“Hedonism” is the belief that pleasure is the most important thing in the world, and that you should live your life, for pleasure. Most Christians would say that hedonism is wrong — but a few years ago pastor John Piper asserted that hedonism is actually good — IF you are seeking the right kind of pleasure. And he introduced the idea of what he calls “Christian hedonsim” — that life IS about finding your pleasure and delight in GOD, who designed us to be satisfied in Him. This what our verse for today teaches:
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I. Misplaced Delight
This verse says “Delight yourself IN THE LORD.” But the basic problem most of us have, is that we are seeking to find our delight in something BESIDES the Lord.
This started in the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden. We didn’t get far into our Daily Bible Readings, when we read in Genesis 3:6 that Satan tempted Eve with the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and she “saw that it was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” Did you catch that? “A DELIGHT to the eyes”! She delighted in that fruit; she thought that IT would bring her delight: to look at, to eat, to bring her wisdom, and she chose delighting in that fruit, OVER obeying God, and finding her delight in Him.
Someone might ask, what was the big deal about Eve taking a piece of fruit? Why was that so bad, that it should be a sin, and that she should be cast out of the Garden? The great sin of Eden was not merely that Eve took a piece of fruit; the great sin of Eden was that she delighted in something more than God Himself. THAT was the great sin; and it is the root of pretty much every sin there is: delighting in something else more than the God we were designed to find it in.
And of course, like all of Satan’s temptations, it was a trap. Delighting in that fruit instead of God did NOT give Eve great delight; it brought great pain to her and her husband and her children, and to the whole world ever since.
And ever since, the whole world has followed in the footsteps of our ancestor Eve. The search for delight is basically the background story of the history of all mankind. Everyone is trying to find “delight.” But just like Eve most people are seeking to find their primary delight in things other than the Lord, and they end up unfulfilled and and hurting as a result.
This was what the writer of Ecclesiastes experienced. That book tells us he looked everywhere for delight:
— In 1:12-18 he says he pursued wisdom, but in the end it was vanity.
— Then in 2:1 he says he pursued pleasure — but it too just led to vanity
— He pursued “laughter” (2:2) what we would call “entertainment”, but he said laughter and pleasure are just “madness,” and “what does it accomplish?”
— In 2:3-11 he says he tried to stimulate his body with wine; he dove into his work on his grounds; he accumulated all kinds of treasures and possessions,” but at the end of all his striving he said “Behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”
Pleasure, entertainment, work, money, possessions, stimulants — he said NOTHING gave him the ultimate delight he was looking for. (And at the end of that great book he says, “Remember your Creator.” He’s the only One in whom you will find the delight you are looking for.)
Ecclesiastes isn’t just one man’s story; it shows us the same misplaced search for delight that people have today. People are searching for delight in the wrong things, and it leads to hurt and unfulfillment:
We make our football teams our greatest delight — and then the stupid field goal kicker misses, and your team loses, and there is not much “delight” to be found there anymore. (Or like my favorite pro team from last year, that stayed in the tunnel for the National Anthem. Well there goes all that delight! They totally let me down.) If you’re looking to find your delight in your football team, it’s a huge downer when they disappoint your or they lose. Or when it’s not football season — You just lost your source of delight. And you have NO control over it really, do you?
Some look for their delight in their husband or their wife. And there IS legitimate delight you can and should have in your spouse. Proverbs tells the man to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
But many people make the mistake of looking to their spouse to give them the ultimate satisfaction and delight that only GOD can give. This is where this idea of the “soul mate” can be very dangerous. When people speak of their “soul mate,” a lot of them mean that person who SO fulfills them and gives them joy, that their lives are totally satisfied and fulfilled by them. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone! No one can live up to that. And so when a man or woman finds that the person they are married to doesn’t give them all the delight they are looking for, they decide “this must not be my soul mate,” and so they ditch that person and start looking for someone else. But that can’t ultimately satisfy them either — because NO ONE can!
The problem is — and hopefully some of our young people who are here today especially can learn this now — is that you were never intended to find all of your delight fulfilled by any person. NO MERE PERSON can do that for you. If you look for your delight in a person it will end up hurting both them and you. Don’t think: “If I can just find that one person, then I’ll be fulfilled.” No; find a godly person you can commit to and serve — but find your fulfillment in GOD!
Many people look for their delight in their family — and there are joys to be found in family — but we also know that family can leave you, or die, or become estranged from you. That’s not just theoretical; it happens, doesn’t it? And when it does, where is your delight? Your can’t find your ultimate delight in your family.
