“As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.”
Psalms 16:3 NASB
What does it mean practically to "delight" in the saints? A recent experience in our family helped me see this verse in a fresh light, and helped me see how precious this attitude is to the Lord.
True story: our 1-year old was just on the cusp of learning to walk. She would often hold onto furniture to stabilize herself, but she had never braved even a hallway unsupported.
Then one special day, she let go, and started a giggly yet shaky trip across the living room, towards where I stood. I was thrilled! I started cheering for her, eager to see whether she could make it in her first attempt to cross the room.
But then something totally unexpected happened, which amplified my joy to a whole other level. No, the toddler didn’t start sprinting; her older sister came to my side, and joined me in cheering for her. I was blown away to see how much my joy increased when I saw that one of my older girls shared my delight in the toddler.
Honestly, I might have even been more delighted in the older girl’s delight than I was in the littler girl’s attempt to walk!
This story has repeated itself in various forms many times over the years, and I’m always struck by the lesson: when my children delight in one another — in each other’s growth, in their unique gifts, etc — it brings a special joy to my heart as a father. And it’s taught me something of how I can bring a special joy to the heart of my Father in heaven, as I delight in true love for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s easy to think, in our "properly" educated and sophisticated minds, that something like delight in other members of God’s family is beneath the scope of love for Christ. And yet we see some of the most shameless expressions of love for others in God’s family coming from the most mature Christian:
“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB
“I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment... I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart.”
Philemon 1:10, 12 NASB
“For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.”
Philippians 2:27 NASB
“And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you...’ But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
1 Corinthians 12:21, 24-25 NASB
“For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:8 NASB
“Now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 3:8 NASB
It’s a great challenge to me to consider Paul’s example of love for the church. It’s easy to say “I love the church;” it’s another thing to honestly compare my affection for other specific members of the body to the example given here. Do I delight in others’ growth, and in others’ gifts? Am I coming alongside the Lord (Who always lives to intercede for them, too - Hebrews 7:25), and rooting for my brothers and sisters in Christ like my older daughter did for the toddler?
The Opposite of Delight
It’s so important to cleanse ourselves of all forms of hatred. But we can foolishly congratulate ourselves and glory in the fact that we don’t have any malice towards others, or that we don’t gossip, or that we don’t accuse, etc, and imagine these are the opposites of delight. But I’ve noticed there’s a far more dangerous opposite of delight to guard against, and that’s indifference.
“‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ (The Lord answers,) Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers... Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”
Isaiah 58:3, 6-8 NASB
The sin that God declared to the people who sought to know Him day by day (58:1-2) was the sin of carelessness, of indifference, of neglect. They wanted to know God, and delighted to know His ways, and yet they were found guilty because they assumed that that pursuit had nothing to do with their brothers and sisters! They thought they could seek God and be indifferent to His family!
As we walk with the Lord, certainly He wants to deal with sins of commission (like hatred, gossip, accusation, etc), but more than that, He wants to address every sin of omission, especially the lack of love in our hearts. His desire is not merely to fill us with His love for our own need, but to fill us to overflowing for others (John 7:38). It’s hard to believe, but God’s Word says that indifference is actually WORSE than outright hatred — “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16) — God actually prefers coldness over lukewarmness!!
I’ve noticed that it’s much easier to focus on the "commissions" (the mistakes I’m making) than it is to see what I’m altogether neglecting (my omissions). But God isn’t satisfied with simply getting rid of the bad ("coldness"), only to leave us indifferent ("lukewarm"); He wants to flood us with good (His fiery hot love); and the critical stage we must seek to pass through by His grace is the desert of emptiness, lukewarmness, carelessness, and indifference.
“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
Luke 11:24-26 NASB
We have to see carelessness in the body of Christ as every bit as dangerous as hate is to our souls. If we do, we will ask the Lord to give us revelation on our indifference towards other brothers and sisters. May His kindness lead us to repent of all lack of love, and may He flood our hearts with the fullness of His delight in His family. It has blessed me tremendously to reflect on my own experience of amplified joy as a father, and to remember that, as we share God's heart for other members of His family, we have the opportunity to amplify His joy.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
John 15:12 NASB
“The end of all things is near... Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:7-8 NASB
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures (in the fiery love of God) to the end, he will be saved.”
Matthew 24:12-13 NASB