The "Psalm 37" Series  #3



TEXT:         Psalm 37:1-26;  Matt. 6:33; 7:7


INTRO:       Did you know that God wants to grant you the desires of your heart? Did you know also that God wants to shape the desires of your heart first?


It is the first question that too much popular preaching is about today, while many teachers largely ignore the second question!  However, God wishes to both shape our desires and THEN fill them.  Otherwise He would be a foolish father simply satisfying the whims of children who don’t know what they should really desire.


The results of the first question alone: A perverted Gospel promising believers enormous wealth and a life free of problems or trials, some of this preaching which promises fame, fortune, popularity, good times and all the rest of a life of ease seems appealing, especially in our American culture, however this is not Biblical teaching. 


This theology while popular and apparently desirous is “man centered” and not “God centered” which is the final test of all good theology!  It places receiving before giving, and it is dangerous to the church and the Gospel!  If the church of Jesus doesn't wake up and speak up it is going to pervert the Gospel and the mission of the church ... and create a soft church that can't stand up to trials!


ILLUS:       He who loves God with all his heart dreads neither death, torment, judgment, nor hell, for perfect love opens a sure passage to God. -- Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 3.


PROP. SENT:   The Bible teaches us that God does grant the desires of our hearts ... when they have been shaped by a real relationship with Jesus Christ!


I.   "DELIGHT IN THE LORD"   Psalm 37:1-26


A.   Source of Joy    Psalm 37:1-4

1.   Our joy begins in a relationship to the Lord!

2.   Joy can result from two sources:

a.   An event:  Example: a day off, a cash bonus, a new bicycle, etc.

b.   A relationship:  Example: marriage, deep friendship, belonging to Christ!

3.   An event is short lived joy ... while a relationship can bring long term joy.

a.   There are Christians that exist and serve God based on the first type of joy, the event stuff.  They keep looking for God to give them something, do something, fix something, etc. for their continued happiness.

b.   But, their joy is not in their relationship to Christ, but in what Christ does for them ... this invites an up and down type of joyful Christian living!

c.   God wants our joy to be in Him!  It is not events alone but in Him alone!  He longs for our joy to be based in our relationship to Him and not in just what He does in our lives as events!

d.   Until we move into this latter plane our Christian walk will be rather sporadic!

4.   The Christian who bases their joy on events will always be seeking some kind of experience to keep them on the cress of joy

5.   The Christian who bases their joy on a relationship with Christ will be constant in their joy!


ILLUS:      Think of the last thing you prayed about -- were you devoted to your desire or to God?  Determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God?  "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him."  The point of asking is that you may get to know God better.  "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself. -- Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 6.


6.   Thus, it is Christ Himself who is the source of our joy!  This is expressed in the first statement of verse 4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you…”


B.   Secret of Joy    Psalm 37:7-17

1.   Joy is not just an emotion!

a.   It is a state of well-being!

b.   It is based on fact, not fancy!

c.   The facts of Christ's love and His resurrection power in us and our Eternal life in Him!

d.   Thus it is much greater than just the emotional high that we normally associate with joy; it goes beyond a feeling to a powerful peace! 

2.   The world doesn't know this secret ... it is hid from them, the only way that they might even become aware of it is through Christians who show joy in whatever circumstance of life they find themselves in and still live by faith!  Or, for them to find it themselves in a relationship to Jesus Christ and then they join in on it!

3.   The secret of delighting in the Lord then is found in whom we are, not what we have ... some Christians still need to learn this!

a.   As God's people we can always be joyful, not just the emotional type of joy but the sense of well being that comes in knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love the lord.”

b.   Since our joy is founded in who we are and not just what we have it BECOMES AN unshakeable joy!  (Read Romans 8:28-39)

c.   Since it is based on a real relationship that cannot be destroyed it does not fluctuate up and down with life circumstances.

4.   Ask yourself these questions:

a.   Are you happy with God when tough times hit?

b.   Are you happy with God when He answers your prayers in a different way than you had asked?

c.   Are you faithful to the Lord and His church only when things are going smooth in your life?


ILLUS:      One Saturday morning I awoke to the delightful smell of waffles and the sound of our two small boys in the kitchen with my husband.  Padding down to breakfast, I sat down on my husband's lap and gave him a big hug for his thoughtfulness.

   Later that day, we were having a heated "discussion" in our bedroom when our four-year-old, Jacob, stopped us in mid-sentence.  Standing in the doorway, he said, "Mommy, try to remember how you felt when you were on Daddy's lap." -- Jane Schmidt, Dallas, Oregon. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."


5.   Your answers can help you see whether your joy is founded on events or on Christ! The secret to real joy is found only in a relationship to Christ!


C.   Steps to Joy   Psalm. 37:1-3,18-26

1.   "Fret Not"  Psalm 37:1-2,18-26

a.   Fret not what? ... Events!  Psalm37:1

b.   Fret not what? ... Evil men!  Psalm 37:1-2

2.   "Trust in the Lord and do good!"  Psalm 37:3

a.   Notice this has no conditions on it!

b.   It doesn't say “do good IF…”

(1.  IF you feel like it!

(2.  IF things are going your way!

(3.  IF you have time!

(4.  IF you are in church or it is Sunday!

c.   There are no conditions attached because this comes out of the same thing we were talking about earlier, a relationship to Christ … who is always good!

d.   We do good not because we have received good things, but because we have received God!

3.   Trusting in God (Psalm 37:3) frees us to do good for we won't be frantic about our own selves all the time ... we are trusting God for our lives.


ILLUS:       The Arizona Republic (4/25/95) reported that when Steve Tran of Westminster, California, closed the door on 25 activated bug bombs, he thought he had seen the last of the cockroaches that shared his apartment.  When the spray reached the pilot light of the stove, it ignited, blasting his screen door across the street, breaking all his windows, and setting his furniture ablaze.

