“What Are You Seeking?”

Welcome, dear readers! Recently, I’ve been reading through the Gospel of John, and I’d love to share a little of that journey with you.

Psalm 115_4

Many thanks to Chris of the Full of Eyes ministry for allowing me to use his artwork in this blog post. Please view this image on the Full of Eyes website and consider supporting this ministry.

I’d like to focus on a short passage, John 1:35-39, which is included below:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. (John 1:35-39, ESV)

This scene occurs just as Jesus is beginning His ministry. The prior verses include two other scenes that set the stage: first, John the Baptist makes it clear to inquirers that he is not the Christ, but rather one who will prepare the way for Him (see John 1:19-28). The following day, John recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and confesses this revelation aloud (see John 1:29-34). Another day later, and we get the scene in verses 35-39.

Now, when I read through this scene initially, I didn’t think much of it. But then I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me, continually drawing my eyes back to Jesus’s question: “‘What are you seeking?'” When I flipped a page in my Bible, my eyes fell on a similar line in John 4:27: “‘What do you seek?'” For the next few days, I kept feeling God gently but persistently nudge me with this question.

I tried to give Him answers. My mind automatically considered the question in big-picture terms, so I thought of what I’m seeking throughout my lifetime. I started off with, “Lord, I seek to truly know you.” I honestly wasn’t trying to be pious; I genuinely do want to know God and be close to Him. To the best of my knowledge, my statement is true, but I could tell it wasn’t the answer to satisfy the question. God was trying to get at something else.

I tried again: “I seek to be an author, a novelist and screenwriter.” That’s definitely true. I wondered if I’d made an idol of my dreams, loving them more than I loved God. Maybe that’s what He was getting at. But nope—the question didn’t relent.

So I tried a third time: “Lord, I seek to be happy.” That’s also true, though I cringed at the self-centered undertone of such a statement. But still, I kept coming back to Jesus’s question: “‘What are you seeking?'”

Finally, one day during my quiet time, I thought of what I’d been seeking during that specific day. I turned my mind from lifetime-scale pursuits to day-to-day pursuits. I was on a stay-cation at the time, and as I pondered the question, I thought back to that morning and told God, “Well, I guess I’ve been seeking my own pleasure—”

That was it. My answer finally clicked. I realized that, even though I’d carved out quiet time for God, my first focus when I’d woken up—and the focus I’d kept throughout the day—was to please myself. To have fun. To make the most of my vacation.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with vacation or with having fun. As my dad often says, “God is not a workaholic.” God enjoys seeing His people take pleasure in gifts and pursuits He has given them. But, there is something vitally wrong with approaching each day with the attitude, “How can this day serve me?” instead of “How can I serve God?”

I realized that this attitude wasn’t limited to this particular vacation day. On most days—perhaps even every day—my main concern, from the moment I awoke to the moment I fell asleep, was my own pleasure. On vacation days, I sought to make myself as comfortable and happy as possible. On work days, I often fretted and complained and sought to survive until I could clock out and make myself happy again. Even though I’m a hard worker, and I often work on other projects when I’m not at my regular job, my motivation all-too-often comes from a desire to build the life I want.

Thankfully, I don’t think my life is all out-of-sync with where God wants me. I actually think I’m right within His plans for me. But I’ve realized that my attitude and the way I approach day-to-day life needs to change. (Thank God, He’s able to change me!)

Going back to this passage from John, Jesus posed the “What are you seeking?” question to these two disciples after they’d started (literally) following Him. It seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? The men are already following Jesus, and isn’t that what He wants? Why would Jesus ask them a probing question like this?

Yes, the men were following Jesus. But Jesus wanted to know if they were following Him for the right reasons. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Yes, I see that you’re following me, but why? What are you expecting? What do you hope to get out of it? Does what you’re truly seeking align with Me?”

Thankfully, the disciples gave the right answer. They responded by asking Jesus, “‘Where are you staying?'” In other words, they were seeking Him. They didn’t ask Him to do something for them. They didn’t ask if He would defeat all their enemies or provide them with rich and comfortable lifestyles. They just asked where He would be, because they wanted to be with Him, no matter what that entailed.

There are many, many blessings that flow from following Jesus. There are also many trials, at least in this finite world, until the return of Christ. But the truth is, you only get one thing from Christianity: you get Jesus Christ Himself. And because you get Him, you get everything worth having.

Later in his Gospel, John recorded these words of Jesus while He prayed to the Father: “‘And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent'” (John 17:3). John reiterated this in his first letter: “…and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Jesus is our life. He is our one thing, and He is our everything. So, I put the question to you that God put to those two disciples and to me: What are you seeking?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Thank God that He gives all who ask the grace to do so.

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