How do I distinguish between my desires and God’s? How do I tap in to my true heart’s desires — the ones that lead me to His best for me?
Once the Holy Spirit is dwelling within your heart, you have more than mere human intuition and know-how to help you make decisions. As the Spirit guides you through the four steps [to a sacred pace], He takes this mix of diverse ingredients that impact a decision and sifts through them to deliver a customized recipe for discerning the will of God in a situation.
Still, if you don’t train yourself to wait on the Lord and find out what is in your heart, your flesh can sorely mislead you. If you insist on getting quick answers, seeing your own agenda fulfilled, or gaining what the world has to give, you may have some measure of earthly success as I did — but you’ll also have to endure the even greater emptiness and disenchantment that comes with it. And you will never, ever be deep-in-your-heart happy, because you will have missed out on what you wanted the most.
Defaulting to Delight
My default and foundation is … Psalm 37:4,
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. — ESV
What does delighting in the Lord look like? My spiritual mentor and I debate this. He is afraid for Christians to take this at face value because the desires of our hearts aren’t always pure. But my contention is that if I’m truly delighting in the Lord — finding joy in what pleases Him and pursuing His priorities — then what I ultimately desire in my heart of hearts, what I want most in this life, will be the same as whatever He blesses me with.
James 4:3 tells us that when we ask things of God and do not receive them, it is “because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” The four steps are one way He enlightens us about our greatest desires — which are His desires for us — and ensures that we receive them.
I’m thankful that the Lord doesn’t grant us every lesser desire. If He gave us every want that ever enters our minds, we would remain endlessly distracted by small things and never get to the great stuff He has planned!
My pre-burnout goal to become a millionaire is a prime example. I thought for so long that this was the desire of my heart. Clearly, though, having the money in hand didn’t satisfy me. If anything, it slapped me with the emptiness of my priorities. Once I became a Christian and could look at my life through the lens of the Spirit, I understood that my desire for money had been a surface “want.” It was my flesh talking. What I really craved was acceptance and love and a peaceful mind. I’d chosen wealth and accomplishment as my driving lanes, believing they would be the express route to happiness. Turns out, though, those fast lanes weren’t taking me somewhere great; they were just endlessly looping me around a meaningless track. I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d followed Matthew Henry’s advice: “Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things.”1
Likewise for some of the things I’ve thought I wanted. They’ve so often proven to be only a symptom of a deeper desire; I’ve needed sometimes years and years to identify what was causing the itch. What I’ve heard when looking at a material possession was, See that thing? You have the money. You want it. Here’s your chance to have it. Now! So buy it! But when there’s only been that voice shouting at me, and no peace, I’ve known it was the desire of my flesh talking — and time to walk away.
When I’ve waited on the Lord, that’s when He has delighted me by fulfilling far bigger dreams. In one instance, I’d been carrying a desire around for half my life. And in that dream come true, I learned what I would have forfeited had I settled for the lesser desire that preceded it.
Hearing the Heart
A sacred pace, and especially working to get neutral, is about tuning out the noise of your mind and the world so your heart can be heard. You see, there are ears and eyes of the head, and there are ears and eyes of the heart. The entire process of getting in step with God helps you train yourself to see and hear with your heart above all.
That’s not to say I don’t use reason and experience to help me discern God’s answers for my business and my life. As you’ve read, I’m very intent about due diligence. In my pursuit of the facts in any situation, I not only apply the things I’ve learned, but I pay attention to circumstances and seek the wisdom of trusted advisors. The Spirit uses all these things to help me drill down past any deceptive emotions, dangerous impulses, and hidden sin — all with the divine goal of getting me in touch with my true desires.
You have to give up yourself so God can have His way. As long as you are still trying to be in control, as long as you insist on your plan rather than God’s, you won’t get a “Spirit” answer in your decision-making; it’ll be a “self” answer.
The theme of this book is to get beyond yourself and discover God’s best answers for your life. If you need to talk to someone, fine. I know I sometimes need to be jarred, having somebody ask me tough questions to keep me from running off the tracks. Just don’t trust your impulses; don’t go with your emotions alone. When you do, you’re allowing your mind too much control. And trying to solve a problem from there is sure to backfire.
Working through the steps to get neutral will help you get out of your way and want God’s way. Not begrudgingly or fearfully, but gratefully. Expectantly.
This is one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced. I no longer live in dread, scared to death that if I don’t make everything happen according to my plan, it will fail. Some of my ventures may actually fail as part of God’s plan! He never promised to spare us pain, but He promised that the pain will be purposeful — He will use it to give us what we want most if we will do our part and let Him do His. Therefore, I try to keep moving forward in faith, doing what I can do, knowing He will then do what only He can do.
Part of my responsibility is to turn a deaf ear to the often-tempting things my flesh says will bring me satisfaction, and instead wait on the Lord for the desires of my heart. I live in complete confidence that as I operate from the heart, God will work all things for my good, my better, and my best. He said so! He will be good to me — delighting me beyond anything I could ever ask for or imagine, never making me settle for second best.
Ultimately, this process is one of giving up ourselves until we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). This is how we die to sin and become alive to God. This is how we offer ourselves to His fulfilling purposes (Romans 6:11-13). This is what Christ meant when He announced,
Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. — Luke 9:23
The biblical commands to deny ourselves come with both a huge blessing and a bonus. The blessing is that we won’t come to the end of our lives and discover we’ve gained the whole world while forfeiting our soul (Matthew 16:26). And the bonus is that God gives us the greatest desires of our heart.
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Bible Hub, accessed February 18, 2017, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc /romans/12.htm
Excerpted with permission from Sacred Pace by Terry Looper, copyright Terry Looper.
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What are the desires of your heart? Do you believe they align with God’s? Are your desires born our of His? How does God want to bless you through fulfilling the desires of your heart? Come share with us on our blog!