What are our goals, desires, and priorities? What place do God and the relationship with Him have in them? Is He our main goal, aspiration, and desire? Or do we perceive God as a means to an end? As a means of achieving our own goals and desires for good things?
God – the chief end of man
If so, we need to be aware that God will not tolerate for a long time the position of a means to an end. No, He wants us to understand and voluntarily give Him the position He deserves. This is the position of being our center, highest purpose, desire, and aspiration. As the famous Westminster Catechism says: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
The pursuit of physical well-being
In the book of the prophet Jeremiah chapters 42-44, the rest of the people of Israel, whom the king of Babylon left to live in the territory he conquered, asked the prophet God to show them what to do. The Israelites are few in number. They are frightened of all the disasters and destructions within the invasion of the Babylonian king. The people seek God and pre-declare that whatever God says to them, they will obey Him and follow Him.
Unfortunately, as we later understand, this is seeming, religious obedience. It extends only to the extent to which God’s instructions coincide with their own desires and purposes. It goes only to the extent to which the own desires are satisfied. In the following chapters, it becomes clear that the Israelites are driven by one main, superior goal and desire. And this is not following and worshiping God. Their main goal is above all physical well-being, tranquility and comfort, an easy and peaceful life. Their deity and goal is prosperity, in terms of meeting physical needs and lack of difficulties and problems. (Jeremiah 44:17)
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God as a means to an end
To achieve this primary goal, everything else becomes a means – including God and the relationship with Him. In other words, to the Israelites, it makes no difference whom they are worshiping as long as it leads them to the fulfillment of their desire for prosperity and well-being. „We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.” (Jeremiah 44:16-17)
God explains to them through the prophet Jeremiah that this blatant idolatry is the cause of the problems they are experiencing. When we perceive God as a means to an end, it has bitter consequences for us. This condition moves us further away from the things that we so much desire. When we exalt our desires for generally good things over our desire to follow and to please God, then these desires become controlling idols, which very often take the form of obsessive ideas that enslave us and distract us from our true calling.
The idols of the controlling desires
As with the Israelites, nowadays too, one of the most common controlling desires is the desire for prosperity in a way that serves the flesh and the self. Especially in areas where a person has experienced traumas and long-lasting struggles and problems, he or she becomes particularly susceptible to developing controlling desires. Such may be the pursuit of good physical health, children, marriage, good and successful work, ministry, etc. Too often God’s blessings become more important to us than Him and His purposes and intentions. Very often we treat and use God as a means to an end, as a means of obtaining blessings and fulfillment of desires.
There is a great danger for the believers, especially if they have a successful ministry, at one point this ministry to take the place of God. It can become the main purpose, and not just a means of establishing God’s kingdom. Simply put, when one of these good things turns for us into our major pursuit, passion and source of meaning, value, and identity, then God has ceased to be God for us. We have replaced Him with an idol.
God – the healthiest desire and goal
From the beginning to the end God calls us and draws us to Himself and His love. He knows that He is the healthiest desire for us. And that when our hearts focus and worship Him, only then they find true peace, fulfillment and satisfaction. God knows that when He and His kingdom become our ultimate ambition, goal and priority, then we are in the best position to receive everything else and to truly enjoy it. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Have you struggled with a controlling desire? Come, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!