I have heard it said that getting people saved is easy; it’s the getting them lost that’s hard. People do not long for deliverance until they realize they are lost, and hopeless without deliverance. Longing for deliverance starts with conversion and continues throughout the Christian’s sojourn on earth, until we are delivered from this body of death. Longing for deliverance is not just a fruit of being a believer but as Owen said it ‘is a grace in itself.’ It is the very work of God and we know that He works all things together for our good. We, along with any good longing or affection in us, is the work of God according to His good pleasure. And He makes us to long for Him.
“Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after. Hence the apostle, describing the repentance and godly sorrow of the Corinthians, reckons this as one eminent grace that was then set on work, “Vehement desire,” 2 Cor. 7:11. And in this case of indwelling sin and the power of it, what frame doth he express himself to be in? Rom. 7:24. His heart breaks out with longings into a most passionate expression of desire of deliverance. Now, if this be the frame of saints upon the general consideration of indwelling sin, how is it to be heightened and increased when thereunto is added the perplexing rage and power of any particular lust and corruption! Assure thyself, unless thou longest for deliverance thou shalt not have it.”
-John Owen, from The Mortification of Sin in Believers, volume 6 of Works, page 59-60