Delighting in our Duty

Below is an article I wrote this month for our church’s newsletter: “The CrossWay Current“. More accurately, I wrote the article for me! You see, one of the common vocational hazards of being a pastor, is, we can lose our joy if we are not careful. Of course, this problem is not unique to pastors. We can go to church, read our Bibles, pray, serve, give, etc., and do it all without a sense of joy, of delight. We are “doing so much for God” (so we tell ourselves!) and can too easily slip into routine divorced from a delight and a wonder in God. Duty divorced from delight. There is an old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt“. Now, I guess there are not many pastors and followers of Jesus who actively/consciously hold God in contempt, but I think you get the idea. May the article below encourage you to “remember” God. As you do, the gladness and joy of serving Him will eventually return. By the way, while this article is not so much about God remembering us, let me remind you as you read, that if you are truly sealed by the Spirit, if you are a follower of Jesus, you might have seasons (long or short), where you are not enjoying God, and, perhaps you have even “forgotten” Him. But. But. He will never forget you. That is His promise, carved on the palms of His nailed-scarred hands (Isaiah 49:15-16). Blessings! Here’s the article . . .

I want to encourage you this month to pursue beauty, actually, “BIG B” Beauty – the Beauty and Wonder of God. In a world that seems at times to get uglier and scarier by the day, how we need to delight in God!  This is our Christian “duty”.  Let me explain.

At one of our recent school of revival prayer meetings, we reflected upon Isaiah ch.64. One verse in particular (verse 5) reached grabbed me: “You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” (ESV). The NIV says it this way: “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.” The Message paraphrases it as: “You meet those who happily do what is right, who keep a good memory of the way you work.” I share two simple observations here that I hope will be an encouragement to you to pursue and enjoy the beauty of God.

  • First, our heart posture as we serve Him is incredibly important.  Duty alone is not enough. We are to serve God joyfully, gladly, happily. If we are only “doing our duty” void of any heartfelt affection for God when we read our Bibles, pray, serve others in the Name of Jesus, go to church, sing with the congregation, give our offerings, etc., we are not honoring God.
  • Second, serving God joyfully, gladly, happily, is greatly aided when we “remember Him in His ways” That is, when we remember Jesus and all He has done and is doing for us even now as you read this sentence, it will have the effect of generating gratitude, joy, gladness, happiness. Remembering Him has the effect of moving us from duty to delight. We start to experience the wonder of delight becoming our duty. The two become one. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps.37:4). “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Matt.22:37).
  • John Newton, the ex-slave trader who is most famous for his song “Amazing Grace” wrote a hymn, originally titled “Hymn 3” in His Olney Hymnbook. We read the following:
  • “Our pleasure and our duty,
  •  though opposite before;  
  • Since we have seen his beauty,
  • Are joined to part no more:
  • It is our highest pleasure,
  • No less than duty’s call:
  • To love him beyond measure,
  • And serve him with our all

God deserves our delight-driven duty. Let me close with a story Pastor John Piper shared years ago. It’s one of my favorites! He says,

“Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary. Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long stemmed roses for Noel. When she meets me, I hold out the roses, and she says, “Oh Johnny, they’re beautiful; thank you” and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.” What happens? Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing? Do not we honor those we dutifully serve? Not much. Not if there is no heart in it. Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person the roses do not honor her. In fact, they belittle her, They are a very thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth or beauty in my eyes to kindle affection.”  (John Piper: Desiring God, p.93)

So, back to Isaiah. Do we joyfully/gladly/happily work righteousness? If we have lost sight of God and are not remembering Him and catch ourselves merely going through the motions without delight, we must “confess the sin of joylessness. Acknowledge the culpable coldness of your heart,  . . . pray earnestly that God would restore the joy of obedience. And then go ahead and do the outward dimension of your duty in the hope that the doing will rekindle the delight.” (Desiring God: p.301).

Prayer: Our Good God, please let us see You, remember You in all You are and all You do. Let us see and remember your beauty. And may this seeing and remembering meld our pleasure and our duty together, that you might be glorified among us.” Amen