This is the ninth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness, and Defamation and Defense thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Delight and Desire.
As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.
“I Know how to abound” (Philippians 4:12)
What is “Delight”?
Dictionary.com defines it as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” It was used in much the same way in New Testament times as is reflected in W. E. Vine’s definition: “Lit., “to rejoice with (anyone). To delight in (a thing) with (others),” signifies “to delight with oneself inwardly in a thing,” in Rom. 7:22”
“Delight is an affection of the ‘inmost heart’ (cf. Ps. 40:8). It signifies that in which one finds pleasure, i.e., the object of one’s love. In Prov. 5:19 the piel form of the verb rawa (lit. ‘drink one’s fill’) is used to denote being saturated with sensual pleasure.
Why is Delight a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?
As the term is used by Erdman, it describes a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. “They seem to have abundance of resources, and all that goes with money, clothes, car, companions, ease and education, while we plod along, quite penniless; theirs, abundance of good looks, while we carry weary body and aching hear. The have prosperity and prominence, poise and position, friends and favor, family and affection, home and hospitality in the words of the Psalmist, ‘They have more than hear could wish (Ps. 73:7).” (Erdman, p.85)
The Discipline of Delight will humble us to appreciate what we have. The Discipline of Delight move us away from “score-keeping,” comparing what we have with what others have. The career of Moses illustrates wonderfully this Discipline of Delight.
How Did the Career of Moses Illustrate the Discipline of Delight?
By the world’s standard he had everything a person might want, but he gave it all away to serve God. From boyhood, Moses’ parents “saw that God had given them an unusual child.” (Heb. 11:23, NLT). Elsewhere in Scripture Moses is described as “lovely” (Acts 7:20, NASB), and “special” (Ex. 2:20, NLT)
He did not allow “pride of place,” as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24; Ex. 2:10; Acts 7:21) to ruin his compassion. Moses did not lord his royalty over his lowly fellows, but rather “he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work” (Ex. 2:11, NLT)
He did not allow his learning to puff up his estimation of himself in relation to his brethren. “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22, NKJV)
He did not allow his achievements to turn him into a prideful, impatient, overbearing man. He was “mighty in words and deeds,” and his leadership of the unruly children of Israel in the wilderness revealed the organization and discipline that came from military training.
We Must Discipline Ourselves to Be Useful to God and Our Fellow Man
“Moses points out the pathway to that service. Rather than delight in himself and his distinctions, he concerned himself with the difficulties of others (Acts 7:23). Unselfish interest in the welfare of others makes us unconcerned about any natural gifts and graces we may have. We forget ourselves in helping others; and others are then conscious, not of our person and position, but rather of the Christ who dwells in our hearts” (Erdman, p. 88).
“Choosing to suffer affliction for others becomes a genuine delight to us” (Heb. 11:25). “We identify ourselves with a Cause that is humanly unpopular, but which has the approval of Heaven. We renounce our rights in order to be on the right side; and a title to which we are entitled (as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter belonged to Moses) becomes a mere trifle, if only we be known as “the sons of God. We depend not upon our knowledge nor ability; rather we also ‘endure as seeing him who is invisible.’ (Heb. 11:27)
“There is satisfaction in serving the Lord Jesus; sweetness in suffering for His Name; blessing in bearing His reproach; pleasure in becoming a pilgrim; delight in doing his bidding…. To have every natural delight… is to need the discipline of delight, that every gift be acknowledged as from the Giver, that every talent become a sacred trust, that every honor become a humbling of heart before Him, in order that He have all the Glory. Then, like Moses of old, with lowly heart and veiled face, we shall walk where He leads…. Then comes to pass the word, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart’ (Ps. 37:4) (Erdman, p.89).
“For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3)
What is Desire?
Dictionary.com defines it as, “a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment; an expressed wish; request” The Encyclopedia of the Bible says, “There are over nine different Heb. words which can be tr. into Eng. as ‘desire’ as well as about the same number of Gr. words…. Some of the words which are used are אַוָּה, H205, חֶמְדָּה, H2775, חֵ֫פֶץ, H2914, חֵ֫שֶׁק, H3139, מַחְמָד, H4718, מִשְׁאָלָה, H5399, נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, רָצﯴן, H8356, תַּאֲוָה֒, H9294, תְּשׁוּקָה, H9592; θέλειν; θέλημα, G2525; θεμησις; ἐπιθυμία, G2123; αἰτέω, G160; ἐρωτἀω. Practically the whole spectrum of underlying psychological meanings are covered by the wide range of the above Heb. and Gr. words. This clearly shows how important a characteristic it is esp. as far as Scripture is concerned.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Desire)
Why is Desire a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?
As Erdman examines the Discipline of Desire, he asks, “as a Christian, what criteria of Christian conduct should be mine?” He rightly concludes that the Scriptures distinguish between various types of conduct. 1) Some matters are clearly required and 2) other matters are clearly prohibited, i.e. things that we must avoid. Then there is a third category, he says, “In between, there is a wide area of border-line cases; matters intrinsically innocent in themselves, but good or evil according to principles found in the Word of God. For those border-line cases the Scriptures give us basic principles of conduct, rather than precepts (Rom. 12-14; 1Cor. 8, and elsewhere); and we should catch the spirit as well as the letter of the Word to apply to our conduct” (Erdman, p. 102)
Erdman then proceeds to outline the following principles as “criteria of Christian conduct”:
1. There should be no conformity to the world (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1Jn. 2:15-17).
Erdman quotes from John Wesley to give a “working definition” of the world, “Whatever cools my affection toward Christ is the world.” Have you ever thought about it in those terms? What cools your affection towards Christ? What causes your desire to be for other things so that you don’t “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8, NLT)?
