Duty and Delight

One of the reasons we did this series called In the Line of Duty is because May is Military Appreciation month. And in case you didn’t know, we have a lot of military personnel and families in this church. The idea arose as we considered how men and women in the armed forces have a duty to their country they fulfill. Within their duties are core values like courage, integrity, loyalty and service. What we see is that many of these core values are values that every Christian has a duty to exhibit. How that duty turns into delight is an interesting concept, but what we are going to see as it relates to our relationship with Christ is this — one of our actual duties as a Christian is to delight in the Lord… and it is in the line of this duty that all other spiritual core values flow. Here’s the point of this series, IN THE LINE OF DUTY WE BECOME MORE LIKE CHRIST. More courageous, more integrity, more loyal, more selfless, and more joyful.

It is in the line of duty we increasingly become more and more like Jesus.

Duty is defined as that which a person owes another. That which a person is bound by any natural, moral or legal obligation. Obedience and submission. Reverence or respect.What one ought to do.

There is so much in that definition, and I want to spend some time breaking it down, but first let me ask you a question.

Have you ever felt like you were just going through the motions in life? You know what I am talking about. As an employee, as a boss, as a husband or wife, as a dad or maybe even as a mom? I am pretty sure we all have. Some of you are there right now and I don’t think it is abnormal and you shouldn’t feel condemned by it. But how we respond in those moments is very important.

Now the enemy would make you want to think it is ridiculous that you would ever feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied in any way, and if you are a Christian he’s right. But his solution to that problem is very different than God’s. The voice of the enemy would say the best solution would be to forfeit or give up on your “duty” if you will, and try something new. There is something “out there” better and more conducive to your happiness.

Our culture panders to this idea as well, may even define it as mid-life crisis, and gives us every excuse to pursue any and every thing that will bring us happiness in this life. Treat life like a video game and hit the reset button. But this is where we walk by faith not by feelings or sight and fulfill our duty to honor God. We don’t reset our duty, we recommit.

So, on the other hand, this is God’s solution: that you would fulfill your duty to Him to obey His Word and submit to Him as Lord out of reverence. Here’s what happens when we do what we “ought,” Duty tells our feelings to take a back seat to our faith. Are you saying I am never supposed to be happy? No, but I am saying your primary duty is to find your happiness in Christ first and foremost because that is where you will be completely fulfilled, satisfied and where all other joys flow from. Yes you are to be fulfilled, yes you are to be satisfied, yes you are to be joy-filled but your duty is to pursue all of that in Christ first.

So, I want to give you the main passages of scripture as a series reference point. It is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13.

13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Here is the “what” as it relates to our duty as a believer. This stresses the greatness and majesty of God when it says “fear Him,” and also the unchanging authority of His Word, the Bible — when it says keep his commandments. In the end nothing else will matter but this. As one commentator put it, for this man was made and placed in the world; this is his real object, the chief good which he has to seek, and which alone will secure contentment and happiness.[1]

Your main duty is to obey God. And while that seems so simplistic and cliché it is vital to grasp. The enemy has tricked us in to thinking obedience = boredom and disobedience = fun, pleasure, happiness. However the real truth is that God’s word says in Psalm 16:11 there is the fullness of joy in the presence of God and eternal pleasures at his right hand. But here is where it gets a little tricky for us if you are a Christian, and even if you are not. If you are like me, we think our joy comes from obedience. If I obey God, keep his commandments I will be happy, satisfied and have joy in my life. How’s that worked out for you thus far? I mean isn’t that why, even the most depraved of “sinners” says this phrase when things are going well for someone, “you must be doing something right?” Implying if you are obedient, good, benevolent and such then you will be happy, satisfied and full of joy. Don’t get my wrong, you may be those things at times, you certainly will be benefiting from the blessing of God and his promises because of obedience. That is true. But what about those times when obedience leads us the way of the cross, pain, suffering, perseverance? What then?

