September 12, 2004

THREE DRIVING DESIRES

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21

The boss is back. After a long time away, the founder and owner of the company has returned. Everyone is surprised. Some are happy to see him. Others are scared.

Quite some time ago, the boss left on business overseas. Before going away, he called in his management staff, including you. He assigned each person a budget and a part of his company to manage. He told all of you that he would be away for a while, but he didn’t say how long. It turned out to be longer than any of you expected. Weeks turned into months, then years.

During that time, some of the managers worked hard. They looked for creative ways to expand their part of the business. Others didn’t work very hard and didn’t take many risks. They tried to avoid big losses, but they didn’t put much energy into pursuing major gains.

All employees knew the boss was supposed to return at some point, but when he actually showed up, you were all surprised. It started out like any other day at the office. You were all going about your business when suddenly he walked in the door. “I want to meet with each of you today,” the boss announced. “I want a report from every individual on your part of the business.”

You’re glad to see the boss. You admire him and like him, and you missed him while he was gone. But you’re also nervous. This is the moment of truth. When you walk into the boss’s office and report to him, your past will be evaluated, and your future will depend on the evaluation. You’ve tried hard, and some good things have happened under your management, but you’ve also made your share of mistakes. The boss is brilliant, and you couldn’t possibly manage things as well as he could have. You go into the meeting with mixed feelings: excited about reporting on some ways you helped his business expand, but disappointed and embarrassed about the opportunities you missed and the times you fell short.

After you give your report, the boss looks you in the eye. You feel as though he can see right through you, as though he knows everything about you. As your eyes lock with his, your heart skips a beat. Then a huge smile comes over his face. “Way to go!” he exclaims. “Great work! You know something? I really like you. You’re good, and you’re trustworthy.”

“In fact,” he continues, “I’m so pleased with you that I’m going to promote you. While I was gone, I expanded the company and added many new divisions. I want my best people to run them. You’ve proven yourself with smaller things; now it’s time for you to move on to bigger things. I’m putting you in charge of some of my best holdings.”

He shakes your hand, then throws his other arm around you in a warm hug and says, “I want to reward you, and I’m going to do more than raise your salary. I’m making you a co-owner along with me. I want you to be a permanent member of the team, a part of my family. Anything of mine that makes you happy is yours anytime you want it. My mansion is yours. My chef is yours. My car is yours. My jet is yours. My golf club membership is yours. My expense account is yours. I want you to share my happiness.”

How would that make you feel? If you’re in the workforce and things have gone well for you, maybe you know what it’s like to work for an excellent boss who really likes you and appreciates you. You know how fantastic it feels to be complimented and valued, to be promoted and receive more important assignments, and to be rewarded with more pay and the benefits of partnership. Still, even if you work for a good boss, it’s hard to believe any boss could be quite this good or any job turning out this well.

Desire-Driven

But this is not just fantasy; it is reality. This is exactly the kind of boss Jesus is. This is exactly how Jesus promises to treat each person who serves him faithfully. He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21). Jesus will praise us, promote us, and pay us with his own eternal pleasures. These three things—praise, promotion, and pay—are the driving desires of a healthy soul.

According to Jesus, life is like a job. He is the Boss. We are his workers. Judgment Day is the ultimate evaluation. The main point of life is to be able to face the Lord on that day and to hear him praise us for a job well done, to receive increased management responsibilities in his kingdom, and to share in his happiness forever. That is the goal of every healthy human.

If I want to be appreciated and praised, does that make me proud and self-centered? It might, but not necessarily. If I have a problem, it’s not that my desire for praise is too great but that I settle for less than the ultimate praise. My soul is designed to thrive on being praised by God himself, and if I focus only on people I’m trying to impress, I will always have a hole in my soul. I have a driving desire to hear Jesus say that I’m good and faithful and to say of my work, “Well done.”

If I want to be important and to take charge of greater responsibilities, does that make me power-hungry? It might, but not necessarily. If I have a problem, it’s not that my desire for importance is too great but that I settle for too little. I am created in God’s image, crowned with glory by God himself, designed to reign with him over great realms. Any responsibility I have now is a proving ground for greater things later on. I will never feel I’ve accomplished enough, I will always be haunted by a sense of failure, if I’m think that my career on earth is what makes me important. If it’s not much of a career, I’ll feel like a flop. And even if my career goes well and I end up running a corporation or ruling a country, nothing in this world can satisfy my hunger for importance. I have a driving desire to hear Jesus say of me, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

If I want happiness, pleasure, and rewards, does that make me greedy? It might, but not necessarily. If I have a problem, it’s not that my desire for pleasure is too great but that I settle for too little. If I look for my ultimate pleasure in the taste of food or the thrill of sports or the passion of romance, I will never be truly happy. Some pleasures will be blocked by poor health or poor finances, and even if I could always remain healthy and wealthy enough to get every pleasure I chase, my soul would remain unsatisfied. I am designed for enormous, eternal pleasures, and nothing less will do. I have a driving desire to hear Jesus say, “Come and share your master’s happiness.”

