It all begins with delight. The Christian life the New Testament describes simply cannot be lived if our hearts do not love and treasure God.
- No one sells all they own for a field, unless it holds a much more valuable treasure (Matthew 13:44).
- No one forsakes sin to trust and obey Jesus, unless his salvation holds out far more pleasure than sin (Luke 19:8–10).
- No one will — and no one can — draw near to God without believing he richly rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
- No one counts their own righteousness as loss, unless they believe Jesus’s righteousness is the only thing that grants him the inexpressible joy of knowing the Father (Philippians 3:9–10).
- No one leaves “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” for Jesus’s sake without the incentive of a far greater reward (Matthew 19:29).
- No one willingly suffers for Jesus’s sake, unless he believes his afflictions aren’t worthy to be compared with the eternal weight of glory awaiting him (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- No one willingly embraces martyrdom for Jesus’s sake, unless he considers death as gain (Philippians 1:21).
What drives the Christian life is the great joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2), causing us to forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal for the eternal prize of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13–14). The Christian’s approach to life is to attain the resurrection from the dead “by any means possible” (Philippians 3:11). Whatever it takes.
And we can only live this way when the Resurrection and the Life is the chief delight of our hearts (John 11:25). For it is impossible to love with all our heart one our heart does not delight in (Luke 12:34).
Every act of obedience to God, including loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving our enemies, is contingent upon obeying the greatest commandment to love God with all our hearts (Luke 10:27; Luke 6:35). That’s why the Bible speaks of delight in God as imperative, not optional: “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).
God Wants to Enlarge Our Hearts
You might be discouraged at this point, because your capacity to delight in God seems so small. Don’t despair or beat yourself up with condemnation. I feel the same way, and so does every Christian I’ve ever met. We all need and want more love for God.
And here’s the great good news: God wants to enlarge our capacity for joy-filled love for him. He expresses this clearly through prayers in Scripture. The apostle Paul loves to pray for more, both for himself and for his churches. Here’s how he prayed for the Philippians:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
And listen to him pray for the Ephesians:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16–19)
Isn’t that hopeful? Paul wants the Ephesians to see and know more glory so that they will experience more joy in the gracious, generous inheritance that God is lavishing upon them. And later in the same letter he prays,
that according to the riches of [the Father’s] glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16–19)
This was not only Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians; it’s God’s desire for us today. He wants us to have more strength, enlarged capacities, to know Christ’s love and enjoy more of his fullness. Because more of God’s fullness means greater love for him. And greater love for him means more delight in him. And the greater our delight in him, the easier his yoke and the less burdensome his commandments become (Matthew 11:30; 1 John 5:3), for God has enlarged our heart (Psalm 119:32).
Whatever It Takes, Lord, More Delight
We are not fated to live the rest of our lives with small love and small faith. God wants more for us, and he wants us to ask him for it with persistence, even impudence (Luke 11:8–9). So let’s ask and not lose heart until he answers (Luke 18:1).
Heavenly Father, forgive us for falling so short in loving you like you deserve (Romans 3:23), and thank you for covering this grievous sin by the precious blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9). We repent! Give us the grace to love you, your Son, and your Holy Spirit with all our hearts. But we do not merely wish to love you with our hearts’ current capacities; we want our hearts enlarged. So whatever it takes, Lord, increase our delight in you as the greatest treasure of our hearts. In the mighty name and for the sake of Jesus, Amen.