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The secret to fulfillment is hunger. The stronger your desire, the greater your fulfillment. You can strengthen your desires by first being aware of them and then correctly prioritizing them.
You can starve for lack of a healthy desire. When you ache for the right stuff, you’ll be satisfied.
Do you realize you have more than one way to experience fulfillment?
When most people think of their desires, they focus on their immediate physical needs. But God also created you with emotional and spiritual desires, which provide a deeper level of satisfaction. Think of these desires as three stomachs, each with its distinct appetite or craving:
- Worldly Desires (food, sex, entertainment, etc.)
- Identity Desires (purpose, love, etc.)
- Kingdom Desires (glorifying God by living for Christ)
To experience contentment and satisfaction, you must learn how to manage your desires. You can’t rely on one stomach to the exclusion of the others. You’d starve. The secret to fulfillment is attending to all three desires with the right priority and balance.
After your worldly fulfillment reaches its capacity, move on to experiencing and fulfilling your identity desires. As your identity fulfillment reaches its capacity, move on to your kingdom desires.
Worldly desires are temporary physical wants or needs. They won’t be around in heaven, or they’ll function differently. Physical desires are like sugar. Sugar is highly desirable but fails to provide lasting nutrition.
Being satisfied, content, and fulfilled aren’t only possible, they’re also God’s will for you. However, gaining your heart’s desire doesn’t mean you can have every possession or pleasure you’ve ever wanted. Having every superficial want met in the way you want it isn’t possible. If you eat too much of the same food, your taste for the food will eventually become saturated.
Instant pleasure is different than lasting joy. Most things are wants, not needs. If you ache too long for the wrong things you might end up getting what you want.
Don’t make the things of life more important than God intended. If you don’t exercise self-control, you could end up getting what you want without fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. Some desires really are distractions and not worth the effort.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.Matthew 10:39 ESV
Identity desires are like organic, whole foods. They fully nourish and fill you in ways that sugar can’t.
Meeting these desires should take priority over your worldly desires. When you focus on identity desires, you reach for the best things in life — the things that no one can steal.
Five longings God meets when you’re His child:
- Unconditional Love and Acceptance: God knows who you really are. He always sees you at your best, even when you’re at your worst. God is love.
- Persistent Hope: God has the plan to make life better. At some point in the future, life is guaranteed to be perfect and last forever.
- Imminent Purpose: God created you to play a critical role in accomplishing His plans. God wants your active participation. God has a specific purpose for your existence. In this respect, you’re indispensable. You aren’t optional or replaceable. You’re significant and important.
- Faithful Security: God is always with you. He will never abandon you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
- Meaningful Connection: God participates in an interactive relationship with you. God wants a dialogue with you. God is your father.
God is responsible for meeting these needs. No other person is completely capable like God is. Cloud and Townsend say that relationships are God’s delivery system for all emotional needs. However, you can’t expect or insist any one particular person meets your needs.
You won’t be able to enjoy life unless your identity desires are being met. If you’re unsatisfied with work and life, this probably means a basic emotional need is unmet. When these needs go unmet, your hunger should drive you back to God.
Kingdom Desires are fulfilled by spiritual food. While all healthy desires are from God, kingdom desires are an exceptional hunger for seeing God’s work completed.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
You have an advantage as a Christian. You have a stomach (an appetite) for spiritual fulfillment. Humans won’t ever be completely satisfied until they experience a spiritual hunger only God can fill.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
—Matthew 5:3, 6
If your identity desires are met, you should be able to pursue your kingdom desires. But this doesn’t mean you’ll naturally pursue kingdom desires unless you intentionally put them first. To appreciate spiritual fulfillment sometimes you must fast from worldly desires and look beyond identity desires.
God desires that you pursue Christlikeness and fulfill the great commission. When Paul explains contentment to Timothy, he mentions several examples of Christlike behavior: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
—1 Timothy 6:6–11
Godliness is acting maturely like God. Contentment means you’re satisfied with what you have while pursuing God’s kingdom. Don’t give up the eternal in order to hold onto the temporary.
How fulfilled are you as a Christian? Do you see your advantage? Isn’t God amazing how He created you to have multiple appetites? What can you do right now to ensure you have a balanced desire diet?
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.