William Carey used to say, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” It was a pattern for his own life as he founded a missionary society at a time when others were of the opinion that the Good Lord would save the heathen in His own good time – a way to excuse complacency that still strikes a chord today when we see social injustice, ignorance and superstition continuing to bind up so many around the world.
Carey was inspired by Isaiah ch.54 v.2-3, which is certainly a good place to start. But I’m going to focus on Psalm 37 v.4, which tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It sounds so syrupy, conjuring an image of a loving and benevolent God who exists to indulge his adoring children.
However, it’s far more than that. It’s an instruction, a direct, imperative command – not merely a positive suggestion. It is a clear precondition that states unequivocally that if you wish to have your desires fulfilled, you must get your priorities in order. Your relationship with your creator is at the root of your personal success. To try to see it any other way, to seek the goodies for their own sake is to miss the point spectacularly – the phrase “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind. It just doesn’t work, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
There are two important issues that are addressed by getting your attitude and relationship to God sorted, before seeking the benefits arising from this. The first is that our motives are purified. The Apostle James put it a little more bluntly when he told his readers in chapter 4 of his letter, “You ask, and you don’t get, because you pray with selfish motives.” If God truly delights us, then our hearts’ desires will be focussed on what will please Him. Which brings me to the second point. Your heart’s desire must be specific – otherwise, how will you know you have received it?
It is of little point, to go around talking of “great things”, believing God for “great things”, positively confessing that He will do “great things” and eagerly anticipating “great things” with a sincere heart that delights in the Lord if you cannot put into words what those “great things” are.
If you believe that God wants to turn lives around in your neighbourhood, bring people to a real, personal faith in Him, heal broken hearts and bodies, give direction and purpose to those who feel an empty void – then make these specific things the desire of your heart. Expect Him to intervene, and act on His prompting.