February 13, 2022

Their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

Psalm 1:2

What does delight mean to you?  When I think of delight, I think of a small child running down the stairs or the hall on Christmas morning.  It is the best day of the year.  It is time to see what Santa brought.  Or perhaps it is the look on the face of a young boy who just got an autograph from a Major League player.  Maybe it is the fans of a team who just won the championship.  There is nothing else that matters in that moment.  When I think of delight, I think about how every time it is experienced, joy is the only emotion that is felt.  In that specific moment, nothing else comes to the surface.  Nothing else matters.  There is enough happiness to go around.

When is the last time that you experienced delight?  If it has been more than a few months, what circumstances can you set up so that you can feel that again?  If it has been more than a year, your soul is in desperate need for a moment of delight.  If it has been longer than that, you are aching.  As human beings, we need some level of happiness.  If we lose it, eventually all hope become lost.  It does not mean being happy all the time every minute of every day – for that is not possible.  But we need something to be able to turn to that does make us happy, even when the world tries its hardest to ruin that.  It could be kids, or grandkids, or great-grandkids.  It could be your church family.  It could be friends.  It could be reading a book.  It could be taking a walk in the woods.  Maybe it is traveling and seeing the world.  I have the goal of visiting all fifty states, and every time I visit a new one, I feel something close to delight if not delight itself.  It is exciting to reach some place that I have never explored before.  I felt the same when I flew into Israel and Australia, as well as Nicaragua.  Whatever does bring you delight, do make sure that you give yourself the opportunity to feel that delight every now and then.  This is part of what it means to take care of yourself.  If you do not give yourself the opportunity for this, you will not live a soul-fulfilling life.  That is, you will live every day disappointed, yearning for hope, and yearning for peace, but never really finding it.

In addition to whatever hobby we enjoy most, we should be able to take delight in God.  Psalm 1 uses the word “delight” to define Christians, proclaiming, “Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.”  The first time that the word “delight” appears in the Bible is in Genesis 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate….”  She experienced that tree like no other tree.  It caused her to experience great pleasure.  When the Psalmist of the first psalm told the listener to take delight in the law of the Lord, he was proclaiming that God-believers experienced great pleasure because of the word of God that is written in Scripture.  The Psalmist describes even more about this kind of person.  They are like trees planted by streams as opposed to trees planted in a desert.  The former tree has plenty of water to make it strong and healthy.  But if we chose to take another path, and not fill our needs for delight, our future is much more treacherous.  Paul heeded this warning: In Romans 7:22, he proclaimed, “I delight in the law of God in my inmost self.”

The word “delight” appears 85 times in the Bible.  God delights in the righteous; we delight in God.  Just as we find hope in Scripture, by being faithful to God, and by giving glory to God, we also find hope by delighting in the Lord.  Psalm 1 makes it obvious why we need to delight in the Lord, but Jeremiah 17 also touches on the same topic if one Scripture is not enough.  If our hearts turn away from God, we “shall be like a shrub in the desert” (Jeremiah 17:6).  But if we trust in God, we “shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought, it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).  Which tree would you rather be?  It is much better for us to not have to worry about our own existence.  Such is delighting in the Lord.

Delighting in God is a form of praise.  We began this series talking of the hope and promises we can find in Scripture.  There are many Bible promise books out there that share the truth of the Bible for when we are dealing with hard times.  I believe that our gospel reading today from Luke 6 is one of those readings.  We are told that we are blessed when we are poor, when we are hungry, and when we weep, for we will be filled and will laugh in the kingdom of God.  Second, we noted that we need to devote ourselves to faithfulness.  We give a lot of our effort toward prayer and devotion.  We see how much God believes in us even when we do not believe in ourselves.  Third, we find hope in giving God glory.  We give God thanks, we call out, we recognize God’s greatness and share our stories.  Experiencing delight in God is not all that different from what we have been talking about already in this series.  It all involves dedication toward God.

