what do you really want?: Luke 18

read Luke 18.   What do you really want?  Soon after Solomon became king over Israel, God came to Solomon in a dream and asked him that question: “what do you want?  Ask, and I will give it to you!”

What would you say if the Lord God of the Universe asked you what you wanted?

We know from our fairy tales that it’s a dangerous question.  Remember when those wart-covered hags granted three wishes?  It never turned out well.  Ever.  “Be careful what you wish for”, we advise each other.  I’ve always found that sad advice.  Because what is life if not for wishing?

In the New York Times today, there are young people quoted as saying that they would trade forty years of their lives to have Mayor Bloomberg’s money.  They would accept his age for his bank account.  Seriously?  I can’t imagine that, but those people are saying that what they really want is money.

Solomon gave a different answer.  He asked for wisdom.  He told God, you made me king over a great nation, but “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.”  So he asked for wisdom to govern the people well.  1 Kings 3:5-15.  God “was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.”  God told Solomon that because he asked for wisdom, and didn’t ask for a long life or wealth or the death of his enemies – God would give him wisdom, but also give him riches, fame and a long life.  1 Kings 3:10-14.

God made good on His promise.  The very next story is the famous one of Solomon and the baby.  1 Kings 3:16-28.  The queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon solely because she had heard of his fame, riches, and wisdom.  1 Kings 10.  Have you looked at the proverbs lately?  Solomon penned most of them, and each proverb is a stunning gem of wisdom.

One of the things, for instance, that Solomon says in his proverbs is that foolish people tear down their own houses with their own hands.  Proverbs 14:1.  The idea is that if you get riches or fame before you get wisdom, you will soon lose them.  It’s easy to point the finger at people like Tiger Woods – but would any of us really be able to handle all that fame and glory at such a young age?  How was Tiger supposed to acquire wisdom when he appeared on CBN News putting with Bob Hope at the age of 2?

God save us from realizing our ambitions too early.  I have a quote over my desk from the Psalms (penned by Solomon’s father, king David), which reads: “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”  Psalm 105:19.  We all think our character is perfectly fine, thank you very much, but who are we to know?  The Bible teaches that we have 20-20 vision when it comes to other people’s faults, but blindness when it comes to our own.  Here’s Solomon again in three different proverbs:  “fools deceive themselves.”  Proverbs 14:8.  “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”  Proverbs 14:12. “Fools think their own way is right.”  Proberbs 12:15.  We think our own way is right, but it ends in death.  We are literally blind to the right path.

Or look at Jesus’ parable of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18.  It brings us up short every time we read it – because it catches us out.  It makes us realize that we do sometimes look down on other people in our hearts and tell God we’re better than they are.  We’ve pointed to our achievements, as ridiculous as that is to do before a perfect God, and said, along with the rich young ruler: “by the way, God, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m GOOD.”

Really?  How good?  As good as God?  Because that’s the standard.  If we want to earn our way to heaven, perfection is the only ticket – and none of us can claim that except Jesus.

So what do we really want?  Do we want to be perfect?  Not if it causes us to look down at other people.  I don’t want that kind of perfection.   If God came to us and asked us what we want, what would we say?  Look at the end of Luke 18.  Jesus asked this very question of a blind man.  “What do you want me to do for you,” Jesus asked him.  For the blind man, the answer is easy.  He has a desperate need.

He replies, “Lord… I want to see!”.

So what is it we really want?  What did Solomon think?  After all, he was the wisest man who ever lived.  He had wisdom from God.  Solomon said that what “a man desires is  unfailing love.” Is unfailing love our deepest want, underlying all our other wants?  Is that why we want money, because we think we can buy unfailing love?  Is that why we want good looks, so we can allure people into loving us?  Fame, glory and long life – are they all ways we think we will get unfailing love?  And if so, how can we find unfailing love?

Luke 18 says we find it in crying out to God, day and night.  It says we find it in asking for mercy.  It says we find love by coming to God like a child.  Look at Solomon – he asked for God’s wisdom, because he said he was like “a little child.”  God honored his request.

The flip side of this is that Luke 18 says that we can’t find unfailing love by looking at our achievements or morality, because we will always fall short.  Instead, if we come to God like a blind beggar, crying out from a place of need, we will find the very thing our heart has always wanted.  God just wants us to figure out what we really want.

If we ask, we will find a resting place from which we can bear all other burdens.  God will shower us with the riches of His love.  He will lavish us with His presence.  He will glorify us with His glory.  He will give us the recognition of being righteous in Christ.  We will find in Him the answer to our heart’s deepest desires.  He promises to satisfy our desires with “good things.”  Psalm 103:5.  What is the good thing that satisfies our desires?

It is God’s unfailing love; the best thing of all is His presence.  “The one thing I ask of the Lord – the thing I seek most,” Solomon’s father David once wrote, “is to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life.”  Psalm 27:4.  Anyone who has discovered what it’s like to be in God’s presence will miss it the moment it disappears.  Do with us what you want, Moses once told God, but don’t let us go anywhere if your presence doesn’t go with us.  Exodus 33:15. There’s a children’s book about a little girl who learns to walk on a tightrope.  The author writes the moving words: “Once your feet learn to walk on the high wire, your feet will never be happy on the ground again.”

The same is true for us.  Once we encounter the unfailing loving presence of the living God,  we will never be happy again walking outside of His presence.  God knows this, and that’s why He died for us on the cross – to enable to live with Him forever.  God asks each of us over and over, the same question He asked Solomon: what do you want me to do for you?  Do you know what you want?

If you don’t know yet, ask God.  He’ll tell you.  God will say:  You want unfailing love.  Which is the same thing as wanting Me, because I AM unfailing love.  And the good news is, you already have me.  You’ve had me all along. Because I want you, too.  I want you more than you will ever know.  You’re wanted, and you’re loved, and I will give you everything you really want.  Everything.

posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on February 16, 2012

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