   "I really wanted to kill all of them," he said.  "I thought if I used a lot more, it would last longer."  According to the label, just two canisters of the fumigant would have solved Tran's roach problem.

   The blast caused over $10,000 damage to his apartment building.  And the cockroaches?  Tran reported, "By Sunday, I saw them walking around."

   As Proverbs 29:11 says, only "a fool gives full vent to his anger." -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.


4.   These are necessary steps to "delight" oneself in the Lord!


II.  "DESIRES OF YOUR HEART"  Psm. 37:4, Matt. 6:33; 7:7


A.   Shaped by Jesus   Matt. 6:33

1.   Not by flesh!

a.   The point here is to allow Jesus and His kingdom values to shape our desires!

b.   This verse (Psalm 37:4) is not a passage to call up our genie in the bottle called "Jesus" to grant us any desire of our heart as some are teaching today!

c.   This verse started with "delight in the Lord" THEN "Desires of your heart"

d.   If we begin with Jesus our desires won't be fleshly in nature, because Jesus gives us a new nature and a new heart for His desires, not ours!


ILLUS:       I got a letter from a sappy woman a while back--she knew I was sappy too, which is to say a life-long Democrat. She was pregnant, and she wanted to know if I thought it was a mistake to bring a little baby into a world as troubled as this one is. And I replied, what made being alive almost worthwhile for me was the saints I met. They could be almost anywhere. By saints I meant people who behaved decently and honorably in societies which were so often obscene. Our own society is very frequently obscene. Perhaps many of us ... regardless of our ages or power or wealth, can be saints for her child to meet. -- Kurt Vonnegut in USA Today's Opinion Line (June 8, 1994).  Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 10.


e.   Your desires will take on a new set of values in Christ; they will be good and godly!

f.    And the Lord will honor them!

(1.  Desire a beautiful marriage.

(2.  Desire a friend's salvation.

(3.  Desire a place of worship for God's people.

(4.  Desire our children's happiness and salvation.

(5.  Desiring good and godly things!

2.   The secret of this passage in Psalms is found in Matthew 6:33!

3.   Maybe this is why the church has seen so few miracles in these days, it has lost the art of desiring the right things, God will answer the desires of our hearts when we know how to desire the right things, and the church will see the results of miracles taking place within.

a.   Paul desired to get to the next town to preach.

b.   Paul desired to see his friends.

c.   Paul desired to know the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, to Know Christ's resurrection power.

d.   Paul desired to minister to others ... notice we don't find many of Paul's desires in the Bible recorded as "a new chariot with air conditioning, a sea side house, a large bank account," not that these things are wrong to have or that God won’t sometimes even give these, but we need to learn the art of desiring the "BEST THINGS" first.


B.   Selected by Jesus    Matt. 6:33; 7:7ff

1.   The longer we walk with Jesus the more our heart becomes like Jesus' heart ... so that after a while His desires become our desires!

a.   Notice in this passage (Matt. 7:7) where Jesus says to ask in His name and we will be given it … the context is that we are asking for “good things.”  Matt. 7:11

b.   The context is not that we are asking literally for “anything.”

2.   This happens in healthy marriages and other healthy relationships.

a.   After more than 40 years of marriage to my wife Bevie Jo both her desires and my desires are more the same than ever!

b.   This is the result of the two becoming one in marriage.

c.   This is true with our relationship to Jesus too; Jesus prayed in John 17 that we might become one, and that we might be one with Him too!


ILLUS:      Judy Anderson, whose husband is the West Africa Director of the World Relief Corporation, grew up as the daughter of missionaries in Zaire. As a little girl, she went to a day-long rally celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of Christian missionaries coming to that part of Zaire.

   After a full day of long speeches and music, an old man came before the crowd and insisted that he be allowed to speak. He said he soon would die, and that he alone had some important information. If he did not speak, that information would go with him to his grave.

   He explained that when Christian missionaries came a hundred years before, his people thought the missionaries were strange and their message unusual. The tribal leaders decided to test the missionaries by slowly poisoning them to death. Over a period of months and years, missionary children died one by one.

   Then the old man said, "It was as we watched how they died that we decided we wanted to live as Christians." That story had gone untold for one hundred years. Those who died painful, strange deaths never knew why they were dying or what the impact of their lives and deaths would be. They stayed because they trusted Jesus Christ. -- Leith Anderson, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.


3.   While this process goes on, our desires will become selected by Christ Himself, as He puts those desires in our hearts that He would have us have!

a.   When your heart is for Christ, it will also be for Christ’s values and desires.

b.   This is the process of being made more and more in the image of Christ.


C.   Sealed by Jesus   Matt. 7:7

1.   Those desires that are godly we can ask for confidently, we have them because they are His will! (READ 1 John 5:14-15)

2.   Christ seals His desires within us so we ask for what we should and not always what we want!

3.   Spiritual growth is evident by knowing what to ask for, Jesus seals in our hearts His own heart and helps us to know it the longer we walk with Him, we will feel His pulse beat and know His mind as we walk along with Jesus.


ILLUS:      God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. ... Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.  He does nothing in vain. -- John Henry Newman in Prayers, Verses and Devotions. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 3.


CONCLUSION:      "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart" YES! But, the secret to receiving is found first in "delighting ourselves in the Lord!"  Too many Christians want to start with the "desire of your hearts" part of this verse, and skip over the first part!  They want to reverse the verse, they will delight themselves in the Lord IF the Lord gives them first the desires of their hearts ... but the Holy Spirit didn't write it in this order!  We must begin by delighting our self in the Lord and His desires will become ours, and thus He will answer them -- and they will be wonderful!