Although I’m a young grasshopper when it comes to doing vocational ministry with a church (about 5 years under my belt), I’ve still been doing it long enough to notice that most people have questions about the same things in life. One of those resurfacing questions, although it might employ slightly different verbiage each time, is something like, “Is this desire I have from God, or not?”
I want to go on a missions trip, but maybe my motivation is wrong. Is this from God?
I have wanted to be an architect ever since I was a little kid, but all my family are encouraging me to go into the ministry. Which one is from God — or is neither from God?
I really want to propose to my girlfriend. Is this what God wants?
I feel like I should pray for my coworker to be healed of cancer, but I worry that it’s not from God and I’m just making it up. How can I tell?
Maybe you can understand the dilemma because you’ve had a similar question. Maybe you’ve even submitted your question to hours of severe introspection and stressful overanalyzing. But maybe the real answer is more practical than you think.
So how do I know if my desire is from God?
1. A desire from God will bring life and goodness, not death.
Psalm 119:68 says, “You are good, and what You do is good,” and James 1:17 declares, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” Let me state the obvious by acknowledging God’s utter goodness and that every single good desire originates with Him. When I say ‘good,’ I don’t simply mean acceptable or fine; I mean ‘kind righteousness.’ What God does is kind righteousness, and what He asks us to do is kind righteousness. Therefore, if your desire results in harm toward yourself or another person, we can safely rule out that it does not come from God. For example, if you desire seeking revenge on someone who has wronged you in the past, this desire does not come from God. But if the means and the result is life and goodness, why couldn’t it be God?
2. A desire from God will line up with the Bible.
God does not change, and His Word is always relevant and requires our submission. If you have a desire to reconcile with someone, that’s a desire that lines up with what the Bible teaches — that desire is from God (Matthew 18:21-22)! If you have a desire to get into a long-term relationship with a woman who is not a Christian, be aware that your desire does not line up with the Bible (2 Corinthians 6:14). Basically, if you have a desire that the Bible celebrates, it’s one that comes from God — in fact, you have that desire now because You have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and you want what He wants! But if you have a desire to sin, cause others to sin, or participate in a career with sinful practices, you can safely rule out that desire as one that God will not honor.
3. A desire from God will include you, but it won’t be all about you.
If you have a dream of being rich & famous, and can’t see very far past that, then your dream likely finds its roots in fleshly gratification. A God-desire will always give you a crucial role to play, but the end result won’t be all about you. Philippians 2:3-4 instructs, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Certainly influence, power, and wealth are not evil, but God designs that all influence, power, and wealth be leveraged for the display of pure love and selfless generosity.
4. A desire from God will ultimately result in making disciples.
God has already given us the mandate of ‘going into all the world and making disciples of the nations,’ so you can bet that a desire that results in people being positively exposed to Jesus and becoming committed disciples is from God. Is your desire to see all of Tokyo come to salvation? God! Is your desire to start an Internet company that puts loving, Christian ads on porn sites? God! Is your desire to personally lead all of your family to Jesus? God! Is your desire to produce a Bible translation for a nation in its native tongue? God!
5. A desire from God will move you into greater surrender to Jesus.
God does not accept laziness or mere pieces of our devotion, and He never will. I have known some, as I’m sure you know some, who have chosen a lazy path in life because they were scared of surrender to Jesus. Ask yourself — and dare to be extremely honest — does your desire emphasize coasting and convenience? Does this dream help you avoid surrendering completely to Jesus? Is it possible at all that this desire is a way of distracting you from receiving the work of the Holy Spirit? If you honestly answered yes, then deep down, you are simply desiring to run from Jesus. If, on the other hand, your desire requires greater levels of trust in Jesus, greater levels of commitment to Jesus, greater levels of investment in Jesus, and juicier fruits of the Spirit (ha), then your desire comes from Him — plain and simple.
Certainly, this is not an exhaustive list, but I would dare suggest that a true God-desire includes each of these five thoughts to some degree or other. And listen, my friend, interpreting a desire as being “from God” requires an ironic balance of wisdom and not-overthinking-it. I know so many who have sat around worrying and crunching numbers and second-guessing themselves that by the time they were ready to act on the desire, the desire itself was gone.
C’mon, does the desire bring life? Does the desire line up with Scripture? Does the desire ultimately put focus on the bigger picture instead of self? Does the desire result in making disciples? Does the desire encourage deeper surrender to Jesus?
Then run with it. It’s God.
Let me know what you think in the comments, or send me a message. I would love to hear from you!