How much do you want to? Part I

By Barry Johnson

As I pondered what was the message that God has for His people today, I had the following vision. I was taken up by the Lord and He showed me His people, Israel, during the time of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The people had rejected Him and turned to other gods. And God said to me, “Look at these people.”

At that moment I saw a people who had gone so far away from God that they offered their own children to die as a sacrifice to the strange gods. They were looking for anything to substitute for the God who had given them all they had and who had destroyed their enemies.

God asked me to look further to see how the people of Israel got to this place. He showed me that there were times when they followed hard after Him and served Him. Then they became complacent and apathetic about being with Him. They drifted away from a desire to be with Him. Many got busy doing this thing, and that thing, and forgot to take time to be with Him. Much of what they were doing was good, but the busyness of doing the good things crowded out the best thing, which was being with Him.

I saw that as these people drifted further and further away from God, they became more self-absorbed. Eventually they found themselves in the place that even when they felt drawn to be with their God, they rejected the wooing of the Spirit. They could not get past their selfishness, and the conviction that came with God’s presence was more than they could stand. As time went on, this change in their relationship with God led to a complete rejection of Him. They turned to the other gods that would allow them to live in their selfish desires.

After seeing this, God asked me, “Barry, what was My message to these people who had rejected me?” I said, “God, I don’t know.”

He told me to look closely to what the prophets had said to them. I asked the Spirit to help me see the heart of the prophets’ messages. Much of what I saw in what they wrote was a promise of coming destruction, and a call to repentance to avoid the certain destruction.

The Spirit said to me, “Barry, look closer,” and I did. He showed me the heart of God calling the people to come back to the place where they longed for Him to be their God and return to a longing to be in His presence like the woman in the Song of Solomon who longed to be with her Bridegroom.

I could feel the pain in God’s heart as He said to me, “Barry, you have asked Me what message I have for My people today. I tell you, it is the same message I gave Israel those many years ago. My heart aches to have My people come to be with Me. I weep when I see them drift away from Me. They are My bride, and I long to be with My bride more than anything. Yet, they do not have time to be with Me.”

As I thought about why it is so easy for us to drift away from the One who loves us so much, I heard the Spirit speak to me.

He said, “How much do you want to?”

In my mind I asked, “Want to what?”

Again I heard, “How much do you want to?”

“Lord, what is it that you desire for me to want?”

Then I heard, “Barry, how much do you want to – be with Me?”

“Oh God, I want to love You. I want to serve You. I want to see You. I want to hear You. I want to touch You. I want to…”

God stopped me, and I heard again, “How much do you want to – be with Me?”

This startled me. Wasn’t I saying that I wanted to be with Him? I couldn’t understand what God was trying to tell me. So I asked Him to explain what I was missing.

“Barry,” He said, “I know that you want to be with Me. I am asking you how important is it to you to be close to Me.”

I thought to myself that this was like Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him. So I replied, “Lord I want to be with You more than anything in the world.”

He said, “I know you do.”

What a relief! God knows that I want to be with Him more than anything in the world. But as soon as I finished this thought, I heard the Lord ask me, “Barry, what is that in your hands?”

I didn’t realize I had been carrying anything. But when I looked, I saw all of my cares, problems and burdens in my hands. So I answered the Lord, “These are things that I can’t take care of myself. These are things that I’m bringing to You so that You can take care of them. Once You take care of them, I can love You more. Serve You more. See You clearer. Hear You clearer. I can …”

Again God stopped me and asked, “How much do you want to – be with Me?”

“Lord, You said You know I want to be with You more than anything in the world.”

“Yes, I know. But do you only want to be with Me so that I can take care of your burdens? Do you only come to Me to have Me do something for you? I am asking you to lay those burdens down and come only to be with Me, even if I don’t take that burden from you. Do you want to be with Me that much?”

“Lord, Your Word says that You will take care of my burdens for me. Your Word says that You are my provider, my healer, my peace, my…”

“Yes, My son, I am all of those things. But I am asking you to lay them down and come only to be with Me. Do you want to be with Me that much?”

I began to realize that God was only asking what I want from my own children. I want them to want to be with me, regardless of what I can do for them. It broke my heart to think that over the years I wanted to be with Him only when I needed Him to do something for me. My needs had become more important to me than being with Him.

As this sunk into my heart, I asked God to forgive me for being so selfish. I asked His forgiveness for such a one-sided relationship. Then I answered His question.

“Lord, I want to learn. I want to understand how to be with You, more than I want You to take care of my burdens.”

“My son,” He replied, “I will teach you.”

So the learning process began. He asked Me to set aside time to only be with Him. Not to ask Him for anything. Not to pour out my burdens on Him; just to worship, to thank Him, to be with Him.”

I was learning the answer to His question, “How much do you want to – be with Me?” But I was concerned. Would I stick with it? Or would I find myself slipping back into spending more time needing Him, and less time longing to be with Him?

I thought to myself, “I am determined to learn how to want to just be with Him.” As soon as I finished this thought, I heard the Lord ask me, “Barry, what is that in your hands?”

“Lord,” I said, “there is nothing in my hands. I have laid down my burdens so that I could come and only be with You.”

“My son, I know, and I am pleased that you want to be with Me that much. Yet, My son, there is something in your hands.”

I was afraid to look. I didn’t want to find out that I had failed. But the Spirit compelled me to look.

In my hands I saw the people who had hurt me, what hadn’t happened the way I had hoped, my disappointments and my pain. I realized that my times with the Lord had dug up hurts that had turned into bitterness, anger and resentment. I wanted to cover up what I was seeing and hide from it.

“Barry,” the Lord said, “I know this is painful. I know you don’t want to see these things. But I love you and I want you to let go of all of this. I want you to forgive, just as I have forgiven you, and I will help you put it all down.”

I wanted to hide.

I felt that I had good reason to keep some of those resentments. People had hurt me, and I knew it would be hard to let go of my bitter feelings.

Then I heard the Lord say again, “How much do you want to – be with Me?”

I knew what He was saying.

I fell to my knees and wept.

“Lord, help me forgive. Help me to let it all go.”

And He did.

The learning process continued. God showed me that as I learned to be with Him, He would reveal to me what I still needed to drop out of my hands, and He would walk with me through the pain.

In my vision I spent a long time going through this process and I could tell my relationship with the Lord was growing. We spent many days when it was only the two of us being together and talking. I thought to myself, “How wonderful it is to be learning to be with God.”

As soon as I finished this thought, I heard the Lord ask me, “Barry, what is that in your hands?”

During my learning process He had revealed things in my hands that He had been uprooting, but I knew this was different. He was saying that there was still something else in my hands. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see what He was trying to show me. I cried out to Him, “Lord, I can’t see anything. Please help me understand what is in my hands that is more important to me than being with You.”

It was then that I could see the dreams, the promises and the destiny that He had given to me over the years. I held them up to the Lord, and said, “This is the hope You have given me. They are all I have left, and I give them to You.”

“I am not asking you to give them to Me,” the Lord responded. “I gave them to you. What I am asking you is do you want to be with Me more than having these? Would you give up your dreams, your promises, your destiny, to be with Me? Are they more important to you than being with Me?”

I fell on my face and wept. My heart was broken.

I realized that even as Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, the son God had promised him, the Lord was asking me to put down the promises He had given to me of living my dream and my destiny, and only long to come and be with Him.

Through all of this, God was showing me what was important to Him.

He was showing me His message for His people today and it has been His message since the beginning.

He is asking us…

“How much do you want to – be with Me?”