Psalm 37 says that God “will give you the desires of your heart”. Not just at Christmas but throughout the year! It’s a promise repeated often in the Bible and most believers attest to His faithfulness. Yet some desires seem to remain unfulfilled despite frequent, fervent prayer. When will God give us all our heartfelt desires? We have faith that he will – but when will he actually do it?
I found an answer to this importunate question in the sequencing or succession of Bible concepts. I got the first clue on hearing Richard Roberts preach. He asked us, “When does God prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies? (Psalms 23)” A gathering of over a thousand were all certain God served such feasts but no one seemed able to declare exactly when he did so. His answer: “After we go through the valley of the shadow of death!” (Verse 5, “…prepare a table…” comes after Verse 4, “…walk through the valley…”)
Delight in the Lord.
So when will all needs be met? Psalm 37: 4 (NIV et al) reads “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Note the sequence: first I delight myself and then he fulfils my desires – the exact opposite of the usual pattern: give me what I need and I’ll be happy. I say, first give me the desires of my heart and then I’ll be overjoyed! Receiving is usually the cause of happiness. That’s the natural sequence – but it’s not God’s way at all.
The whole thrust of Psalm 37 is, FIRST Quit fretting, begging, pleading, complaining and start trusting, believing, resting and delighting. FIRST stop worrying and start living (dwelling) and THEN soon enough you will be nourished physically and emotionally. FIRST walk with joy and THEN you won’t trip and fall.
1) Don’t react; just stand and
2) God will make it all happen.
HOWEVER FIRST AND FOREMOST, forget about the bad guys. Let the Lord take care of evildoers. His way is not my way. I might want evildoers zapped (like Terminator II) but the Lord is different: He works a slow fade. The enemy may appear to succeed but eventually just withers away like dry leaves in the wind. At the end of the day, you can’t find them: God’s fade out is better than TV’s blast up.
Philippians 4:6 puts things in the same Godly order. (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This means, be thankful before receiving. Be grateful for what you already have. And quit worrying! Trust and be happy when asking.
The Lord does not reward our anxiety.
He rarely responds to importunate begging. I’m a creature of conditioned reactions. If God were to bless me when I’m worried, I’d worry all the more.
A wise parent doesn’t recompense fussing. A wise parent withholds rewards until vexation ceases: mum waits for junior to quit being upset before delivering the cookie. The Lord’s aim is to draw us close to him, to reinforce our relationship. That’s the main reason for gifts. When a reward is unexpected, we appreciate it even more than if we’d requested it. We are told to give to beggars immediately, even before they ask. That way we fill their need without reinforcing mendicant action. The worst tactic: waiting and delaying through emotionally loaded misbehaviour until finally delivering the lolly at the peak of pique. Tantrums then increase. A monster can be created by rewarding untoward emotions.
Joy First, Blessings Follow.
The Lord’s blessings are the strongest reinforcers, the most powerful incentives, the most surprising gifts; the literal fulfilment of heartfelt desires. No wonder he chooses perfect times and places. Bestowed judiciously, conferred his way, his rewards draw us near and deepen our relationship with him and our fellow believers. Dispensed indiscriminately they could actually destroy us. Hence the biblical sequence: joy first, blessings later.