Well here is where it gets amazing I think. Actually one of our duties as a Christian is to pursue joy. So yes we should obey God, but now, what I want to look at is this life altering approach to living. If we want to obey God then one of the ways we obey Him is to pursue joy! Think of it this way, it is not“fulfill my duty to obey and I will be full of joy,” it is “fulfill your duty to be full of joy.” So in the line of duty (revering and obeying God) we become more like Christ and we become more like Christ when we fulfill our duty to pursue delighting in the Lord. Joy is not merely a by-product of obedience, it is obedience. Here is the main point, It is my duty to delight in the Lord and it is my delight to fulfill my duty.

It is my duty to delight in the Lord and it is my delight to fulfill my duty.

Let’s start with the definition of duty again. That which a person owes another. What do we owe God? Simply put, everything, the entirety of our lives. He is the reason we exist. Jesus already paid the debt of my sin that I could never pay, so that is not what I owe. I owe him my allegiance for purchasing my salvation. Which brings me to this part of the definition, that which a person is bound by any natural, moral or legal obligation.Legally I am bound to Christ if He is my savior and Lord. My life is not my own. I am owned by Him. The bible calls us bond slaves. So I am both morally and legally obligated to serve him with my whole life. The rest of the definition is self-explanatory. We are to be obedient, submissive, and reverent. Duty is doing what we ought to do.

So scripture is slammed with passages about what we ought to do when it comes to joy. Serve the Lord with gladness, Psalm 100:2. Delight yourself in the Lord Psalm 37:4. Jesus said Blessed are you when people insult you… rejoice and be glad for your reward is in heaven Matthew 5:11–12. James 1:2 Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trails. Philippians 4:4 rejoice in the Lord always. 1 Peter 4:13 says 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

I love the Puritans approach to life whose aim was “to know God so well that delighting in Him, may be the work of our lives.” Because “we know that joy would arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”

What?! DID YOU HEAR THAT? When we have delighted in the Lord and tasted and seen that He is good the worm on the hook isn’t so appealing anymore. I am down with the Puritans!

It has always been my contention that Christians should be the happiest people on the planet because of who we are in Christ and who God is to us, and yet because we expect that happiness is a result of something we do for God instead of something we pursue in God we end up being extremely frustrated wondering why we are not satisfied, fulfilled and happy.

Our affections are misplaced. And make no mistake about it, what I am talking about and what the Bible is always talking about when it refers to joy is joy in God. Not joy in our present situation, or difficult circumstance or broken relationships, but joy in the one who completely satisfies. Here is how Psalm 16:11 puts it, in your presence is fullness of joy and in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Anything else is insufficient because it is qualitatively inferior for the longing in our souls and quantitatively too short for our eternal need. God alone satisfies; He is the object of our affections.

It is our duty to pursue this kind of joy in Christ and it is our joy to fulfill our duty. I am going to give you the church friendly example, but for you mature married adults you can consider another analogy. Suppose one of you husbands in here asks his wife if he must kiss her good night. Her answer is, “you must, but not that kind of must.” What she means is this: “Unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your advances have no moral value.”

In other words, if there is no pleasure in the kiss then your duty has not been done. Delight in her person, expressed in the kiss, is a part of the duty, not a by-product of it. Delighting in the Lord, expressed in every way we can humanly express it, is part of the duty not a by-product of it. If there is no pleasure in Him, His Word, His ways, then we are not fulfilling our duty. I delight in praising Him, I delight in obeying Him, I delight in giving to him, I delight in worshiping him. It is my duty to delight in the Lord and it is my delight to fulfill that duty.

One of John Piper’s most famous quotes really sums up this whole idea; God is most glorified in us when we are the most satisfied in Him. This is our purpose, to bring glory to God by being satisfied in Him, being full of joy because of Him brings him glory and also brings us maximum joy. As a matter of fact you cannot truly experience the fullness of love without truly loving God first. And you cannot experience the fullness of true lasting joy apart form finding joy in Christ first. So if we are really going to love God and love people like our mission statement says, we are going to have to obey God by pursuing joy.

