What are you delighting in? What are you seeking to give you pleasure, fulfillment, joy, satisfaction? What do you take pride in? Is it your job, or family, or hobbies, or recreation, or friends, or abilities? Whatever it is, and it may be more than one thing, that is what has highest priority in your life. And if it isn't God, then your life is off kilter and out of balance. For it is only when we are delighting in, deriving our pleasure, fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, and pride in God alone that our life is in balance and we are truly living.
This past week I was reminded of this through several passages that friends brought to my attention, starting in Psalm 37 and leading to Isaiah 48 that summarized perfectly what I had been experiencing in my own life. In each of the passages a different word is used to describe this concept, but they are all related, like different facets of the same jewel. It started with the word delight found in Psalm 37, then the word boast used by Paul in 2 Corinthians, the word faith in Romans 14, and culminates with the word glory in Isaiah 48.
Delight, according to the dictionary, means to take pleasure in. David, in Psalm 37:4 writes "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Here we have the promise that if we delight, or take pleasure, in God then he will give you the desires of your heart. Often however, we delight in or seek pleasure from the desires of our heart instead of delighting in God and trusting him to supply the desires of our heart. When we are doing this, usually we don't end up getting whatever it is we desire. Then when we read a passage like this we think that, since we haven't gotten the things we desire, our desires must be wrong. If they were right, we argue, then God would have given them to us. But that's not necessarily the case. Our desires may be right, but if we are seeking pleasure in them rather than in God we are not meeting the conditions of this promise. We must be seeking God first, then he will satisfy the desire.
However, God may not satisfy our desires immediately. David, in Psalm 37, desired justice in the world, punishment for the evildoers and blessing for the righteous. But God wasn't satisfying that desire right away. Instead David had to remind himself, and us, to "be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." in verse 7. It is the patient waiting for God and not fretting that demonstrate his delight in the LORD. He was choosing to seek God and focus on what he had done and would do rather than worrying about how to bring justice to the world. I have even seen this principle play out in my own life several times, some of them just recently. I would desire to have something, quite often something good and Biblical such as closer relationships with some of my friends. However, whenever I focused on that desire and schemed how I might do something to help improve the relationship with my friends, we only seemed to get more distant. But when I have focused instead on God and sought to honor and obey him, I have seen him begin to give me a closer relationship with them. It is a slow process and has taught me to wait patiently for God and trust him, but I have seen him fulfill his promise to satisfy my desires when I delight in him.
Boasting in something shows that we take pride in it. Whether it is something we're good at or someone who we know, when we boast about it, or them, we are indicating its importance to us, we are delighting in it. Paul in 2 Corinthians 10-12 lays out for us what he took pride in, boasted about, in his life. He contrasts his boasting with that of others who boasted about what they had done or how important they were. Paul's boasting was all centered on God and what he had done. In chapter 11 he boasts about the beatings and persecutions that he has endured to show that he is weak and that God is his strength. In chapter 12 rather than boasting in the vision that he had, Paul boasts about his "thorn in the flesh" that forced him to rely on God for strength. He summarizes it in chapter 12 verses 9 and 10 saying "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." By boasting in his weaknesses that made God's strength in his life apparent, Paul was delighting in God.
The essence of faith is putting our trust in, depending on, something or someone. In the Bible that someone is God. In Romans 14, after a lengthy discussion about our interactions with each other and respecting one another's conscience, Paul gets to the heart of the issue in verse 23 when he says "But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin." The issue isn't whether to eat meat or not eat meat, or what type of music to listen to, or what kinds of clothes to wear, but whether or not we are depending on God. And if we are depending on God in whatever we are doing, then we are taking delight in him. This is what Paul is getting at earlier in the chapter starting in verse 6 and continuing to verse 8 when he says "He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." These verses evoke the imagery of a slave belonging to his master, and elsewhere in the Bible Christians are referred to as the slaves of Christ. A good slave desires to follow, even takes pleasure in following, his master's instructions. So if we are seeking to please God in what we do, we are doing it in faith, and demonstrating that our delight is in God.
These three words, delight, boast, and faith, are all aspects of glorifying God. To glorify something or someone is to give it weight, to demonstrate its importance, to exalt it. In Isaiah 48 God excoriates Israel for not glorifying him but rather ascribing the works that he had done to the idols that they had made. He demonstrates how important his glory is in verses 9 through 11, reiterating several times that what he had done, and was currently doing, to save them from their enemies was for his own sake, not theirs. He ends in verse 11 with "How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another." Israel had not been trusting in God to deliver them. They had not been boasting about what God had done for them. They were not taking pleasure in God, but rather in the things God had prescribed for them. In short, they were not glorifying God, but were glorifying themselves and the things that they were doing. Since God is the "weightiest", the most important, influential and powerful, being in the universe, when we attempt to elevate something else to the same or greater importance in our lives, we are robbing God of his rightful place. When we do that we get ourselves into trouble, just like the Israelites, because whatever we try to replace God with cannot provide all that we need in life. He alone, as the primary focus of our life, can bring the balance and perspective that we need to live.
So, is your life spinning out of control? Do you feel like you can barely keep up? Are you uncertain what steps to take next? Are you glorifying God? Are you trusting in him to guide you? Are you depending on him for results? Are you boasting in who he is and what he has done in your life? Are you deriving your pleasure in life from pleasing God? If not, I dare you to try it and see how your life changes. It won't be easy or quick, it goes against our nature, but I can assure you, it is totally worth it.