eat. They wanted it so bad that they were weeping, because they didn’t have any meat to eat. So God gave them their desire, and they were not deprived of their craving (Psalm 78:29). God gave them what they wanted, and many of them died as a result of eating it. Be careful what you want; you are going to get it!
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. You might have some desires in your heart that the Lord is going to give you in heaven that He can’t give you right now. Have you ever known people that prayed that the Lord would make them wealthy? I’ve seen the Lord answer those kinds of prayers. The more you see the Lord answer those kinds of prayers, the more scared you are, because Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24. Many people lose their Christianity once they become wealthy. Be careful what you pray for.
Those who are saved will be far wealthier than any could hope to be; maybe not in this life but in the world to come. Peter said to the lame man, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6.
It would always be wise to say, “Lord, this is what I want, but I want what You want.” Remember how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? He said, “This is what I want, but not what I will (want), but what You will (want)” (Luke 22:42, literal translation). The word will can also be translated want.
God’s Will –
God says, “I desire [want] mercy and not sacrifice.” Hosea 6:6. The man with leprosy came to Jesus and said, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached forth His hand and touched him, and said, “I want to.” (See Mark 1:40, 41.) God wants to have mercy and heal you from the leprosy of sin.
God wants you to become a partaker of His holiness. In His mercy He disciplines and chastens for our profit that we might be made “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Often the only way that can be achieved is by going through the trials and struggles that we don’t like. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
“And they shall call them The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:12.
Jesus said that there’s more gladness and rejoicing in heaven over one person that repents than over 99 people who don’t need repentance. (See Zephaniah 3:17; Luke 15:17.) God wants you to repent so that you can become holy. (See Acts 17:30.)
“For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.” Isaiah 5:7. God wants righteousness. He wants you to do what is right.
God wants you to help Him take care of His other children. (See Matthew 25:40–45.) Jesus will ask, Did you feed the hungry? Did you clothe the naked? Did you invite people that had no place to stay to your house? Did you visit the sick? Did you visit those in prison? Did you care about God’s other children? Ellen White, in The Desire of Ages, 825, describes the wrath of God and of the Lamb towards those who do nothing about those who are lost, using the illustration of how parents would feel if their son or their daughter was lost in a snowstorm and you, seeing it, did nothing to save that child.
What the Devil Wants
Jesus told Peter, “Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Luke 22:31, literal translation. Satan wants you too. Peter says, “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter 5:8. His only happiness is destroying souls that Jesus died for in order to bring grief to the heart of God. He is such a skillful tempter that without God intervening, not one of us would escape his deceptions. Pray, “Lord, please intervene in my life. I know I’ll never escape unless You work a miracle in my life.”
Your only safety is to implicitly follow divine instructions because the devil is on your track.
What Do You Want?
A careful self-examination of the desires of your heart defines whether you are saved or lost. We are not to judge each other, but we can judge ourselves by determining our desire. The Bible records the desire of many of the Bible characters.
- David said, “I want to know God.” Psalm 73:25
- Job said, “I want to reason with God. I want to have him explain my situation; I can’t figure it out.” Job 13
- The righteous want only what is good. Proverbs 11:23
People say, “I want Jesus to come.” But be ready, for the Bible says of the people who are not ready for His return, “Woe to you who desire the Day of the Lord!” Amos 5:18.
In Hebrews 6, Paul discusses that desire for the believers to reach spiritual perfection.
Wisdom and Understanding
This is worth more than anything to be desired. (See Proverbs 3:15; 8:11.) Seek it, desire it, and crave for wisdom and understanding. This is not as the world understands wisdom and understanding, but the wisdom that can only be acquired by studying the Word.
The Desire of all Nations
Jesus! Jesus came to this world in order that He might make a way clear so that His children could be taken to a better country. The Bible says in Hebrews 11 that all the saints who lived in past ages considered that they were just pilgrims and strangers on the earth desiring a better country. So God isn’t ashamed to be called their God. He’s going to take them to a better land where He has prepared for them a city.
What do you desire today? Are you looking at what others have, or are you seeking a better land? Remember, Jesus said that if we commit our lives to Him, He will take charge of all our affections.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.