“But I do experience love and I do experience joy, and I don’t really feel like I have a relationship with God.” Or you may say “I feel these things and I don’t know God at all.” And you are right; to a certain extent, but I said the ‘fullness of love and joy.’

You may have heard our current culture described as the most pleasure seeking generation of all time. Now I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that the pleasure we seek cannot be found in the places we are looking if God is not there. Actually as C.S. Lewis states, “we are far too easily pleased.” When God says at His right hand are pleasures forever it seems he is not afraid of pleasure but the one who created it. So our desires are not too strong, they are too weak. Because even as a believer we might say something like, ‘the pull of that temptation or pleasure is too strong for me to resist.’ Which I would reply, “no… it is that your pursuit of pleasure is too weak.” If infinite joy is offered why are you going after temporary joy?

So our desires are not too strong, they are too weak.

I give you two pies. Remember when you were a kid and you made mud pies. Now typically we didn’t eat them, but as kids we were pretty satisfied wallowing around in the mud making mud pies. But what if mom came out and said, “Honey, I have a nice freshly baked apple pie here for you.” What are you going to do?

Here’s what I want you to realize — we are way too satisfied with eating mud pies (porn, love of money, illicit relationships, substance abuse, material possessions, extravagant vacations, etc…) when Jesus is offering hot baked apple pies. We are acting like little children wallowing around in the mud as if that is the height of pleasure because we can’t imagine the offer of infinite joy that God is giving us if we would just pursue our joy in Him. The enemy has us wallowing around in the mud of earthly pleasure eating the pig food of counterfeit delicacies and we think we are taking rose petal baths and eating caviar. That is the height of deception and one we must have our eyes opened to in order to fulfill our duty as Christians.

What is that duty again? Our duty is to delight in the Lord and our delight is to fulfill that duty.

Let’s close out by talking about affections. Because what I see oftentimes is a Christianity that is joyless because we have told ourselves that we can’t have pleasure or we have misplaced our pleasure seeking AND since we have to mute all of our affection, because affection leads to pleasure seeking you see and is most certainly bad, our relationship with God becomes sterile and lifeless. Why? Because it is impossible to have joy without affection, so we suppress, suppress, suppress, when God is saying let it go, let it go, let it go and find it all in me.

Watch this, throughout scripture we are commanded to feel, not just think or decide. It is both/and when it comes to our mind and emotions. So in our lives as Christians we are commanded to experience all kinds of emotions, not just perform acts of will power.

If you are finding yourself powerless against temptation and you are giving in to areas of sin in your life might I propose that you have an affection deficiency in your relationship with God? And if there is no affection for God there really is no relationship with God. And we can’t use the excuse of our personality; well I am just not an emotional person. Fine, but in the presence of God you are. Emotions are commanded throughout the Bible, joy, hope, peace, desire, brokenness, gratitude, and on and on, so being satisfied and delighting in God is our duty.

We must feel something when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. Although duty tells my feelings to take a backseat to my faith when necessary, when I step out in faith my feelings of affection towards God will flood back in because God never disappoints or fails.

If you have to, then just do a joyless duty. That is better than not doing what you ought, but as you do, confess the sin of joylessness and admit the hardness of our heart. Then pray that God would restore the joy of obedience in your life. Psalm 40:8 — “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Then ask God to let your heart catch up with your actions. “Lord as I fulfill my duty rekindle my delight.” It’s not, well let me do what’s right….” It’s I get to honor you and do what is righteous.”

Let me just help you by saying this is a work of grace. You can’t make this happen by willpower, you can only cultivate this through relationship. So, although God commands us to delight in Him we rely on His grace to help us fulfill this command. Isn’t that amazing? Lord let my affections be toward you so that my treasure and pleasure is found in Christ first and foremost.

“If it be just a duty then that is what I will do, but I much prefer delighting because that’s when I am most like you.”

Our goal is to be like Jesus and he delighted in God the Father.

Our duty is to delight in the Lord and our delight is to fulfill that duty.

[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ecclesiastes (p. 306). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.