What are your driving desires? Three simple questions can help you sort out what drives you. First, whom are you trying to please? Second, what makes you feel important? Third, what gives you pleasure? Answer those questions, and you’ll understand a lot about yourself and what drives you.

 

Praise From God

Let’s focus first on whom you’re trying to please. All of us long to be approved and appreciated. We want somebody to be pleased with us, to accept us and like us and value us.

A boy longs for his daddy to praise him. The little guy beams when his father hugs him and says, “Way to go, son!”

A wife longs for her husband to praise her. She glows when he compliments her beauty, her brains, and her value to him.

A student longs for praise from a teacher. If a teacher gives a high grade and a word of encouragement, it can make a student want to make a career in that field of study.

Athletes want praise from fans and media. Teens want praise from their friends. Workers want praise from bosses and fellow employees. Entertainers want applause from their audience. Politicians want approval from voters. No matter who we are, no matter how strong and confident we may seem, we all yearn for someone else’s approval.

Without a father’s affection and approval, a boy suffers, and he may carry the wound with him into manhood. He is at higher risk to become an alcoholic or a workaholic.

Without a husband’s love and admiration, a wife may feel depressed and worthless. Likewise, a husband longs for his wife to respect him and be proud of him, and he may feel like a failure if she treats him like one.

The desire for praise, or the wound from lack of praise, drives much of what we do. Part of our trouble may come from the failure of others to praise us when they should have, and part of our trouble may come when we haven’t been very praiseworthy. The biggest trouble comes when we don’t desire or expect praise from God. Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)

I want my parents to be glad they had me. I want my wife to be glad she married me. I want my kids to be glad I’m their dad. I want my friends to be glad they know me. I want my hearers to be glad I became a preacher. But above all I want God to be glad he made me. I want the Lord to accept me and delight in me.

But what about the fact that I’m not good enough to meet his standards? I put my faith in Jesus’ blood. I trust that my sins are forgiven and that God won’t punish me for them. But that’s not enough to satisfy my soul. I don’t just want to be pardoned. I want to be treasured, approved, even praised. I want God to be pleased with me, glad that I’m his. On Judgment Day, I don’t just want to hear Jesus say, “You’re an awful sinner, but I’m going to overlook how bad you are and let you into heaven.” I want to hear Jesus call me “good and faithful” and to say, “Well done!”

But if I fail so much, how can I expect God to praise me? If that’s ever going to happen, it won’t depend only on my level of performance. It will depend on how much God loves me and on a desire for God that the Lord himself plants in my heart.

I have little children who want to please me, and it doesn’t take much for me to be happy with them. Sometimes they try to help me with yard work. They usually get in the way more than they help. The work would go a lot faster if I just did it all myself. Their raking scatters more stuff than it gathers. Their digging in the garden makes them so dirty that it takes longer to clean them up than it took to do the actual gardening. Still I am pleased with their efforts. As they grow older, I expect more. I expect them to grow in skill and wisdom. But already now their desire to be with me and please me is a delight to me. If my little ones draw a picture for me, it may not be a masterpiece, but I praise their artwork. I’m delighted that they are developing their skills and are trying to please me.

I trust that my heavenly Father feels about me the way I feel about my children. The Lord delights in all who trust him and seek to serve him, even if we fumble and muddle along. We have a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do. God won’t stop working on us until he has made us perfect. But the Lord is already pleased with us long before we are perfect and fully mature in Christ. If we believe in Jesus and want to please him, he will not hold our sins and shortcomings against us.

At the end of a busy day, after I’ve put my children to bed and kissed them good night and prayed with them, I sometimes go back to their bedrooms after they fall asleep. I put my hand their forehead or just to watch them for awhile as they breathe peacefully. During the day there may have been some bad moments, harsh words, disobedience, and punishment, but when the day ends, I don’t think about that stuff. As I watch them sleep, all I can think about is what a joy it is to have each child. My heart almost bursts with love for them.

When I myself go to bed and fall asleep, what does my Father in heaven do? Does he look at me sleeping and smile tenderly? Does he put out of his mind what I did wrong that day? Does his mighty heart swell with love? The Bible says that the Lord “grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). Like a father whose children are tucked in for the night, God loves and enjoys those who trust him and want to please him. “For the Lord delights in his people… Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

Whom do you want to please? Maybe you’ve been wounded by lack of approval from people close to you. Perhaps you’ve never gotten over the hurt of disapproving parents, and even after they’ve grown old and died, something inside you still drives you to prove yourself to them. It’s normal to want to please your parents, but don’t be dominated and destroyed by your inability to please other humans. Put your faith in Jesus. God the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). If you trust Jesus and are linked to him, God loves you with the very same love he has for Jesus and is as pleased with you as with Jesus.

