The Desires of our heart
Intro/Central Truth: Good morning. You know, one of the things about being a pastor is that you have a whole Bible to preach from. You can never run out of sermons, but I’ve heard it said many times that pastors often get to a point where they’ve run out of ideas and don’t know what to preach next. Sometimes it’s week by week, they struggle with coming up with a sermon topic. That’s one of the nice things about a series, you’ve got something to keep you on track for a while.
And this past Friday, I sat at my computer thinking, “I don’t have anything. I literally don’t have anything in mind to share.” No inspiration, no sudden jog of the memory of something I said I’d like to preach on someday…nothing.
I was reminded of when my dad preached last week on God hitting the pause button, and it’s something we all go through whether it’s weeks or even years. I was thinking about things in my life that I’ve been waiting on, and how long it’s taken. And then, I was reminded of yet another meme. Perhaps this could be the ‘meme’ sermon series.
It’s from Tobymac, you’ve heard him if you listen to Family Life Radio. It said, “If you quit now, you’ll end up back where you first began. And when you first began, you were desperate to be where you are now.”
That’s a powerful statement. But it’s so hard to wait. No matter what it is that you’re waiting on. Maybe the fulfillment of a calling on your life, a loved-one saved, a medical issue being taken care of, church growth. Whatever it is, it’s hard to wait.
Here’s another meme. I’ve shared it before: “Joseph waited 13 years; Abraham waited 2 years; Moses waited 40 years; Jesus waited 30 years. If God is making you wait, you’re in good company.”
So I want to again, sort of piggy-back on my dad’s sermon and talk to you today about something we spent a whole year on last year: God’s promises. God’s promise to fulfill our heart’s desire.
Like I did last time, I’m not going to go to just one verse, but to several as we go through this sermon.
Point 1: The first is one may have already come into your mind. It’s a popular verse. Some of the ones that I am going to go to today are out of Psalms. And this one is from Psalm 37:3-4 “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Now, like a lot of Psalms, David goes on talking about the fate of the wicked, and that was a focus of David because he was a warrior king. It was something that he faced head on a lot. And so I was tempted to read more from this chapter, but because it talked more about enemies and the wicked compared to God’s children, I didn’t want to digress into that. I wanted to focus on God’s blessing, not God’s punishment.
But I can’t help but point out that the majority of those two verses come with not just a promise, but also a command, a condition: “Trust in the Lord [one command] and do good [a second command]; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture [third command]. Take delight in the Lord [fourth command], and then [the condition] he will give you the desires of your heart.”
You see, people get confused. God’s love is unconditional, but God’s promises are conditional. Many of God’s promises are ‘if/then’ statements. You may remember those statements from English class or Math class. For those of us who grew up in the early days of computers––long before the internet, we’ll remember ‘if/then’ statements. “If this, then that.” In English, it’s about making a full sentence. In math, it has something to do with equations. And in computers, it tells the computer to do something or maybe in many other directions in life we know that ‘If this happens, then do that.’
But God makes these conditions because he is a gracious and loving God, and he wants to give an extra blessing to his children and those who delight in him, those who enjoy being in His presence and have a right relationship with Him. God’s love is for everyone including the wretched sinner who does not know him, but he gives his people the desires of their hearts, best interpreted as prayers and requests from deep longings that come from the heart.
Now, I have to make it clear that God is not going to give us every single deep longing that we have. Especially when it comes to materialistic things. He may bless us with nice things, but like I’ve said over and over and over again, God is not our Genie that just gives us our every wish. There are times when God works things out and blesses us with nice things. We may have a job where we’re blessed with enough money that we can have certain things. And it’s a joy to have those things and we should be grateful and thankful to God for those blessings. But God doesn’t promise us all of our wants.
Here’s another meme. This one is by Lecrae, who is a Christian hip-hop artist. He said, “If God said yes to all your prayer requests, would it change anyone’s world besides yours?” That’s something to think about. And quite frankly, if I had everything I wanted, I would live in my own little ivory tower and be happy and content and maybe I would make a difference to others around me, maybe not. I get to bless people with not just one successful job, but with three part-time jobs. I get to bless people in three different ways.
There is a relatively new apartment complex in Perry, about a 40 minute drive west of Dansville. It was an old knitting mill that has been converted to apartments. And these apartments are for those with mental and physical needs or people going through some kind of recovery. I have three, sometimes four passengers that I pick up and take back there every week, usually at least one on almost a daily basis. And between Perry and Geneseo there’s a car for sale. I don’t know the year, I haven’t stopped to look at it––yet, I don’t know the price. All I know is that it’s for sale by the owner and it’s a beautiful Trans Am. I’ve loved Trans Ams ever since I can remember. It’s a nice green. And it’s almost identical to one I’ve seen before in the Corning area when we lived here, so it could be 20 years old or more for all I know. If it is, the body is in pristine condition. And yes, I remember the one from 20 years ago, because I wanted it even then.
