Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
December 29-30, 2018
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Getting what you really want
#1—God: I want to experience Him
Introduction and offering:
For the next few weeks I want to talk with you about getting what you really want. How many of you got what you wanted for Christmas? Me too! Check out my new socks! And this shirt! Getting what you want is usually a good thing; it makes you happy!
Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
A longing or desire fulfilled makes you happy! It sure made my grandkids happy! It was so much fun watching them open their gifts, listening to their screams of delight. “Thank you grandpa; thank you nana! It’s just what I wanted!” Getting what you really want makes you happy! And seeing them happy makes me happy. Here’s our Christmas pic!
What about God? Do you think He wants you to be happy? I do! Do you think He wants you to get what you really want? Yes to that too! I want to convince you of that in this series. God wants you to get what you really want!
The real question is, “What do you really want?” We want all kinds of things: some good, some not; some that don’t really satisfy and some that do. You’ve all had this experience: you get something you really wanted and it makes you happy—for a while—for a few moments, or a few days, but the glow wears off pretty quickly and you begin looking for something else to satisfy you. We want stuff. Our homes and lives are stuffed with stuff—and yet we still want more stuff. It’s never enough; it’s doesn’t satisfy. It’s not just stuff; we want status, power, fame, money, comfort, pleasure. These things are not wrong in themselves, but they also don’t satisfy our deepest and truest desires. You can get these in abundance and still be unsatisfied, still want more, still feel empty. What if we’re wanting the wrong things? What if we’re trying to satisfy true desires with lesser things?
Do you know what you really want? Your deepest and truest desires?
Over the next four weeks, I want to look with you at four of our deepest and truest desires. I believe these four are universal—that every human being longs for these four things. Each of these bring a level of joy, happiness and satisfaction that won’t be found in lesser desires. Our first and deepest desire is for God Himself, and when we desire Him above all else, every other desire falls into place. Our text for the series and especially for today is:
Psalm 37:4 (p. 480) Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Read aloud a couple times. Leave finder tab here.)
I’d love for you to memorize this verse and think about it the next few weeks. It could revolutionize your view of God, your life and your happiness.
I’m going to start by unpacking this verse, then look at why God is our first and most true desire, and how we can experience Him. First, the most joyous part of the service, the offering!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (p. 998) Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.
Flip back a page and notice that chapters 8-9 are about a collection for the Lord’s people and generosity encouraged. Paul concludes these two chapters on generosity with this doxology: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. His final word on generosity is to remind them of God’s indescribable gift to them: Jesus. Here is the gift beyond words: indescribable, unspeakable, inexpressible, too wonderful for words! Jesus! The last word on generosity is Jesus—God’s indescribable gift. You can’t outgive God. His indescribable generosity triggers our gratitude and generosity in return.
Lord, as we give today, we say, “Thank you God for your indescribable gift!” Thank you for Jesus and all that He is to us!
- Delight in the Lord.
Psalm 37:4 (p. 480) Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Read together.)
What does it mean to delight in the Lord? What do you think of when you hear the word “delight”? I think of my grandkids when they opened their gifts. Delight! Joy! I think of my first bite of our Mississippi pot roast on Christmas day! Delight! I think of my dog Mazy, when I let her off leash and she gets to run—she runs as fast as she can for the sheer joy of running (she’s a border collie and made to run). She’s delighted, and I’m delighted to watch her run. Delight!
Delight in the Lord! Here’s how other translations render it:
Take pleasure in the Lord…LEB
Enjoy the Lord…CEB
Be happy with the Lord…GW
Seek your happiness in the Lord…GNB
As you can see, the Hebrew word here means to delight in, take pleasure in, to enjoy. Seek your happiness in the Lord! Enjoy the Lord! Does God want you to be happy? Yes—He wants you to be happy in Him. He wants you to find your joy in Him. Some people think of God as a celestial kill-joy, just waiting for someone to be happy so He can smite them! “Does it make you happy? It’s forbidden!” Some people think God loves it when we’re miserable. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In this verse, God commands you to delight, to rejoice, to enjoy, to be happy. God wants you to be happy in Him. In other words, God wants to be your first and highest desire, and when He is, you will get what you really want. You will find the happiness and satisfaction you long for, because it is found in Him. Delight in the Lord! A little more about happiness and delight…
Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist and theologian wrote:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
Pascal says that everyone seeks happiness. It is not a sin—it is simply a law of human nature—it is what we all do. It is why Jesus could say, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” For everyone loves himself this way: we all seek our own happiness. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory that the idea that desiring our own happiness is a bad thing is not a Christian notion at all.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The desire for happiness is a good desire, and our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We seek happiness in the wrong places. We are “making mud pies in a slum” because we can’t imagine “a holiday at the sea.” We “fool about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.” I love that! Infinite joy! That’s what God is offering. “Delight in the Lord!”
