I remember, going back a good few years, a simpler time when the desires of the heart could be spelled out in a single four letter word: Lego. To my nine year old self lego was pretty much all that was needed to make any day a hundred and twenty percent better. I remember the excuses I’d make with the parents when they stopped me playing with it on a Sunday to chat to people from church; ‘…but mum, dad, I’m not playing pirates! Why would you think that? Forget the cannons and cutlasses, I’m playing out that story about Paul and the shipwreck that we heard about.’ It never worked, but it was worth a try. When I wanted to buy more I’d help my dad with his work; being a shrewd young thing I had figured out exactly how much I needed to do. I was more than willing to graft if it meant I got the latest set from Woolworths. My father wanted quality time with his son, I on the other hand was involved in the relentless pursuit of Lego. It’s funny that, isn’t it? From the very start we have this instinct to pursue the desires of our heart. As babies we scream when we want food or sleep and as infants we do whatever it takes to get toys; as we grow our desires change and the way we try to get them changes but so often we still chase after them as though they are the answer to all we need.
I was really blessed to spend time recently at Hillsong Conference Europe, sitting under some phenomenal teaching, and to return home for my church, NCLC, to have it’s first services in the Westgate Centre, where I also sat under some phenomenal teaching. It was one of those weeks that my brain is still trying to process all that happened and all that I have heard. On Sunday, arms to the sky singing I surrender, I came to be thinking on Joel A’Bell’s message. He spoke about how we so often seek to be out of situations instead of seeing that God is using them to teach us and to bring about growth. It was then that a verse from Psalm 37 came on my heart. So often the reason we seek to get out of things is because we are always pushing to attain what we want; we seek the desires of our heart and yet so often we go about this in the wrong way.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
– Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
It’s tempting when thinking about hopes, dreams and desires to take the stand point that we are doing what we can to merit them. Now maybe everyone who reads this is far holier than I, so I can only relate what my own thought process can sometimes be: I’ll moan about something, someone will quote that verse to me, and I will get a little huffy because I’ve heard it before and can they not see that I’m reading the word and praying and serving in church and… Ah, there we have the problem. Not that any of those things are a problem, they’re all good things. The problem is that we can sometimes get into a position where we confuse doing those things for delighting ourselves in the Lord. These good things should come from our delight in the Lord, but it’s equally quite possible for us to do them while neglecting to delight. The delight isn’t an optional extra, it’s a core part.
God doesn’t just want us to pray to Him, He wants us to delight in praying to Him. He does not just want us to read the word, He wants us to delight in reading the word – even the chewy bits of Isaiah where you find yourself confused in the early hours of the morning, unwittingly sympathising with the wrong people. He does not just want us to be serving in church but he wants that honour to be something that we do because of our delight in Him and that in turn increases our delight in Him.
It is so easy in life to find something or other to have a little moan about. The weather, the bank balance, the food, the time we had to get out of bed, the government, the recession. In fact, as a nation, it’s something that the British have always done rather well but the truth is that we have tremendous reason to delight in every day life. When we spend too much time moaning, we’re giving the temporal negative things a position in life far higher than the eternal delight we should have. Sometimes we meet adversity but in the midst of it we have a firm anchor that holds us in place.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
– Hebrews 6:19-20 (ESV)
For me the biggest thing I have taken from the many that spoke to me at conference is that true delight in the Lord isn’t something that starts when whatever given circumstance you want to change finally changes. It is not something that starts when your bank balance reaches an amount that makes you smile, or when you get that perfect job you’ve been chasing, or your partner becomes the ideal you paint in your head, or when you find a partner, or your social life sparkles in a way that only happens in the imagination or the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s not something that starts when you find yourself eating your five a day, or when all the buskers in the street simultaneously play the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite no. 3 and the flowers all come into bloom on the way to work. Delight in the Lord comes here, now, where we are. Wherever that is.
I’m sure that there are very few Christians who never delight in God, but I do think a problem is that we often let our delight get buried beneath moans or feelings. When we truly learn to have that delight in God from the midst of any circumstance or feeling, then the desires of our heart stop being our goal and are replaced by Him. I never was satisfied by that extra box of Lego. I always needed more, I always wanted to push for the next set; we’re the same when we put our heart’s desires above our delight, we’ll not find that any of them satisfy us. When we realise that only God can satisfy us then the other good things that we want from life come into perspective. I always want to have hopes, goals and desires, but I pray that I can truly learn that delighting in God comes before and above them all.