Created To Crave God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I was playing golf with a pastor and a missionary when the starter asked if a single player could join us to make a foursome. We happily agreed. About 4-5 holes into our game, our guest asked what we did. My pastor friend started out, “I’m a pastor, and this guy is a missionary, and—” 

Our guest interrupted and blurted out, “You guys are Christians?! I’ve never had so much fun! I always heard Christians were boring.” 

When did it come about that people thought of Christians as boring—or even worse, as sourpusses and killjoys? Sadly, too many Christians have helped cement this idea in people’s minds. I think this is largely because those Christians are misinformed and frustrated. This frustration, I believe, comes from the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to squelch any urges or cravings that we have.  

But check out this Q&A from the Westminster Catechism—

Q: What is the chief end of man? 

A: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 

Glorifying God is supposed to result in enjoyment—enjoying both God’s presence and the life He has given us. We are created to crave the fuel of His Spirit that satisfies and energizes us. 

Just as your car would at best under-perform if you attempted to run it with anything else but gasoline, so our lives will under-perform and feel like drudgery if we are trying to fuel our cravings with anything other than God. 

The dictionary defines “craving” as a great or eager desire, or a yearning. But I believe the Bible defines God-honoring craving as the longing for an intimate relationship with God that is implanted by God Himself. 

The people of Judah had gone astray from God and were trying to satisfy their urges with foreign gods and pagan idolatry. When King Asa called these backsliders back to God, here’s how he did it—

[Asa] commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers—to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity—and to obey the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4 AMP) 

Contrast this with the temporary cravings of earth—

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish, useless, godless, and hurtful desires… (1 Timothy 6:9 AMP) 

This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17 NLT). 

Nowhere are godly cravings and earthly cravings better contrasted than in James 4:1-6. 

In this passage, the Greek word for desires (v. 1) and pleasures (v. 3) is hedone. This is where we get our English word “hedonism.” There is nothing wrong with pleasure—for God Himself takes pleasure—but it’s what pleasures we are craving that can make them ungodly. James rightly points out that the wrong hedonism is a craving to fulfill “your desires,” “your pleasures,” and to desire “friendship with the world” (v. 1, 3, 4)

Jesus talked about worldly cravings—using the same word hedone—when He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [hedone], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14). 

Notice the same thing in Isaiah 58:2 where God declares that people “seem eager” to delight in God, but it’s only a show for them to satisfy fleshly cravings. John Piper noted, “God means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.” 

Instead, notice the fulfilled cravings when we seek God: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14). 

I like that reminder that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The origin of the word craving is the Old Norse word krefja, which means to lay claim on something because of a promise. God has promised, and so we can claim it. 

James assures us that the spirit God implanted in us envies intensely (James 4:5). We were made to crave God’s presence, we were made to find ultimate satisfaction in His presence, we were made to find eternal delight in knowing Him more intimately! 

The proud person says, “God, I know what I want. Give it to me.” The humble person says, “God, I know Your presence is the only thing that will satisfy me. Give it to me.” 

The craving in our spirit can be redirected from earthly yearnings to God-honoring yearnings by yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would humbly suggest that our prayer should be something like this—

“Father, grant that my cravings are for Your name to be hallowed, Your kingdom to be made visible, and Your will to be done. Let the enjoyment I have in Your presence shine out of me in a way that invites others to be dissatisfied with their earthly cravings and find their ultimate satisfaction in a personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, continue to refine and redirect all of my cravings away from earthly things to eternal pleasures. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Craving, you can find all of the sermons by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Our Healer

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

God Our Healer

O Lord my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me. O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. (Psalm 30:2-3) 

     God is the best Physician, even for our bodily infirmities. We do very wickedly and foolishly when we forget God. It was a sin in Asa that he trusted physicians and not God (2 Chronicles 16:12). If we must have a physician, let it be so, but still let us go to our God first of all. And above all remember that there can be no power to heal in medicine of itself; the healing energy must flow from the divine hand. …

     If our watch is out of order, we take it to the watchmaker; if our bodies or souls are in an evil plight, let us resort to Him who created them, who has unfailing skill to put them in right condition. As for our spiritual diseases, nothing can heal these evils but the touch of the Lord Christ: if we do but touch the hem of His garment, we shall be made whole….

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

God has created us as a soul with a body. I believe that physical ailments can be attended to by a medical doctor, emotional distress should be addressed by a counselor, and spiritual issues should have the wisdom of a pastor. 

But let’s always remember that since God created our body, soul, and spirit, He is the Ultimate Source of wisdom for any areas that are out of alignment. So as Spurgeon says, seek out a doctor, counselor, or pastor, but go to God first. 

God may bring divine healing that requires no other intervention, or He may heal through medicine or counseling, but ultimately He is THE Healer.

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Halfway Leaders Become Evil Leaders

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:2).

