Following the format of the Proverbs, John gives us a pithy statement on how a Christian differs from the world. Like many of the Proverbs, there are three sets of parallel items, in effect, teaching us three lessons in one.
And the world is passing away along with its desires,1 John 2:17
but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The “world” // “whoever”, “passing away” // “abides forever”, and “its desires” // will of God” are the three parallels between the first line and the second.
The first parallel is a contrast of people. There is the majority who do things the way everyone else in this world does, and there are the individuals who do things very differently.
The second parallel is a contrast of outcomes. The one outcome is temporary, resulting in nothing. The other outcome is enduring, resulting in eternity.
The third parallel is a contrast of focus. The one focus is set on this world’s likeable things that give the world a sense of pleasure and enjoyment. The other focus is on the thoughtful intentions of God Himself. In reality this third parallel is two-fold: “desire” // “will” and “of this world” // “of God”. It is a double hit exposing how inferior desires are to intentional purposes, and how inferior the world is to God.
Joined by a “but”, these two lines affirm a striking contrasting reality. Are you among many who are going to end up passing away because they lived desire-driven lives, or are you an individual who is going to endure forever because you live a obedience-to-God life? What this proverb does is it creates a bit of a shock-factor by the “passing away” // “abides forever” outcome, but then with the rest makes us realise that by nature we are continually prone to the bad side of that contrast. That is why, two verses earlier, John exhorts us “Do not love the world or the things of the world.”
God’s will for you is clearly revealed through His Word. Be a doer of His Word, and you will be “doing the will of God”. Recognise your desires, so you can subject them to God’s will. Commit to follow through on your spiritual responsibilities, no longer insisting on your desires being fulfilled. Live a Word-driven life, not a desire-driven life.