Many men find their delight in their job — and again, there is a legitimate place for working hard and feeling good about that — but you have to be careful that you don’t try to find your ultimate fulfillment in your work. What if you lose that job? What if you become disabled and cannot work? Then where will your delight be?
When I got sick I had to make sure I differentiated between delighting in my church work, and delighting in God Himself. They are not the same. When I became disabled that year I lost my church; but I didn’t lose my GOD! As we saw last week, He is always with us. And that is one of the keys. When you delight in the Lord instead of these other things, you ALWAYS have access to that delight, and no one can take it away from you.
I love the idea behind the “Made To Crave” study that we had here for our ladies a couple of years ago. Its focus is on eating, but the root idea behind it applies to so many things: that we were “made to crave” GOD, but we have turned away from delighting in Him, and we get entrapped by trying to find our fulfillment in all these other cravings — whether it is food, as she addresses in her book, or drugs or alcohol, or sexual immorality, or overspending, or binge-watching tv shows — it takes different forms in each one of us — but the root of them all is the same: but we are “looking for delight in all the wrong places” that won’t satisfy us. It is the common human story: the misplaced search for delight.
II. The Source of Delight
This verse says: “Delight yourself in the LORD.” That tells us where delight is ultimately to be found. It is “IN THE LORD.” (Notice that “LORD” here is in all caps again; that means it is the personal name of YHWH, the “I AM” God of the Bible who is being talked about here. Real delight is found in this God.
And this isn’t the only place that says that. I have been amazed at how many verses we’ve already come across in our Daily Bible readings this year, which indicate that we are to find our delight in the Lord:
— Psalm 4:7 “You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and new wine abound.” God has a joy and delight to give you that is based on more than circumstances.
— Psalm 17:15 shows us where that joy is found: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.” Satisfaction is found in the face of God!
— This week we read Psalm 42, which begins, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (:1-2)
He says GOD is the One my soul is thirsty for; nothing else will do!
— One of my very favorite verses in all of the Bible is Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Where is “fullness of joy”? Where are “pleasures forever”? They are found “in His presence.”
— Psalm 36:8 “You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.” How descriptive that is! It says God has delights that He will pour out on us like a RIVER — so much that we can hardly even contain them!
I just finished a book by historian David McCullough called Brave Companions, in which he devotes one chapter each to some person from history who was very important in their day, but who is largely unknown today. The first chapter was on Alexander Von Humboldt. In the 1800’s Von Humboldt was a botanist who made such amazing discoveries, that he become one of the most famous men in the world. He and another scientist, Aime Bonpland, undertook the first real scientific exploration of the Amazon jungle and all of its plants and animals. McCullough writes:
“Their excitement was enormous. No botanist, no naturalist or scientist of any kind, had even been there before them. Everything was new, even the stars in the sky. ‘We are here in a DIVINE COUNTRY,’ Humboldt wrote to his brother. ‘What trees! Coconut trees, fifty to sixty feet high, Poinciana pulcherrima, with a foot-high bouquet of magnificent, bright-red flowers; pisang and a host of trees with enormous leaves and scented flowers, as big as the palm of a hand, of which we knew nothing … And what colors in birds, fish, even crayfish (sky blue and yellow!) We rush around like the demented; in the first three days we were quite unable to classify anything; we pick up one object to throw it away for the next. Bonpland keeps telling me that he will go mad if the wonders do not cease soon.” (pp. 6-7)
You can just imagine that kind of never-ending wonder and glory, that just overwhelms you — THAT is how it is going to be in the presence of God! Heaven will not merely be some kind of “bland delight”, where we sit around bored on clouds playing harps; we will be drinking from the RIVER of God’s delights, Psalm 36 says. And it will be a DELUGE! It won’t be like “trying to get a drink out of a fire hydrant;” it’s going to be like trying to drink from Niagara falls! We will stand there with torrents of pleasure and glory and delight gushing all over us, and we will not be able to take it all in. We will be totally overwhelmed in God’s presence with more delights than our hearts can ever hold!
(Now many believe that the “rewards” we get in heaven, will correspond to greater ability to experience God’s delights there. Heaven will be heaven for everyone there; no matter what your reward. Everyone will experience great delight there. But those who were obedient to Him here on earth, and served Him, and sought Him, and who cultivated those delights here on earth, will have the reward of a greater capacity to enjoy His delights there.)
But be that as it may; the Bible makes it clear that the source of eternal delight is the presence of God Himself. “Delight yourself in the Lord.” HE is the source of delight.
III. Your Commitment to Delight
Notice the verse says “delight YOURSELF” in the LORD.
