Joy Is Obedience
The following is a lightly edited transcript.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
So we have a great promise: He will give you the desires of your heart. And we have a command: Delight yourself in the Lord. The command is the condition of the promise. So delight yourself in me, God says, and I will satisfy your heart.
Somebody asked me one time: Should you pursue joy or should you pursue obedience? And I said, “That is like saying, ‘Should you pursue apples or should you pursue fruit,’ because if you obey the command — Delight yourself in the Lord — you are pursuing joy and so obedience and joy can’t be contrasted like that.”
We are called upon to delight ourselves in the Lord. And here is a big glitch for a lot of people. You can’t enjoy a God that you are not sure is for you. If you have got this niggling sense — he is against me, he is always disappointed in me, he is not going to accept me — then to try to muster up delight in a God like that is going to be impossible.
Therefore, we let our eyes run to Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” And that sounds like: Well, we are in trouble with God. But then he adds, “And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Which means, already in the Old Testament we are being taught that we have a Savior. We have a substitute. We have Jesus, a Christ, and a Messiah who has born our sins.
So now when we are commanded — Delight yourself in the Lord — we are standing on a very firm foundation of acceptance. God is on our side. He loves us, which means we are free. We can lay all that aside and just look at his beauties and be utterly and deeply and profoundly happy in what we see, because it is totally there for us.
And so delighting ourselves in the Lord becomes the all-consuming passion of our lives, which means that it shapes the desires of our heart. If you delight yourself in the Lord fully, that conforms your heart to him and, therefore, the promise is going to be true. But it is going to be true like this: He will give you all the desires of your heart that enable you to enjoy him to the full. He will give you all the desires of your heart, which are rooted in and focused on him.
So run to the cross. Find the forgiveness. Enjoy the acceptance. Look at the beauties of the Lord. Be satisfied in him and then let your heart run wild with God-exalting, God-centered desires in this world.