What Does Psalm 37:4 Really Mean?

Psalms 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord ; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Jeremiah 20:9

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.

What do these verses have in common?

These verses have a lot more in common than you may think. Psalms 37:4 is a highly misunderstood verse and a favorite of the prosperity preachers. “Delight yourself in God and He’ll give you whatever you want,” they say. As if God is a genie in a bottle whom we can manipulate into giving us what we want by delighting in Him. They may even add in the qualifier, “As long as it is a godly desire.”

You would think that telling people God will fulfill all their desires as long as they’re godly would motivate people to have more godly desires. However, our flesh often causes us to be more concerned with the getting what we want part of it. Plus, this is actually counterproductive to what God is really saying here. When we’re told God will give us whatever we want as long as it is godly we then begin to try to dream up godly desires for Him to fulfill.

What this does is produce a believer who is attempting, by their own strength, to develop godly desires within their self. When what this verse really means is that God Himself will produce those godly desires within you without any help from you. One interpretation causes us to rely on our own strength in struggling against the flesh to produce godly desires. The other causes us to rely on our joy in God and allow Him to produce the godly desires.

God’s Work vs. Our Work

In one interpretation we produce the godly desires. In the other, God produces the godly desires. The one interpretation causes us to be focused on the struggle to produce godly desires. While the other causes us to be focused on the victory of already having godly desires produced in us by God. The one chains us up to the struggle to produce. While the other frees us up to live out that which God is producing in us.

One enslaves us to our works. The other empowers us through joy in God’s grace. One treats God as our servant obligated to fulfill our desires as long as they qualify as godly. The other makes us slaves to righteousness guided by new desires which God has placed in our hearts.

There is a big difference between God fulfilling desires which we dream up and us fulfilling desires which God has given us. That’s what Psalms 37:4 is saying. God does not give us what we desire. He gives us new desires. When we delight ourselves in the Lord the desires of our heart (the things that we desire) come from Him.

We are something new

2 Corinthians 5:17 really helps us put this into perspective, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” When we become Christians and are placed in Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we become new creations. The term here literally means something that has never before been created.

My dad worked for Saturn most of my childhood. Not the planet. The car company. Although Saturn was not a very big company they often led the industry in innovation. They were the first company to come out with dent resistant door panels.

I remember going to car shows with my dad where Saturn would have cars on display. My dad would tell people the door panels were dent resistant and they never believed him. So he’d turn around and kick the door as hard as he could a few times. They thought he was crazy at first.

But there stood the door without a single dent. Then he’d tell them to go ahead and give it a few good kicks. They had never seen anything like it before. Dent resistant door panels were something that had never been created before then.

New Creations with New Desires

This new creation which we are in Christ is the same way. It’s something that has never before been seen in creation until the church was born. Something that had never before been created. And it comes with a whole new identity, an entirely new way of seeing the world and an entirely new set of desires because we have delighted ourselves in the Lord.

What we see in Jeremiah 20:9 is a prime example of this. Jeremiah had delighted himself in the Lord and in return God gave him a burning desire to preach which Jeremiah could not contain. The desire of Jeremiah’s heart was to preach and it was given to him by God. But that’s not all. The reason Jeremiah is a good example of this because he eventually reached a point in his ministry where he no longer wanted to preach. But it wasn’t because the desire wasn’t there anymore.

He had become the laughing stock of Israel. No one was listening to him. The false prophets outnumbered him and everything Jeremiah preached they would preach the opposite just to torment him and all the people were listening to them instead. He had even been beat and imprisoned. He didn’t want to preach anymore because it had become so stressful.

He had even tried to stop preaching. But he couldn’t! Why? Because the desire to share God’s word consumed him. If Jeremiah had had it his way he would’ve gone back to living a quiet, simple life and watched Israel perish in their sin. But when Jeremiah wanted to give up the desire of his heart to preach, given to Him by God, kept him going.

How have your desires changed?

If you look back in honest reflection at your life you’ll notice that your desires changed when you became a Christian. Not only did they change but you started desiring some new things you had never before desired. Why? Because you delighted yourself in the Lord and He gave your heart some new desires in return.

I never wanted to preach before I became a Christian. Never wanted to help people. I didn’t even care about people. I used to enjoy stealing from others. That was one of the desires of my heart. Now one of the desires of my heart is to give to others. Where did it come from? God. Why did He give it to me? Because I delighted myself in Him.

Many people want to know how to discover God’s will for their lives. It seems to be an elusive thing to figure out. Often times figuring out God’s will makes us feel like a detective in a crime novel trying to use a bunch of random clues to find the connection and put the pieces together. But the great news we get from Psalms 37:4 is that it’s not that hard to discover God’s  will for our lives. How so?

Finding God’s will for your life

Simple. Are you delighting yourself in the Lord? Yes? Great! No? What are you waiting for! If you are, have you found that you desire new things you never desired before? Yes? Awesome! Go do them! Why? Because God gave those desires to you because you are delighting in Him! So what is God’s will for my life? Whatever I want! If I’m delighting in Him!

Well, how can we know for sure if we’re honestly delighting in Him and these desires come from Him?

  1. First, are you saved?
  2. Second, do you strive to live a Spirit-filled life (be led by the Spirit in your interactions with others)?
  3. Third, do you strive to live a sanctified life (set apart from sin)?
  4. Fourth, do you strive to live an obedient life (you want to please God in everything you do)?

If you said, “Yes, yes, yes and yes!” Then it’s safe to say you are delighting yourself in the Lord. If you’re saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified and obedient then it is most likely because God is the joy and delight of your life. If so then the Holy Spirit is at work in you to give your heart some new desires.

Embrace your New Desires

Romans 12:6-8 says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

How do we know what our gifts are? What do you want to do? If you want to preach then preach! If you want to serve then serve! Give, exhort (encourage others), teach, lead, show mercy (caring compassion for others)? Which is it you done yourself desiring to do now that you’re delighting in God? Get up and do it!

And do it with all that you got. Give it everything you can. What we give (whether in our preaching, teaching, leading, giving, serving, etc.) should be in direct proportion to the undeserved kindness God has given us. And how did God give in His grace? He gave everything. To a people who deserved nothing.

I want to encourage you today through these Scriptures to pursue the desires of your heart which have been given to you as a result of you delighting yourself in the Lord. And to do so with everything you got. Someone somewhere needs what you have to give. Whether it is through your preaching, your teaching, your service, your financial contribution, your compassion or your leadership.

They may not deserve what you have to give. But they need it. And from my own personal decision to surrender my life to the preaching of God’s word I can testify that there is no more of a rewarding lifestyle then the one lived out fulfilling the desires God has given you.

And if you are not delighting yourself in the Lord you’re missing out. Because He’s got some desires to give you that are far more rewarding than anything you can dream up on your own.

Recommend Reading:

4 Things That Will Always Ensure You’re Walking in God’s Will for Your Life

3 Surefire Ways to Steer Through the Foggy Seasons of Life

Copyright © Lawrence Joseph Sterling 2017. All rights reserved.