There is in each one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. (This has been attributed to Pascal. He didn’t say it exactly like this, but close.) We try to fill this hole with so many other things—often good things, just not the God thing. We delight in lesser desires rather than delighting in the Lord and we miss out on infinite joy! Augustine put it this way: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. We’ll come back to that thought. God made you for Himself, and you will find your purpose and joy in Him. Delight in the Lord!
The apostle Paul says the same thing in:
Philippians 4:4 (p. 1013) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Delight in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always. Same-same.
You want to be happy. Does God want this for you too? Yes! So He commands you to delight in the Lord, to rejoice in the Lord. Please get rid of the false idea that God is a kill-joy, the King of Misery. God offers us infinite joy in Him. Delight in the Lord!
- He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 (p. 480) Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Read together.)
Here’s the other half of this couplet: You delight in the Lord; He will give you the desires of your heart. What does that mean?
I don’t think it means that God gives us everything we want. Some desires are good; some are not. A loving Father wouldn’t give His child something that was bad for them. Jesus said this in:
Matthew 7:7-11 (p. 832) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Moms and Dads, when your child asks for bread, you don’t give him a rock. “Sink your teeth in that!” When your child asks for a McFishwich, you don’t wrap up a snake. When your kids ask for something good, you don’t give them something bad. If you who are evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven give us what is good for us. Some desires are good; some aren’t. So this doesn’t mean that God gives everything we desire. Thank God for that!
So what does it mean that He will give us the desires of our heart?
First, it could mean that when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the right desires. He gives us the desires themselves. The more we delight in the Lord, the more our desires change to become what He wants for us. Paul wrote:
Philippians 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (NLT)
God gives you the desire to do what pleases Him. Delight in the Lord, and He’ll give you the right desires. He also gives you the power to do it—fulfilling the desire. Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart!
Second, it could mean that when we delight in the Lord, He gives us what we desire. So, not only does He give us the desire, but what we desire.
So which is it? He gives us the right desires or what we desire? Yes! Both! When I delight in the Lord, I find my desires changing, and God fulfilling them. Two other words from Jesus seem to say the same thing.
Matthew 6:33 (p. 832) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Notice the context. Jesus is warning against worry over daily necessities. You don’t need to worry; you have a Father who knows your needs and will care for you. So don’t worry. Instead, seek God first—delight in the Lord. And all these things will be given to you as well—He will give you the desires of your heart. Delighting in the Lord is the end of worry!
John 15:7 (p. 928) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
At first glance, this seems untrue. Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. We’ve already established that sometimes we wish for the wrong thing. So this can’t be a blank check—this doesn’t mean that God will give you whatever you ask or wish for. But notice the first part: if you remain in Jesus, and Jesus’ words remain in you, then…ask whatever you wish. Why? Because if you remain in Jesus and Jesus’ words remain in you, it will change your desires; it will change what you wish for. When you delight in Him, your desires change; you begin to want what He wants, and he delights to give that. We begin to pray, “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and mean it. We want what He wants.
Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. And the first and most true desire is the desire for God Himself.
- Our first and most true desire is God Himself.
The Westminster Catechism begins: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Wow! That is a mouthful! Our purpose as human beings is to glorify and enjoy God forever! Could that be true? Could it be that our highest purpose is to enjoy God, to delight in the Lord?
ILL: I told you that my dog, Mazy, delights in running. She runs for the sheer joy of running because she was made to run. She’s a border collie. It’s in her blood and bones. She was made to run so it brings her delight.
When you fulfill your purpose, it brings joy, delight. Your purpose is to enjoy God forever. Just like my dog was made to run, you were made to enjoy God. You were made to delight in the Lord! You were made for God.
Colossians 1:16 (p. 1015) For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Paul is writing about the supremacy of Jesus, and says that we were created for Jesus. Why were you made? For Jesus. This is one of several NT passages that says exactly this: you were created by Jesus and for Jesus. (Romans 11:36, Hebrews 2:10) If you were created for Jesus, you will find your purpose in Jesus: it’s to enjoy Him forever!
ILL: Mazy was made to run. But there is one thing she loves even more than running. Me! She will take off and run for a couple minutes, and then all of sudden stop, her head will swivel until she finds me, and then she tears back to me. She loves me! It turns out that she was made to run, but even more, she was made for me. She was made for a relationship with her master. She delights in me. She follows me everywhere I go around the house, and many times a day, she will jump up on my lap and want my attention and affection. “I love you, I love you. Love me too!” She was made for me—for a relationship with me.
Sorry for the dog analogy, but you and I were made for Jesus. We were made to enjoy Him forever. And He enjoys you too! Did you know that God rejoices over you, delights in you?