2. There should be no condemnatory attitude on our part (Rom. 14:1-3, 14-21).
In matters of opinion we definitely should show open-mindedness and appreciation for the opinion of others. An attitude that shows disrespect for a fellow human being is not of God. Do your desires cause you to run rough-shod over the opinions of others or do you have the humble attitude expressed by Paul, “14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. 20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” Rom 14:14-21, NLT).
3. We are to have our own convictions, based upon the Word of God (Rom. 14:1-9).
As Paul discusses the principles he lays out for the Corinthians, he makes application to two issues that were problems in his day. The first was eating of meats offered to idols and the second was observing of certain days. Please consider what one writer has said about these issues of the first century, “Under Judaism certain meats were forbidden (Lev. 11:) These were legal restrictions, not due to the nature of the animal (Gen. 9:1-4). But Christ fulfilled the typology of Judaism, and these restrictions were removed (Acts 10:10-16; 1Tim. 4:4. Again, meat that had been offer unto idols was sold in the markets, and was per se (of itself) unrestricted (1Cor. 8:1-8). To those with understanding, there was no wrong done in eating these meats. Under Judaism certain days were declared ‘holy’ (Lev. 23 :).These days were ‘set apart’ for Jews, and given significance by God’s decree, not for anything inherent in the day itself. They were a ‘shadow’… but the body is of Christ’ (Col. 2:16-17). The shadow had fulfilled its purpose with the coming of the New Covenant; hence, ‘day observance,’ per se, had lost its significance.” (Reading Romans, “When Saints Differ on Nonessentials,” Robert F. Turner, p.101)
In light of this, Paul emphasizes, “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable” (Rom. 14:5). “i.e., act with conviction, do whatever he does because he believes this is to the glory and service of God” (Turner, p. 102).
4. We are to be considerate one of another (Rom. 14:10-13).
“13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall (Rom. 14:13, NLT). I like Warren Wiersbe’s comments on this passage. He says, “Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve other or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian… The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love. Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet, Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe; but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures him that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong” (Be Right, Warren Wiersbe, pp. 157-158).
5. We should be consistent in our practice (Rom. 14:14-17).
“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16, NASB). Wiersbe said it well, “Not the externals, but the eternals must be first in our lives; righteousness, peace, and joy. Where do they come from? The Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (see Rom. 5:1-2)” (Ibid)
Erdman gives an example from the life of Rodney “Gipsy” Smith who was a British evangelist who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain for over 70 years. He was an early member of The Salvation Army and a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and acquaintance of G. Campbell Morgan and H. A. Ironside” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_%22Gipsy%22_Smith). He says, “More than once I heard the late Gypsy Smith relate the story of his father’s conversion. He heard the message of salvation, and with penitence received the Saviour as his own. That evening he returned to his motherless children in the gypsy wagon, and related to them all he knew of the Saviour and of the Scriptures. Then he prayed with them, setting up a family altar the first night of his new life in Christ. The following morning he repeated the whole matter again. Then he went back to town, and took with him the dearest treasure of a gypsy’s heart, his violin. On returning home that night he was without it, for he had sold it. He had sufficient spiritual insight, the first day of salvation, to realize that the old association of drinking and dancing places, where he had used his violin, would be inconsistent with his stand for Christ, and detrimental to his own conscience. We are glad for those whose background allows them to play the violin for God’s glory; but whatever is inconsistent to us and to others must be abandoned” (Erdman, p. 105).
6. Our conduct should be constructive (Rom. 14:18-19)
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). “Do my words, actions, standards, make for peace, to establish others in the truth of the gospel; or do I live to myself, unconcerned about the blessing promised to the peacemakers (Mt. 5:9) or about building strong Christian character and conviction in those that are as yet weaker in the faith?” (Erdman, p. 106).
7. We should be careful of conscience in what we allow in Christian conduct (Rom. 14:20-23).
“Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right” (Rom. 14:22, NLT). “We have to live with our own conscience to be under self-condemnation as well as under the conviction of the Spirit when our deeds are doubtful to ourselves; and on the other hand, we can have the happiness of a good conscience. We are to bear in mind also, however, the conscience of others in that which we allow. ‘But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.’ (1Cor. 8:9-12, NLT). Strong and searching words, that should give us a tender and thoughtful conscience, with conviction that ‘Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.’ (v.13, KJV). High standard? Yes, high, but also holy and helpful; with the conscience of a weaker Christian as my criterion” (Erdman, pp. 107-108).
8. Our conduct should be Christ-like (Rom. 15:1-7).
“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself” (Rom. 15:2-3, NLT). “The final criterion is the capstone of them all… Is the welfare and well-being of others a first consideration with us, as it was with Him? Can we deny ourselves that we might please others (v.1)? Is any sacrifice on our part in the least commensurate with His sacrifice for us? He has been patient with us, and desires that we be ‘likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus’ (v 5.). Do our words and our deeds, our attitudes and our acts, show forth Christ to others, especially to the weak in the faith? Are we Christ-like in our concern for them?”
Two more Disciplines of Life, I suggest as worthy of development in the life of the Christian: Delight and Desire. Delight is a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. It is an attitude that says, “I am appreciative for what I have and I will not waste my time trying to keep score of what I have compared to others. The Discipline of Desire will cause me to apply the principles of Christian conduct to my actions, in the light of another’s conscience.
(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 85-89, 101-111)