And then in Geneseo, if you go to Buzzo’s Music Store, he’s got a Rickenbacker guitar for sale. At least he did. I haven’t stopped in a while because I’d just be disappointed that I couldn’t buy that guitar. I mean, it’s for sale for only a mere $1,600. It’s a six string. I prefer the 12, but I’d take the six.
My point is that there are plenty of Christians out there that could buy both. I’m not in a position right now to be able to buy even one of those, let alone both. Those two things are desires that are on my heart. Like I said, God may bless us someday to be able to buy things that we really want. But God’s not in the business to give us an armload of expensive presents all the time. Why? Because God’s will in my life is to impact the people and bless the people that I drive to and from that apartment building, and if I had a job where I could buy a bunch of expensive things, I wouldn’t be doing the job of blessing those people in Perry. That’s the job that God wants me to have right now. That’s the duty that God has me doing right now. There’s more to God and God’s will than giving us presents. And quite frankly, we all know that spoiling a child does not mature them. And the point to our Christianity is to not remain immature Christians, as Paul points out, but to mature as Christians.
Now, don’t get me wrong, being blessed monetarily doesn’t mean you’re an immature Christian, maybe it means you’re a more mature Christian than me, I don’t know.
But, I can’t stand up here in good conscience and say to you that God is going to give you all of your wishes and make all of your dreams come true. This isn’t a Disney story. There are reasons why God gives certain gifts to some, and not to others. Some suffer a little with material wealth, while others are blessed. Some Christians, equal children of God, who are in the same profession, and may be just as talented as the other, might be more successful than others. God’s will for the individual is unique.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself.” Did you hear that? Contrary to popular opinion, God leads us along the best and straightest paths to himself, not to happiness. And Bonhoeffer should know, he was a martyr. He was killed by the Nazis for preaching against them. I’m sure he didn’t want to become a martyr. I’m sure he’d rather have had comfort and happiness, right? But again, it’s about our Christian maturity. God will lead us closer to himself. And if materialism or certain desires of our hearts will get in the way of that, then God will either hold off on that gift until we are mature enough to handle it or he will hold off on it altogether because it’s unnecessary for our spiritual growth or will get in the way of our calling.
Last week, I was telling dad about that Trans Am, and you know what he said? Pastors can’t have cars like that. He was only half kidding. I mean, think about it, what would you think of a pastor who drove around in a sports car? What would non-Christians think of that pastor? It’s not wrong to own one, but it’s not the best witness, either.
God is the gift giver. We may ask, but God our father controls which gifts he knows are best for us.
Point 2: Let’s take a look at a couple more sets of verses that go along with the condition. I know I’m spending a lot of time on that. Both verses are in regards to King Solomon. In this first one, King David’s final acts of preparation for the temple were the public commissioning of his son Solomon as king and the delivery of the temple plans. Here in 1 Chronicles 28:9 David says, “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.”
Then if we jump to 2 Chronicles, chapter 1, we read God’s response to Solomon’s desire. What was the desire of Solomon’s heart as the new king of Israel? Was it riches, wealth, land? Was it victory in battle and smiting his enemies like his father had done? Being a greater warrior than his father and creating a greater name for himself than his famous father?
No. He said, “10 Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead these people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? 11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
God searches the heart. He searches what our desires are and if our motives are pure and holy, and if we are humble. Because of our sinful nature, and especially the way the world was at that time, a king would naturally ask for riches and honor and conquest. But Solomon wanted wisdom. And there’s a special place in God’s heart for wisdom. James said, “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
God granted Solomon’s request and gave him more because Solomon’s heart was in the right place. The desires of his heart were humble and of a servant attitude, the right attitude for a king. Solomon didn’t want the things that brought him more for himself, he wanted the thing that would best serve the people of Israel. And the desire of Solomon’s heart touched God’s heart.
Point 3: So what if we’ve asked for the right thing, and we’ve felt God’s presence stir in our hearts that it is the right thing to ask for, we feel as if God is going to grant that request, but we don’t see it materialize? I want to go back to something I started with. That quote from Tobymac and the meme about Joseph and Moses and even Jesus longing, waiting. When God pushes the pause button, it’s hard to be stuck. We’re not meant to be stuck. We’re meant to move. We’re meant to get a move on, to get to where we’re going.
When I’m out driving, especially in nice weather like this, I don’t mind making trips across the Finger Lakes. This past week, I had a hospital discharge from Rochester to Binghamton. It was a two and a half-hour trip. And I thought the GPS was going to take us on 390 south to 86 in Bath and over. Nope. The GPS took us over the northern end of the Finger Lakes and I loved it. We went through the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, we went through nice little towns like Auburn, Skaneateles, and beautiful views over the hills and through the countryside, then we hopped onto I-81 just south of Syracuse and headed straight to Binghamton.
