What Does it Mean to Delight Yourself in the Lord? (Psalm 37:4)
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Since it is human nature to battle against self-worship, we are tempted to focus on the latter half of this verse which seems to promise that God will give us whatever our little hearts desire. But realizing the context of Psalm 37:4 will help us better comprehend what it means to delight in the Lord.
Lori grew up attending a church that was big on emotional experiences. Not a Sunday went by that someone didn’t say they had received a “special word from the Lord.” When the music played there were lots of tears, hallelujah shouts and other things that she wasn’t too sure about. During the week the pendulum swung the other way when Lori attended a conservative Christian school with legalistic overtones.
While her church would say their hunger for experiences expressed their delight in the Lord, the message she got from school was, “God is only delighted when you live up to His expectations”. Lori was conflicted and wanted real answers about what it meant to delight herself in the Lord. Maybe you can relate?
True delight in Him causes us to take our sights off of what we want in order to long for what He desires. The command to delight in God appears amidst this list that King David penned in the Psalms as the antidote for his fretting people:
- Know the fate of evildoers (Psalm 37:2)
- Trust in the Lord (37:3)
- Do good (37:3)
- Befriend faithfulness (37:3)
- Delight yourself in the LORD (37:4)
- Commit your way to Him (37:5)
- Rest in, and wait patiently for, The Lord (37:7)
So, wow. Right in the middle of fretting over circumstances God wants us to apply all of these principles and somehow delight in Him. That sounds great, but how is one to muster up delight in God when everything around you seems to be going wrong?
The best way to stop fretting is to take your eyes off the circumstances and fix them on Christ who is the true source of a believer’s delight. There are many reasons to delight in the Lord but for now, let’s unpack just five ways to delight Him:
1. Delight in the excellencies of the Lord our God
We are all bent to admire our heroes. Whether it’s an athlete, musician or entertainer, we enjoy following their accomplishments. But God created us with the longing to admire all the wonders of who He is and His excellent greatness. Looking to a person to fill this God-given desire will never bring true delight or satisfaction.
Realize “the god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). So, their desire to worship will always turn toward idolizing a person, or belief system, unless the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the truth. Be humbled to consider Paul’s observation in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you.” (Take a deep breath. Let that sit with you for a moment. Delight in how excellent is God that He opened your eyes to realize your need for a Savior!)
When you delight in the excellencies of God you will come to understand that everything about Him is the answer to your longings. Devote yourself to discovering in the Bible what He reveals about His character and ways and you cannot help but delight in His excellence.
If you spend the rest of your life learning the immeasurable greatness of God, admiration for Jesus will explode in your heart and mind. This will ignite an insatiable desire in youto know more of His excellencies –– resulting in even greater delight and true satisfaction in Him. And nothing –– not even fretful circumstances, will steal away from you this supernatural delight.
Consider this quote from Puritan Preacher Jonathan Edward’s sermon The Excellencies of Christ: “The person of Christ brings together infinite highness and infinite condescension, infinite justice and infinite grace, infinite glory and lowest humility, infinite majesty and transcendent meekness, deepest reverence towards God and equality with God, infinite worthiness of good and greatest patience under suffering evil, exceeding spirit of obedience with supreme dominion over heaven and earth, absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation, self-sufficiency and entire trust and reliance upon God.”
2. Delight in The Lord's presence
The Hebrew word for delight (anag) commands us to find enjoyment in God. The Lord wants us to incline our hearts toward Him –– to lean in to Christ where we will discover unspeakable joy. James 4:8 promises, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” How cool is that? The Creator of heaven and earth is more than willing to draw near to you if you would but lean into His presence through prayer, meditation on Scripture and hearing Him speak to you through His Word.
When I travel to speak at women’s events my husband really misses me. (We are empty-nesters so the house can feel rather lonely.) He texts often while I am away –– which is delightful! Can you imagine how it would hurt our intimacy if I chose to ignore his texts until I returned home from my trip?
In the same way, when you get so busy doing “good things for God” that you regularly ignore the messages He has for you in the Bible, you’ll not be keenly aware of His presence causing your fellowship and delight in Him to be hindered. Consider Martha’s sister Mary who chose the better thing which will not be taken away (see Luke chapter 10).
3. Delight in God’s help
When you hear that God commands you to delight in Him you may be tempted to think, I’d better pull myself up by my religious bootstraps and figure out how to enjoy God. But God does not want you to delight in Him out of duty. Rather, whatever God commands Christians to do, He always provides not only the ability, but also gives us the unction to do it.
Be inspired by this promise found in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” And be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s words, “[I am] confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
If you even want to figure out how to delight in God it’s evidence of His work in you. Isn’t that exciting? And when God gives you the will He also empowers you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
When I realized I didn’t delight in God I asked Him to help me by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. And do you know what? God answered that prayer, and He will be faithful to answer yours too. God says, “You have not because you ask not.” Ask and He promises to answer when you pray according to His will because it brings glory to His Son (see James 4:2b & John 14:13-14).
4. Delight our Lord's great love for you
Jesus loves me this I know… Maybe you’ve heard this your whole life so it’s kind of lost its meaning for you. In more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife my husband and I have found that some of the hardest people to reach with the Gospel are those who have grown up in the church, because they take for granted God’s tremendous love for them. Somehow they have the idea, Of course God loves me. I’m entitled to be loved by Him because I’m such a good person and have gone to church all my life.
To be honest, I was one of those kids. Even though God transformed my family when my father came to Christ, as a second generation Christian I was unmoved by the transformation. Growing up in the church and attending Christian schools I was apathetic toward the inexpressible love God had for me –– maybe you can relate?
I knew that Jesus shed His precious blood to cleanse me from my sins. I’d memorized Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But the familiarity of the message seemed to move me to apathy. I don’t think I am the only Christian who missed the power of those words while growing up in my Christian bubble.
In Ephesians 3:18-19 the Apostle Paul seemed to be concerned about their understanding of God’s love for them when he prayed that they would be “able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height –– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”
May God answer Paul’s prayer in the lives of believers so that our comprehension of His great love of us will cause our delight in Him to be a beacon of hope to this generation who is in desperate need of a Savior. Amen?
5. Delight in God's mercy and compassion
God’s abundant mercy is something I will never fully comprehend. Because He is merciful we can stand before Him whiter than snow under the cleansing blood of Christ. I don’t know about you but I know I don’t deserve God’s mercy or Christ’s compassion. “Come now and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18). I know the shameful woman I would have become without Christ’s saving mercy. And I stand in awe that He would save a sinner such as I. How about you?
Together let’s pray the words of Lamentations 3:22-23. And may it stir in us genuine delight in The Lord: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.”
A.W. Tozer said, "We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit (and) when the Holy Spirit shows us God as He is we admire Him to the point of wonder and DELIGHT.” Oh that His Spirit would raise up a generation who so admires God that delighting in Him becomes our insatiable pleasure that far exceeds anything this world has to offer.
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