A writer named Elizabeth Spencer wrote of delighting in God in June of last year.  She first suggested that we need to get to know God like we get to know our kids or our parents.  We know, for example, what they like and do not like, and we can often tell stories that tell others about them.  We need to know God the same way, so that we can share what we know about God so that they can know God in a similar way to how we know him.  How do we do this?  We spend time with God.  We want to spend time just like we want to spend time with our friends and families.  If we value a relationship, we commit time to the relationship.  We delight to spend time with one another.  We also think about, talk about, and look forward to being with God.  I look forward to the next time I can be with Alanna, which is finally looking to be this spring.  I look forward to the next time I can spend with God.  I have to schedule time with God just like I do with any person.  If we do not schedule time to look forward to being with God, it may never happen.  We may keep pushing it down the list and putting our other priorities in front.  That needs to change.  Yes, we have plenty of demands.  But the most important demand is God.  When we meet God at the gates of Heaven, God will remember where we placed our priorities.  Further, are our priorities in line with God, or are they more closely aligned with our own desires?  The takeaway here is that if you truly delight in God, you get to know God, you spend time with God, you think about God, you talk about God, and you look forward to being with God.  This is how we delight in any other relationship; we do the same for God just like a child talking about Christmas coming up, and running to the tree on Christmas morning, and just like Bengals fans are talking about the Super Bowl right about now.

What should you do if you just do not feel that delight?  You want to delight in the Lord, but you are just unable to.  You can’t force yourself to feel happy.  How many times have you longed to feel that joy and peace in God, but you have not found it?  It happens to every one of us.  You are not alone.  You may be thinking now, “I want to understand this delight.  It sounds like to be a good Christian I have to take delight in God.  Well I don’t, so I guess I’m not that great at this.  Maybe I should try something else.”  But no.  By longing for delight, you have taken the hardest step.  It is to recognize the need for it.  Everything else comes a bit easier.  If you are not taking delight in a certain child, do you just throw in the towel, or do you continue to seek to find it by never giving up, by reaching out, and by trying to spend more time with them?  You seek to understand them.  You look forward to being with them.  We can talk about our need to look forward to being with God, but do you know how much God longs for each one of us?  God looks forward to being with us more than we will ever know.  God delights in us.  God wants us to find delight in God.  We never will unless we are actively seeking God not just with our minds, but with every figment of our beings.

If you do not feel God’s delight in you, and perhaps feel even the opposite of delight – anger, dread, or hate – do not turn your back on God.  For then all hope is lost.  Turn to another Christian.  We train each other in the way we should go (Prov. 22:6).  We help one another when our faith has grown weak.  If you do not feel delight in God, seek to learn from another disciple. 

BT Irwin told a story about his experience searching for a disciple in a church.  He had wanted to grow and mature as a Christian, as we all should.  He says, “I knew all the right facts from the Bible, but I felt less and less like I knew how to live a Christ-like life.  When I compared myself to the world around me, I didn’t see anything about my lifestyle that set me apart as a man of faith, hope, and love.  I wanted to see the Christ-life in real life.  I wanted someone living that Christ-life to show and tell me how to do it, too.  I wanted to be an apprentice to a master teacher.  I asked around for a few months, but didn’t find anyone who seemed open to the idea of sharing his life with me in that way.  Finally, in desperation, I put up flyers around the church building announcing that I was looking for an older Christian man to take me under his wing and let me follow and learn from him.  I just wanted someone to pray and study the Bible with me and perhaps invite me to come along with him as he practiced the Christ-life in and out of the church.  I knew it was a tall order, but in a congregation of 1,000 members, and more than twenty elders and ministers, I thought at least one person would call me.  No one called me.  I felt like a failure and a reject.  Was I not good enough for even one Christian man to see enough potential in me to let me learn from him?”

If we are to be the church, we are to make disciples.  It is not all about worrying about who is not here; it is caring for those who are here.  And do you not need to be perfect to help.  As Peter was still learning from Christ, he also went out and made disciples.  Then they returned to Jesus to learn more.  In all the people Jesus interacted with, he took three with him to be under his wing: Peter, James, and John.

If there is one thing you remember from this message, remember your search for delight.  Do things that delight you to take care of yourself.  Also delight in God as you do ministry, for we are all ministers of Christ’s church.  Remember that when you spend time making a disciple, you are spending that time with God.  If you enjoy it, you are delighting in God.  I have two challenges for you to take with you this week.  First, pray about who you can take under your wing.  See if you can pick three people who wish to seek God and delight in that relationship.  This enables others to keep the church growing beyond us, and the more ministers we have, the more people we can reach.  Second, to enable you to be a better minister of the church, seek to learn from one person that you look up to.  Learn how they are a follower of God.  Learn how they devote themselves.  Learn what they do from day to day.  Now, you truly delight in God.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Jeremiah 17:5-10
17:5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.
17:6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
17:8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?
17:10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm 1
1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.
1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Luke 6:17-26
6:17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
6:18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

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