The next day, I got a trip from Warsaw––not far from Perry, in the middle of cow country, to Enfield. It took us through Watkins Glen and I showed my passenger our church. That was just another lovely trip. And it’s always nice to travel here each Sunday. But then there are days when we just want to get to where we are going. Sometimes on my way home, I’ll take the scenic route, but after a long day, I just want to get home the quickest way possible.
And isn’t it that way with us and God. God wants us to take the scenic route while we just want to get to where we’re going. Why? Because after a two hour trip, you just want to get to your destination. And with God, it’s the same way. When he calls us to something or we have a great desire within our hearts that we want to see fulfilled. It’s just like God to take us on the unexpected GPS route, isn’t it? Sometimes when it’s not the route we expected, we wonder after a while if we’re on the right path. We think we should have been there a long time ago, already.
But remember, the scenic route isn’t a bad thing. It’s scenic for a reason. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the scenery while you have it, before it passes you by. You’ll get there. Going back to King Solomon, after God granted him his unusual wisdom, he wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Trust me. I know what it’s like for hope to be deferred and for it to make your heart sick. There’s a song by Carman. The problem, which made my heart sick, was that I was not enjoying the scenery. I was too eager to get there. I was like a little child––talk about spiritual maturity––asking God, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? When are we going to be there?”
This goes back 35 years. It’s from Carman’s Champion album. When I was going through a difficult time, there were two things that strengthened me. For one, that meme from Tobymac hit me, and second, I was reminded of these lyrics from Carman. They go like this:
You felt it in your spirit: God’s showing you something new,
Something no one else has thought of, but only you can do,
But just as your desire grew you got a little depressed ’cause you found no destination for your dreams to manifest.
Your desire is the confirmation,
The destination is there,
God wouldn’t put it in your spirit if it wasn’t going nowhere,
So, set your sights on the promises and don’t you be scared,
‘Cause you desire is the confirmation,
The destination is there.
The vision’s for a certain hour – I know it won’t be late,
His promises will strengthen you if only you will wait,
Don’t follow someone else’s dream; keep you own in sight,
‘Cause the vision that God gives you will keep you all your life.
Conclusion: As we conclude today, I want to go back to King Solomon again. These are among his other words of wisdom:
Proverbs 16:1-3;9 “1 To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. 2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. 3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
“9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Here we see the idea of motives again, don’t we? It’s not how great our desire is, it’s how pure our motives are and if we commit to the Lord what we do.
Focus on the Family pointed out that, “If we ask God to spark our affections and make our hearts delight in him, then we’re asking according to his will and he will honour that request. If we set our deepest desire on the Lord, he will fulfill that desire.”
In 1 John 5, we read that “14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
That’s a great encouragement. But do we always double check our motives to see that what we ask is in accordance with his will? Do we check with God to get the go-ahead? The confirmation in our hearts that what we desire really is the right way to go? Sometimes we think we know the will of God and act on it before checking.
Usually, we know this desire comes from God because that thing in our hearts won’t let us go. It won’t let us go until we give it a conscious ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s not just a good, practical idea that we have in our minds. It’s not just a “maybe I can do this with my life.” Usually, God’s will is something that grabs at your heart and won’t let go. It’s something that you feel tug at you, and in some cases, you’ll know it because it’s contrary to your own personal will.
I’ve read this before, but it’s worth repeating:
More than a century ago, a bishop pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Oh, the irony that Bishop Wright happened to have two sons, Wilbur and Orville. Wright was wrong. Sure of himself, but wrong.
Do we go about sure of ourselves without checking with God first? Is our desire out of a pure motive? Is it in line with the will of God? If not, it’s best to pray as the Lord taught us to pray, and as the Lord even prayed himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, “your will be done.”
Have we found ourselves slipping from delighting ourselves in the Lord? I know I talked about that a little bit at the beginning, but it’s such an unusual phrase. “Delighting ourselves in the Lord.” How do we do that?
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary says that, “Delight is a more permanent pleasure than joy, and not dependent on sudden excitement.”
So in other words, as Webster also says, “delight is as a beautiful landscape [that] delights the eye; harmony [that] delights the ear; the good conduct of children [that] delights their parents.”
The idea is that the one who obeys this command ‘to delight’ experiences a sense of continual joy in the Lord. It’s being in relationship with the Lord. It reminds me of the verse in Nehemiah that says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
And Paul said to the church in Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We should check and pray that our desires are in line with God’s will. And in the interim, while we wait, we should go about doing the will of God and what he wants us to do in the present so that our hope deferred would not cause us to have a sick heart. We should release and surrender our impatience, and we should ask God to fill us with joy and peace so that we may overflow with hope as we trust in Him.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask that you would be with everyone here. I don’t know the desires within their heart, but you do. You know the calling on their lives. You know the plans for their lives. You know the prayers deep within. You know their needs.
I pray that you would fill them with joy and peace. Give them a greater strength to trust in you through this time of waiting. I pray that they will overflow with hope. Be near to them, and even those who are not here. Be with them and comfort them as they wait on you for an answer to their heart’s desires in your perfect timing. In Jesus name, amen.