There is an aspect of our humanity that affects every single area of our lives—our character, accomplishments, priorities, thoughts, motivations, choices, direction, and relationships. What I’m talking about is our desires. If you doubt this, just think what would happen if you didn’t want anything. What would you accomplish? How would you spend your time? What would you think about? Our desires prompt us into action, cause us to seek out companions and mates, and guide us to make decisions that will lead us to whatever we long to have.
This is part of being made in God’s image because He Himself has desires. However, what we want is not always good, whereas the Lord’s desires are always right. We have a limited perspective, but He’s omniscient and knows when a particular path, person, or object we want will lead us to ruin. Sometimes our desires are sinful, selfish, greedy, and foolish, but God is motivated by divine love. He always seeks what’s best for us.
If we want God to give us the desires of our heart, we must abide by His requirements.
There’s a verse in the Bible that’s sometimes misused by people in an attempt to get what they want from God. They come to Him with their prayer requests claiming His promise in Psalm 37: “He will give you the desires of your heart” (v. 4). However, the context of this passage reveals that there are conditions attached to this promise. If we want God to give us the desires of our heart, we must abide by His requirements.
First of all, we are told, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). To delight in someone means we enjoy being with that person and spending time together, talking and listening to one another. We make that relationship a priority and seek to please him or her with our words and actions. Now let’s think about this in terms of our relationship with God.
Do you love talking to the Father in prayer and listening to Him as you read and study His Word? Are you longing to know Him more fully? Do you think about Him often throughout the day and find great pleasure in obeying Him and walking in His ways?
This is what it means to delight in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 is not a blanket promise that God will give us whatever we want but a call to align our desires with the Lord’s. When we want what He wants, He’ll give us those desires because they are in accordance with His will.
Second, we read, “Commit your way to the LORD” (v. 5). Every desire should be sifted through God’s Word and His will for our lives. When we commit our way to the Lord, we are acknowledging His rightful authority to decide whether our desires fit into His plan for our lives. But sometimes we’re reluctant to turn everything over to God because we’re afraid things won’t turn out the way we want. And the stronger our desire, the more determined we become to maneuver and manipulate circumstances to get our way. The reason we struggle to commit ourselves—and our desires—to the Lord is because we lack trust.
The third requirement is: “Trust also in Him, and He will do it” (v. 5). Who has proved Himself more faithful than our God? He’s rescued us from sin by sending His Son to pay the penalty we deserve. He’s given His Spirit as a pledge of our eternal security and promised us a home in heaven. Why would we ever doubt that He has the best plan for our lives? We can trust Him to make the right decision regarding our desires because He always does what’s best, and in the process, transforms us into people who reflect His own righteousness (v. 6).
Fourth, we are to “rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7). The opposite of resting is fretting, and David says three times in this psalm, “Do not fret” (vv. 1, 7, 8). When we fret, we are essentially disagreeing with God because He is not cooperating with our plans. The solution is to lay all our desires and expectations in His sovereign and loving hands, acknowledging that He is always right. Then we are to wait patiently, trusting in His love, wisdom, and power. If what we desire fits His will, nothing will prevent Him from accomplishing it in His perfect timing. But if it’s not His will, no amount of pleading will make Him bow to our wishes.
In order to adopt God’s desires as our own, we must know what He wants. That’s why it’s important to discover what pleases Him by reading through the Scriptures. We can’t simply pull a verse from its context and claim we’re standing on the Word. If we want a sure foundation, we must stand on the entire Word of God.
What do you desire most? I pray that whatever it is, you’ll be willing to trust God and lay it down before Him. I have learned from experience that His way is always the best and never results in regret.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. We’d like to wish you a happy Fourth of July as we celebrate our nation’s independence. We have many reasons to be thankful for the liberties we enjoy, especially the freedom to share the gospel with as many people as possible. Our prayer is that God will continue to hold this door open so more people can be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.