In Hebrew this is what they call a “reflexive” verb (Hithpael Imperative) which means that you do this for yourself. The reflexive for “wash” would mean “wash yourself.” The reflexive for “search” would mean “search yourself.” So “delight” in the reflexive means “delight yourself.” It implies that there must be EFFORT on your part. You’ve got to DO this.
What efforts might we have to put forth, to delight ourselves in the Lord?
— We need to purposefully forsake other things that we are seeking delight in, to seek the Lord instead. You are never going to appreciate good food until you give up the junk. (Perhaps I’ll learn that one day!) But in the same way, you’re never going to delight in the Lord until you stop trying to find your delight in other things instead. So to delight yourself in the Lord, you’ve got to purposefully put aside those other substitutes.
— Then you’ve got to exercise the disciplines involved in delighting yourself in God — primarily worship and His word. There are basic disciplines you have to master so that you can learn to really delight yourself in the Lord.
It’s just like reading. Two of our grand daughters are learning to read right now. You may have seen that Abigail was over the other weekend, and David had told us she could now read the Dr. Seuss book, Hop on Pop. (I tried to get her to read it for me, but Abigail doesn’t “perform;” she does what she wants, when she wants to! I did trick her into reading some of it. As she was walking by I picked up the book and started reading it wrong: “MOP NO POT.” And she came over and read, “NO! Hop on Pop.” She read for a while but pretty quickly figured out I’d tricked her and stopped!)
I don’t know how much pure “enjoyment” the girls get out of reading right now. Because at first, reading can seem like just a lot of learning letters, what makes what sounds, and grammar rules, and so on. Not real “fun.” But IF they will keep at it, one day reading can give them great pleasure, can’t it? Reading can take you far away to Bonpland’s Amazon jungles, or to long-lost worlds; you can soak in the words of the greatest men who ever lived, or get chills of inspiration. But to get there, you have to learn the disciplines of the a-b-c’s, and the grammar, first.
See, the problem for many Christians — and I would say perhaps MOST Christians today — is that they have never really mastered the a-b-c’s of seeking God. There are depths of love; there are heights of joy, to be found in the Lord — not only in heaven, but also starting RIGHT NOW — but to be able to enjoy them, we FIRST have to master the a-b-c’s and the “basic grammar” of seeking God. Those basics include:
— reading His word
— learning how to pray more than a few sentences or some prayer requests
— memorizing scripture so that you can “soar” with it into the love and glory and joy of the Lord as you quote it and pray it and sing it — but you can’t “soar” with it unless you have first disciplined yourself to memorize that word, and learn to pray it and make it personal, and love and worship the Lord through it.
— we’ve got to learn songs and hymns and spiritual songs, so that we aren’t just “reading” them off of a page or a screen, but can really sing them out from our heart to the Lord.
Take for example the song, “This Blood.” SO many of us love to worship with this song. But it has taken us some time to learn it; we had to hear it repeatedly; we had to internalize it; and now that we have done that, we don’t need the words any more, some of us would even say we don’t need the choir; we can just sing it in the car or wherever we are, and we just “cut loose” and worship and savor and enjoy it. It’s one of those “delights in the Lord.” But before we’re able to worship like that, first we have to have the discipline to memorize it, so that we can delight in the Lord through it.
That’s the way it is with ALL these disciplines. You can do the same thing with the Psalms, and other chapters and portions of scripture. You can “get high” on it, in a sense — a “good” kind of high, a “high” that God intended us to have, that’s a foretaste of the delights we’ll have one day in heaven. There are “delights” to be found in the presence of the Lord — even here and now — but we can never really begin to enjoy those delights until we first acquire the basic daily disciplines of the word, prayer, scripture memory, and personal worship that will allow us to experience those delights freely and personally.
This is what is behind our Daily Bible readings. This isn’t just some “religious” thing for us to do — it is learning the first steps of seeking the LORD; so that we eventually learn to find our delight in Him.
See, THAT is God’s goal for us. He wants us to delight in Him. In fact, we should note that this verse is an imperative: “Delight yourself in the Lord” — it’s a command from God. Why is that? He’s not being “selfish” or “self-centered.” He commands us to find our delight in Him, because He knows that only in Him can we really find our ultimate delight.
See, man’s problem is NOT that we are seeking pleasure and delight. God made us for pleasure and delight! The problem is, we usually try to find it in the wrong places. C.S. Lewis said:
“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.”
(C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)
God’s saying here, don’t be too easily pleased. Don’t settle for what will never ultimately satisfy you. “Delight yourself in the Lord – and He will give you the desires of your heart.”