Notice the contradictions in Amaziah’s life and leadership: 

obeyed God’s law (v. 4)
🚫disobeyed God’s law (v. 14)

trusted that God would give success to the army of Judah (v. 5)
🚫supplemented his army with mercenaries from Israel (v. 6)

listened to the prophet God sent to him (vv. 7-10)
🚫ignored the prophet God sent to him (vv. 15-16)

trusted God (vv. 9-10)
🚫turned to idols (v. 14)

Sadly, the “not wholeheartedly” leader usually ends up just like other leaders that God calls “evil” (vv. 22-24, 27). 

Bottom line: there is no such thing as a halfway leader in God’s eyes. There is only following God or rebelling against God—all leaders must choose one or the other.

A mark of a godly leader is one who consistently chooses to follow God wholeheartedly.

This is part 55 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Finishing Well Is Better

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The land was at peace… (2 Chronicles 14:6).

King Asa started out so well. The beginning of his reign could best be described by the word “peace”:

  • The land was at peace 
  • No one was at war with him 
  • The Lord gave him rest 
  • “[God] has given us rest on every side”  
  • The Lord his God was with him

When Cush attempted to attack the nation of Judah, Asa called on God: “Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. … Do not let mere mortals prevail against You” (14:11). God gave Asa a great victory over Cush, and other God-fearing people from Israel began flocking to Judah “when they saw that the Lord his God was with [Asa]” (15:9). 

This peace lasted for 35 years!

And then came one poor decision from which Asa never recovered. 

The king of Israel began to make preparations for war against Judah. Instead of calling on God as he did when Cush was preparing to attack, Asa reverted to political maneuvering. He sent a bribe to a rival nation, enticing them to attack Israel. 

The prophet Hanani told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (16:9). 

From “the land was at peace” to “from now on you will be at war” came about because Asa…

  • …trusted his own ingenuity instead of relying on God 
  • …calculated his odds instead of calling on his God 
  • …forgot about God’s past provision 
  • …refused to confess his sin and repent from it, even when the prophet called him out
  • …utterly abandoned his God (16:2-12) 

Starting well is good, but finishing well is far better! 

A mark of a godless leader is one who refuses to confess and repent from his sin. 

Asa’s refusal to admit his sin resulted in the end of his life being spent afflicted with disease and his country being surrounded and oppressed by enemies. 

This is part 54 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

King And Commoner

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… (Ezra 1:1). 

Ezra begins as 2 Chronicles ends: with the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. 

The Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, who were then defeated by the Medes, who were themselves defeated by the Persians under Cyrus II. This was a powerful man who claimed “all the kingdoms of the earth” as his possession. (v. 2). 

Yet this conquering king who was called Cyrus the Great had his heart directed by God. 

Among the Israelite exiles that returned to Jerusalem were princes, priests, Levites, servants, and common people of every stripe. These exiles were rulers of nothing. 

Yet these people also had their hearts moved by God (v. 5)—42,360 of them, to be precise. 

The same God who moved the heart of the most powerful king on earth also moved the hearts of common people. God had a plan to fulfill and He knew exactly which hearts to move at the precise time to bring about His purpose. God is sovereignly in control. All of history—including all the people in history—is His story. 

The king is not too powerful and the common citizen is not too small to be used by God. 

Let me make that statement more personal: All of the “great” people on earth today are not too powerful to be used by God, nor are you too small to be used by Him. 

Will you say “yes” when He moves your heart to action?

It’s Not About Me

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… (2 Chronicles 32:1). 

After three very long chapters outlining Hezekiah’s faithfulness to obey God and restore worship in the temple, how would you expect this sentence to be completed: 

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… 

  • …God gave Hezekiah abundant blessings”? 
  • …Hezekiah never had any problems”?
  • …all of Hezekiah’s enemies were afraid of him”? 

Actually, the full sentence says, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” 

What?! That doesn’t seem fair! 

Shouldn’t it be something like, “If I do these good things then God will do good things for me”? Or even, “If bad guys do bad things then God will do bad things to them”? 

But this wasn’t about Hezekiah. It wasn’t even about Sennacherib. It was about God’s glory. 

Jonah had delivered God’s message of judgment on Nineveh and the people had repented. But then they had begun to backslide from that. God was mercifully giving them another chance to repent. Sennacherib felt he was invincible and didn’t need to turn to Yahweh. So God had to demonstrate “with [Sennacherib] is only the arm of flesh” (vv. 8, 10-19). 

God’s judgment fell, Sennacherib was assassinated, Judah was delivered, and God was glorified (vv. 21-23). 

It is shortsighted of me to say, “But God, I did everything faithfully so this bad thing shouldn’t be happening to me.” 

It’s not about me! It never has been. It’s all about God’s glory. 

Yes, Hezekiah reaped the benefit of Sennacherib’s defeat, but it wasn’t because God was “paying Hezekiah back” for the good he had done. God was still being glorified when “many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”

Sennacherib was defeated and Hezekiah was saved for the same reason: God was glorified in doing so! 

