Did you always know that God wanted you in the ministry? How did you balance the feelings of what you knew to be the desires of your heart, with God’s timing to fulfill that desire?
Sincerely, Mark S
Dear Mark S,
I became a Christian when I was seven. Several weeks later I was sitting in church when I felt God call me to be a pastor. In fact, it was almost like an audible voice behind my right ear: “When you grow up, I want you to be a preacher.” Growing up I always knew what I was going to do with my life. Airplanes have always fascinated me. Since Dad was an airline executive we flew all over the world in my younger years. I thrilled at the idea of flying airplanes when I grew up—yet, all the time I knew that God had made my future life’s work abundantly clear. As college approached I toyed with the idea of attending Northwestern University and becoming an aeronautical engineer. But, I knew that would never come to pass. I was going to preach. I wanted to play professional football; however, I knew that would never happen. God had laid out a different course for me—and I was excited about it! I preached my first sermon when I was thirteen. As of 2008 I have preached for over forty-five years. That is a lot of sermons and I have never regretted for a moment the call God put on my life! Preaching and pastoring is the delight of my heart!
I was fortunate, God laid His will for my life right before my eyes. My experience is that He doesn’t operate that way with most of us. The Lord has numerous methods He uses to direct our lives; one of the most delightful is the one I call, “ Delighting in the Lord.”
Now, let me address the second part of your question regarding Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe God speaks in a variety of ways—but, my favorite is when He speaks by putting the right desires in my heart.
Delighting in the Lord has multiple aspects. For example, it connotes the idea of intimacy in the presence of God. This experience is exhilarating! However, it is not the only dimension of finding delight in our Lord!
We might define delighting in the Lord as obeying His will for our lives. He must get much pleasure from our obedience—and we will find much delight in aligning our lives with the desires of His heart.
The Bible reveals six things that are the will of God for us:
1. It is God’s will that we trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord (2 peter 3:9).
2. It is God’s will that we keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:17-18).
3. It is God’s will that we be pure and holy—sanctified—set apart from what dirties up our lives (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
4. It is God’s will that we submit to every authority—even when submitting brings pain or suffering (1 Peter 2:13-15).
5. It is God’s will that we suffer for doing something good—not something bad (1 Peter 3:17; 14:19).
6. It is God’s will that we be joyful, prayerful and thankful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
When we are delighting in the Lord He delights in us and the door is open for Him to load the right desires He longs for us to experience right into our hearts! When we consciously engage with these six things then we can do whatever we want—trusting that God has placed the right desires in our hearts according to Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
I believe that many misuse this verse by saying things like: “Just praise God and He’ll give you whatever you want?” NO! NO! The Hebrew construction reveals differently! It’s not that He gives us what we want; He gives us the correct wants. Then, we simply follow the leanings and longings of our hearts.
Well, MS, I hope my answer is helpful. The proper understanding of “delighting in the Lord” has brought me much delight since I sensed God’s call for me to preach when I was seven.