Believe that God accepts and approves of you for Jesus’ sake. Then “find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10), and “make it [your] goal to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Love Jesus and do what he says—that’s what delights him. Aim your whole life toward that final day when you will see Jesus face to face and hear him say, “Well done!” “At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

The Big Promotion

Another desire that drives many of us is to be significant, to matter, to take charge of bigger responsibilities. Little kids want to grow up and do something more important than play. Athletes want to advance to the starting lineup. Soldiers want to rise in rank and handle greater responsibility. Employees want promotions to higher positions, not just for the money but for the feeling of importance. What makes you feel important?

It’s okay to seek significance. God designed us humans to rule his creation, so we’re wired to want responsibility. To have no ambition is not humility; it’s laziness. So be ambitious! But make sure you’re ambitious for the truly big promotion. Don’t just think about rising through the ranks of an organization. Focus on getting the ultimate promotion.

Only Jesus can promote you to reign with him forever. Only Jesus can say at the end of your life, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Only Jesus can say, “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17). Everything you have comes from God and belongs to God. He is the owner; you are just a manager. He is watching how you manage smaller things before he puts you in charge of greater things in his eternal kingdom. “If you have not been trustworthy with worldly wealth,” says Jesus, “who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11).

If you don’t love Jesus, if you won’t take risks for him, if you won’t use God-given resources to expand his kingdom, you won’t get promoted when Jesus comes back. He will scold you, take away your responsibilities, and boot you out. Like a boss dealing with a rotten manager, Jesus will say, “You wicked, lazy servant! … Take the talent from him… And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:26-30).

If you want a promotion from Jesus, do his work. Use your money, ability, and other earthly resources to serve the Lord and expand his kingdom. Introduce other people to Jesus—your family, your friends, and others you meet—and show them how to live as his disciples. “Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Make the most of opportunities you have now, and Jesus will promote you to star status in his kingdom. Jesus says, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” “I will give the right to sit with me on my throne” (Revelation 2:26, 3:21). What a staggering thought—to sit with Christ on his throne, promoted above angels, sharing in the rule of Christ over the territories he assigns you. It’s almost too much to imagine or hope for—but Jesus himself promises this.

So if you’re a child, don’t just aim to become a grownup. If you’re an athlete, don’t just aim to be the most valuable player. If you’re a soldier, don’t just aim to be a general. If you’re a manager, don’t just aim for a promotion. If those things work out for you, fine. If they don’t work out, that’s okay too. These things aren’t of ultimate, eternal important. How faithfully you serve the Lord—that’s what matters most. The big promotion when Christ returns—this must be your driving desire.

Eternal Pleasures

A third driving desire is for happiness. What makes you happy? What gives you pleasure? Whatever you enjoy, keep in mind who invented pleasure in the first place: God did. He created all the sounds, colors, tastes, smells, and sensations that exist. He created our minds and emotions and capacity for relationships. God is the fountain of pleasure, and our longing for pleasure cannot be satisfied by anything less than God’s own pleasures. The Bible says, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at you right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

When Jesus returns, he will tell the faithful, “Come and share your master’s happiness.” If a billionaire said, “Come and share my happiness,” you would have access to his riches, his homes, his jets, his boats, his banquets, and all the pleasures his wealth could purchase. This is even truer of sharing God’s pleasures. You can’t begin to imagine how happy God is. In the life of the divine Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is an ocean of joy of which you have tasted at most only a few drops. Scripture pictures life with the Lord as a delicious feast, as a lovely garden, as a splendid city, as glorious music, as an embrace of love, and all these pictures can barely hint at the reality of the eternal pleasures that await his chosen.

The Bible says that God “has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We have an eternity-sized hunger for happiness. Any pleasure less than God’s own pleasure is too small to satisfy us. Any pleasure that comes to an end is too short-lived to match our heart-hunger. We must have pleasure without limit, pleasure without end. We must have God’s own pleasure. We must share in our divine Master’s happiness.

God “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). He himself is our “very great reward” (Genesis 15:1), and he pours out himself and all his most generous rewards on those who love and serve him. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

All of us have a driving desire for happiness. But where is that desire driving us? If we’re driven only by desire for more money or for various physical pleasures, our god is our belly (Philippians 3:19), and we won’t share in God’s happiness.

Faith is counting on God’s acceptance and being driven by desire for “praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Such faith won’t let you settle for a comfortable, ordinary life. That is not one of your options. An egg cannot just remain an egg. It must either hatch or go bad (C.S. Lewis). You can’t remain what you are now. You must either hatch into something greater when Christ comes again, or you must go bad and rot in hell forever. Aim for God’s approval, or you will end up with disgrace. Seek the big promotion to reign with Christ, or you will be fired and cut off from Christ. Desire eternal happiness, or you will get eternal horror. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, [God] will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7).

Ask yourself again about your three driving desires: Whom are you trying to please? What makes you feel important? What gives you pleasure? Focus your driving desires on Jesus. Be driven by the desire to please him, and you will hear him say “Well done.” Be driven by the desire to find importance in him, and you will receive a promotion to reign with him. Be driven by the desire to enjoy him, and you will share in his happiness forever.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.