Whenever you walk through a dark time, you too might be tempted to say, “God, this isn’t fair!” But remember, it’s not about you—it’s about God being glorified. Perhaps God gains greater glory and you gain greater rewards by Him delivering you through an enemy’s attack, not delivering you from the attack. Whatever God is doing, He is doing it for His glory. 

Sola Deo gloria!

Obvious Consequences

I think these correlations are pretty visible in the life of King Jehoshaphat. See if you can spot them too. 

Jehoshaphat “followed [God’s] commands” and “the Lord established the kingdom under his control.” 

Jehoshaphat sent Levites out to teach the people God’s law and “the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the land surrounding Judah.” 

Jehoshaphat cried out to God while being pursued by enemies, “and the Lord helped him.” 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel—marrying Ahab’s daughter and going to war with Israel—and he was told, “the wrath of the Lord is on you.” 

“Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord” when the enemy was poised to attack and God gave him assurance of victory. 

Jehoshaphat appointed worshipers to lead the army and “the Lord set ambushes” to defeat the enemy, causing His fear to once again fall on the surrounding nations. 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel again and their joint sailing venture ended in shipwreck. 

[check out the biblical texts for all of the above examples by clicking here] 

It seems to me that the blessings of following God and doing things His way, and the consequences of ignoring His commands, are so plainly visible. There really is no excuse for my ignorance on this.

The question is: Will I do things God’s way and enjoy His blessings, or will I continue to try to do things my way and risk God’s wrath?

True Prosperity

…and so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). 

When I look up “prosper” in the dictionary, the first entry says, “to be successful or fortunate, especially in financial respects.” This isn’t even close to the Old Testament Hebrew word for prosper! 

God makes prosper a dependence on Him. Mammon makes prosper a dependence on self. 

The Hebrew word tsalach means: 

  • to overcome obstacles (like crossing a river) 
  • to be empowered by the Spirit of God to overcome an enemy (like Samson did) 
  • to flourish like a plant growing to full harvest 
  • to have favor with man so that good can be done for others (Nehemiah 1:11) 
  • to finish well (2 Chronicles 7:11) 
  • to be poured out; to be a conduit of God’s blessings to others 

Prosperity God’s way is being blessed to be a blessing to others.

Prosperity is never for me, only from God through me. 

Prosperity from God helps me overcome obstacles for others, defeat enemies for others, bring in a good harvest for others, have earthly favor that will benefit others, finish well for the sake of others. 

I’ll say it again: True prosperity ISN’T for me, it’s only from God through me! 

Hezekiah showed how God’s prosperity came through him to benefit others: 

  • he did “what was good and right and faithful before the Lord” 
  • he lived “in obedience to the law and the commands” 
  • “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly” 

In light of this definition, I have no problem praying, “God, make me prosperous. As I seek You and work wholeheartedly, flow through me to bless others!

Humility Is A Daily Choice

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

…As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. … But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall… (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16). 

Success makes me more vulnerable to pride. Success can distract from the very One who gave me success. I am in danger of losing God’s blessings in the very moment I am enjoying God’s blessings. 

Humility has to be an ongoing choice. That choice becomes harder as the successes become bigger or more frequent. But choosing pride in “my accomplishments” will undo all the previous successes. 

The only way to keep these blessings is two words: IF ONLY. If only I will continue to remain humble before God and obedient to Him. 

Uzziah, sadly, didn’t make that choice. His pride in God’s success led to his downfall. 

His son Jotham learned this lesson. Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (27:6). 

I like the KJV of this verse that says, “Jotham grew powerful because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” 

Jotham was keenly aware that everything he did was seen by God. He was determined that everything he did would be pleasing in God’s sight. The word “before” in verse 6 means “in front” of or even “before the face.” Jotham didn’t live as though he might face God at the end of his life, but as though he was facing God at every moment of his life. 

Notice two phrases in this sentence—grew powerful and walked steadfastly. They are directly tied to each other: Jotham became powerful only because he was determined to live righteously and humbly in God’s sight. The more powerful he became, the more he increased his commitment to live humbly before God’s face. 

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, BUT unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord (v. 2). 

Jotham humbly prepared his ways before the Lord, and when God made him powerful Jotham re-committed to stay humble. Great choice! 

I’ll say it again: The only way to keep God’s blessings on my initial humble choice is to continue to choose humility at every moment of success. 

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Only One Thing Limits Prayer

“…the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, Lord by God, give attention to Your servant’s prayer…” (2 Chronicles 6:18, 19). 

It’s amazing to think that the Limitless God of the Universe condescends to listen to frail human prayers! 

The key is my humility to approach God. Not as one afraid to approach, but as one who is humbly confident that He wants me to come to Him (see Matthew 6:8). 

Solomon repeatedly asked God to “hear” and respond (vv. 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33, 35, 39). And God says, “I have heard you and I will continue to hear and respond” (7:12, 14)! 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

If God wants to hear from me, why do I try to handle things on my own?! 

My prayers are only limited by my pride that keeps me from coming to God in prayer.

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