Have you ever thoughts that you be so happy if you hit the lottery? I have. I have dreamed of how I would spend the money. It sounds so freeing. I would be free from debt. My kids would have no college debt. I get excited just typing it. Many of us can feel that way, can’t we? We are convinced we will be happy if we get a surprise inheritance, or if we get the latest new iPhone for Christmas, or if our favorite sports team wins the big game, or if that guy asks us out on a date, or if we ask a girl and she says Yes, or if we get a house, or…you fill in the blank. Those longings are strong, and we have convinced ourselves that if those longings are satisfied, they will make us happy. But it does seem that every Christmas we have a new Christmas list. So we continue to long for more. That thing we had to have last year, it very quickly lost its satisfaction. So it might sound off to hear Paul saying in Galatians 2, which we have been studying in the series (starting here) that we need to die to ourselves and live life 100% by faith in Christ, so that his life becomes our passion. Of course it will sound off when we have lived, even as Christians, for so long in a world of competing longings, or if we have lived a Christianity that is focused on rule-following. So even if I haven’t convinced you, let’s at least take some time to consider the possibility that when our longings line up with Jesus’, then we can experience a deep happiness.
The longings within us are real and often strong. Desire is not inherently evil. We all have desire. But if our primary desire is not for Jesus and his heart, then our desires will be skewed.
How then, do we line up our longings with Jesus in our minute by minute daily lives? How do we actually die to our longings, and allow Jesus’ longings to become ours? Do we just pray all the time? But what about work, eating, sleeping?
If what I’m talking about is correct, that we experience deep happiness when our longings line up with Jesus, then we will have to learn to long for Jesus in all the hours we spend at work, standing in front of our classrooms if you are a teacher, or sitting at your seat if you are a student, folding laundry, making dinner, and when we are on our phones, or watching TV, on scrolling through social media. No matter what we do in life, we will need to learn to align our longings, moment by moment, with Jesus. But how does that alignment happen?
I’d like to suggest that increasing our longing for Jesus will almost certainly not happen all at once, like a miraculous total change. It can happen that way, but I would suggest that is rare and we shouldn’t expect it. Rather, observe the life of Jesus who had a habit of longing for God. He so often practiced it away from the crowds, behind the scenes, alone, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Considering that he practiced it though he himself was God, certainly we who are humans should practice as well. What we notice then, of Jesus, is that his behind-the-scenes practice empowered him to live a God-filled life.
Later in Galatians 5, Paul will say that Christians should walk in step with the Spirit. God’s Spirit, as Paul said in another letter, 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, is living in you. Some of us barely recognize the Spirit in us. Some of us might even be afraid of the Spirit, wondering if it means we’ll speak in tongues or something. Some of us have no idea what it means that the Spirit is within us, or how to walk in step with the Spirit. But clearly for Jesus (as we will see later in our Advent sermons when we study John 14, it is vital that we Christians understand that his Spirit lives in us). Paul is saying the same thing here. I suspect that many ofus can go for long periods of time with little to no interaction with the Holy Spirit in our lives.
But when we learn to walk in step with the Spirit, our longings become his longings, and his longings become our longings. So how do you walk in step with the Spirit? Well, consider this: How do you learn about the ways that a favorite sports team moves and what plays they make? How do you learn what your child is like? How do you learn what your friends like to do? Time. We give time to watching how our sports teams interact with other teams. We give time and attention to our child, our friends, etc. We will not be able to learn how to walk in step with the Spirit if we do not spend time and attention to the ways of Jesus. We long for where our hearts lies. What we are willing to sacrifice for shows us what we long for. Therefore, take time to study Jesus. Read his word. Talk with him. Sit still and listen for him. Meet with others who you think do this well. Be humble as you learn. And watch your longing for him increase, and your heart be transformed.
The result Paul says is that the Fruit of the Spirit flowing from your life.
How you speak. With kindness and patience.
How you care for people. With love and goodness.
How you live. With gentleness. With joy.
So let’s make this Advent a season of longing for Jesus! What is one way that you can free up time, even if it is 15 minutes to spend more time with Jesus, getting to know his Spirit in your life?
Make a commitment to it for the next four weeks. Tell it to someone you trust. Ask them to check in you! And get ready to watch God transform your longings to be in line with his.