Isaiah 62:5 As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
What a beautiful picture! I’ve done lots of weddings. I’ve never seen a groom look with horror or disgust at his bride as she walks down the aisle. It’s wonder, it’s delight, it’s joy! That’s how God looks at you!
Zephaniah 3:16–17 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
I love this verse! God is pictured taking great delight in you, rejoicing over you with singing!
We were made for this: for a love relationship with God. This is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all you’ve got! This is your purpose. This is your true desire. You were made for God. We were made to delight in the Lord, to enjoy Him forever.
Because everyone was created for Jesus, I think everyone’s true desire is for Him. But they don’t know it. We try to fill that God-shaped vacuum with lots of other things, and come up empty. When I tell someone about Jesus, I’m telling them about their true desire. I’m offering living water to someone dying of thirst. I’m offering the bread of life to someone starving. When you know Jesus and experience Jesus and enjoy Jesus and love Jesus, you won’t be reluctant to share Him with someone else because you know He is their true desire too.
So how can you know and experience and enjoy Jesus?
- How can I experience God?
Here’s the short and simple answer: seek and you will find. These are the words of Jesus. They are also the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 29:13 (p. 676) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Seek me and you’ll find me. Seek me with all of your heart. What do you seek with all your heart? Something of great value.
ILL: Several years ago, Janine Noll lost the diamond out of her wedding ring. Besides the monetary value of the stone, there was, of course, an even higher sentimental value: this was her wedding diamond. So an all out search began. She and Rick carefully retraced their steps, looking everywhere for that diamond; they looked all day, but to no avail. The last place she remembered seeing the diamond was when they were riding in Rick’s car. Of course, they had already thoroughly searched the car, looking under the floor mats and seats-everywhere. But as a final act of desperation, Rick even took off the interior door panel. He thought that maybe the diamond had caught on the door as Janine got out of the car, and it might have somehow fallen inside the doorframe. Pretty implausible, but they valued that diamond and were willing to leave no stone unturned. And there it was. Seek with all your heart and you will find.
What makes the story even better is that the car was a 1970 Ford Maverick that was on its last legs. Not long after, it died and Rick had to call several junkyards before he could find one that would take it. They offered him $60 or three hubcaps for it! If Rick hadn’t searched so intensely for that diamond, it would have been hauled out to the junkyard with the car—a $60 car with a $3,000 diamond in the door!
You seek with all your heart when what you are looking for is a treasure. Jesus is that treasure.
Matthew 13:44–46 (p. 840) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Jesus is our treasure. Seek Him and you’ll find Him—and when you find Him, you will delight in Him. He is worth everything!
We seek Jesus in many different ways: in worship, at church, on mission, in our groups, in prayer and in the Bible, in nature, in everyday life. There are many ways to seek God with all your heart. But you know if you’re doing it, or if you’re not. You know if you are pursuing him like a treasure that’s worth everything, or just making a half-hearted effort, or none at all.
I want to finish by encouraging you to do one simple thing that could change your life and help you delight in the Lord. We call it PBJ: prayer, Bible and journal. This is not the only way to seek and find God, but it is one proven way that I’ve been doing for decades.
Each day, set aside some time to seek God by reading the Bible, reflecting on what God says to you, and praying. We have a Bible reading plan that you can use—the full version that takes you through the OT once and the NT twice in a year. We also have a partial plan that takes you through selected passages each day. You can find both on our website (lifecenter.net/Bible), along with helpful information on how to have a daily time with God (PBJ). You can also find the Bible plans on our app, or at the Welcome Center, and in our journals. If you don’t want to use our plans, there are many others out there, including simply reading one chapter a day (I’d start in the New Testament). I don’t care which plan you use; I just want you to read the Bible every day. Please! I’m begging you.
But here’s the thing. Don’t just read it to check the box. Seek God. Come to the Bible expecting to find God, expecting God to speak to you. Come to the Bible to know God and enjoy Him. Delight in the Lord! Come seeking, looking for Him and what He wants to say to you. This changes everything!
ILL: If I have an appointment with you, and I just want to get it done as quickly as possible and move on the next thing, I’m not going to get much out of it, and neither will you. But if I come expecting that I’ll get to know you better, that I’ll learn some things about you, and that I’ll enjoy being with you—well, that makes for a good appointment!
Come to God like that! Open your Bible. Ask God to speak to you. Tell Him that you want to know Him and enjoy Him. Then read slowly. Let Him speak to you. Write down what He says. And pray it back to Him. Seek the Lord with all your heart and you’ll find Him.
 Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, trans. W. F. Trotter (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113, thought #425. Q. In Piper, John. Desiring God, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 356-357).
 C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965), 1–2. Q. In Piper, John. Desiring God, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 357-358).