Pause for thought
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I have frequently heard it preached that, as Christians, we should be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. However, I’m also sure it’s your experience that doing so is often easier said than done.

In our hyper communicative age, the world is pressing in on us from all sides. It’s hard to escape what society claims to be important and worthy of our attention, especially when it’s not! It’s even harder to be able to put it all in perspective both from a temporal and eternal viewpoint.

You are probably aware that the advertising industry primarily exists to expose “needs” and “wants” that you didn’t even know you had, so that they can then propose (and sell) a “solution” in the form of the product or service they advertise.

What is portrayed as “progress" that will bring new and improved benefits to our lives, often just morphs into further pressures and frustrations. For example, you only have to look at the telephone which is undoubtedly beneficial in bringing people closer together, to acknowledge the added pressure and frustration when a telemarketer gets access to your number rather than your grandparents! I remember that the motivation for the first cruise my wife and I took as a vacation was that no-one could get a hold of me on the ship! Unfortunately “progress” has made that a distant memory!

Psychologists have identified a syndrome called “FOMO", or “fear of missing out”. Imagine how horrible and frustrating it must be to always be comparing who you are and what you have with your neighbors — the “Joneses”? — or some unattainable ideal meme being promoted on television or TikTok!

These may seem like very modern problems, but even a cursory look into the Book of Psalms shows the underlying discontent was very much on the mind of King David.

Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity. [Psalm 37:1-11 NLT]

David’s antidote to his agitation about the seemingly unfair prosperity of Godless people is found in verse 4:

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Let’s take note of two words, “delight” and “desires”.

To be delighted is to experience joy. The way David uses it in this verse is as an active, present tense verb — a willful action on our part rather than some passive by-product of some other experience. If I were to paraphrase David’s words it would come out as “have a good time and lots of fun in the Lord’s presence!”

When we’re in the Lord’s presence we have fun — especially if others are joining with us. Now, there's a great reason to collectively worship in church if ever I heard one!

To desire is to set a goal that can be an object to be possessed, a process to be experienced leading to refinement and improvement, or a status to be attained and enjoyed.

Hebrew poetry (of which this Psalm is an excellent example) does not use rhymes as we do in English, but rather tries to set up a symmetry between two thoughts in a line. This is what David is cleverly doing in this verse by equating our heart’s desires with delighting in the Lord! Just as an aside, David also constructs the Psalm as an acrostic; each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet!

When we take delight in the Lord, our heart’s desires are refined so that we want more of that experience rather than hopping like a butterfly from one lesser experience to another.

I think this may have been what Helen Lemmel had in mind when she wrote these words (and music),

Turn your eyes upon Jesus Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

Once you’ve experienced the delight of the Lord, everything else pales in comparison and spending more time delighting in Him becomes the main motivation and desire of our thoughts and actions. This is a good thing!

Isaiah 26:3 puts the peace prescription slightly differently:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! [NLT]

If we want peace from the pressures of this world — an antidote to our agitation — the answer is simple: focus on Jesus, not the world!

Practice delighting in His presence and with His people and it will become what you want to do most in this world (and the next!)

I pray it might be so for you today.

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at