[Here’s chapter 16 of “How God Guides.” Bottom-line? He leads his friends. I love being one of them. I hope you do too.]
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart Psalm 37:4
A lot of mileage has been gotten from this verse. I don’t know about you, but I want it to mean that if I love Jesus a lot he will see to it that I get what I want. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. The first thing that we might’ve overlooked is the condition that we have to meet in order to be able to expect the promise to come to pass. I’m talking about the “delight yourself in the Lord” part. As far as I can tell, it means to have a delightful friendship with him, one that both you and he enjoy, where you’re both delighted to be friends! And honestly, the longer we’re friends, at least from my side, I’m more and more delighted with him.
Then there’s the thing about the promise to give you what you desire. So, does that mean you can have anything you want? I don’t think so. Though I do believe that he’s committed to my best, I’ve come to believe that my best is often something other than what I wanted (at least at first). It seems to me that the desires he’s talking about are the desires that our hearts ought to have. If we delight ourselves in our friendship with him then he’s committed to putting the best desires inside us. I’ll bet you’ve experienced your desires changing as you get to know and love Jesus more and more; I know I have. I think the verse is saying, “Enjoy your friendship with Jesus and gradually his desires will become your desires. He’ll insert into your heart what he wants your wants to be!”
Of course there’s an exception to this rule, and that’s when he leads you to do something that you don’t want to do (at least at first). Jesus told Peter that when he got old he’d have to go “where he didn’t want to go” (John 21:18). Sometimes God leads us into, instead of out of a place of suffering.
Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good 1 Peter 4:19
My experience is that often when God’s will puts me in an undesirable circumstance, later I enjoy the fruit of the circumstance in my life. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Nevertheless, it is still true that one of the ways God leads his good friends is by our desires. When we’re close to him, our desires (at least the ones that reside in our inner-man) can be a reliable source of information about the will of God. In other words, if you want to know his will, one indicator might be what you want. Do you sometimes think that because you want something that it can’t possibly be what God wants? Sometimes it might actually be just the opposite. It may even be that you have this particular desire for something because He gave you that desire. If your delight is in him, you’ll be more apt to be able to follow your desires (like a trail of breadcrumbs) all the way into God’s will. (Warning: Don’t take this to an unhealthy extreme and suppose that all your desires come from God. Remember that you still have selfish and sinful desires conflicting with your selfless and spiritual ones.)
I have found him (David) a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do. Acts 13:22
David yearned for the contents of God’s heart so that those things that filled God’s heart also filled his.
If we delight ourselves in our friendship with him
then he’s committed to putting the best desires inside us.
One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. Acts 13:2
I imagine a connection between their delight-filled worship and the Holy Spirit’s leading. It’s possible that the church was already engaged in seeking God’s will for Paul and Barnabas’ future, nevertheless as they were delighting in him through worship, he spoke a word of direction to them. (They also fasted. See above on what I call, “serious seeking.”) Their worship wasn’t mere ritual or song-singing. If you’ll forgive the terminology, it was more like spiritual love-making. When they worshipped Jesus, it was the practice of intimacy. It’s to that kind of heart that the Lord reveals his heart.
He confides in those who fear him… Psalm 25:14
He takes the upright man into his confidence… Proverbs 3:32