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We must have the joy in order to spread it.

Advice to Preachers and Teachers (4)

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37.4

“Among those who are able to enjoy God with us, we love some whom we help, some by whom we are helped, some whose help we need and whose wants we supply, and some on whom we bestow no benefits and from whom we await none ourselves. Be that as it may, we should desire that all enjoy God with us and that all the assistance we give them or get from them should be directed toward this end.”

  - Augustine, On Christian Doctrine

Joy in the Lord
Our labors in the ministry of the Word – preaching, teaching, counseling and comforting, and laying plans for all aspects of the life of the church – must strive to equip people to love God and their neighbors. This is the goal of all Christian instruction, as we have seen.

But love is not a formula or checklist to be memorized and strictly followed. Love flows from knowing God, in Whose Presence is fullness of joy. We want those we help by our preaching and teaching to join us in the enjoyment of God. Two assumptions are at work here: First, that we actually know and delight in the Lord, such that we experience His joy in ways that all can see; and second, that we can aim our preaching and teaching not merely to convict or transform those we serve, but to bring them with us into the joy of the Lord, there to delight in Him.

Here’s a real challenge for our preaching and teaching, because it extends beyond mere exposition, the way we handle the text and deliver the message – the affections we display as we preach or teach. The challenge of delighting in the Lord must guide the encouragement we extend to God’s people, and the manner in which delighting in the Lord comes through in our own lives.

This is a great challenge, as Jamie Cupschalk reminds us: “It seems to me, that enjoyment of God is not natural to sinful man, but a supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit which comes only through Christ and His redemptive work.” We’ll struggle to help those we serve delight in the Lord, if we do not delight in Him – manifestly so – in our own lives. And we’ll have to work so that our congregation is a supportive environment for all who want to join us in delighting in the Lord. Jamie continues, “Jesus’ desire was to show His glory to those He loves (Jn. 17.24). In preaching or teaching, we must ask God to help us paint a vision of this glory – of that which is to come, and also of that which may be seen now. The now is experienced in His Church, in the fellowship of Spirit-filled believers, as we live in obedience to Him, bearing the good fruit of love for one another. As branches connected to the True Vine, we must encourage one another to abide in Him, such that His joy may be in us and our joy made full (Jn. 15).”

Grounding in God’s love
We delight in the Lord to the extent that we realize just how much He delights in us. One of the most important things we can do in preaching and teaching is to bathe the people we serve with the message of God’s love. As they grow in realizing just how much He loves them, they will delight in Him and know His joy.

Stan Gale puts it this way: “Stimulating people to love is not to work them up in a froth of emotion that dissipates like the rootless joy of seed sown in rocky soil. Rather, it is to ground them in an understanding that we love because God first loved us. We want to lead them to behold the love that has been bestowed upon us by the Father in that we – yes, we who are sinners – should be called children of the living God. Such preaching will not only carry insight; it will incite Spirit-filled hearers to love and good deeds.”

As ministers of the Word, we speak from God, and not merely for Him, but of Him, always expanding on His great glory and striving to make clear the enormity of His love for us, especially as that is communicated in the giving of His own Son. 

As understanding of God’s love grows in us, we will respond in love to Him. All the other loves of our lives will pale into relative significance in the light of our increasing love for and delight in our heavenly Father. As Chuck Huckaby says, “When we recall that the ultimate aim of our preaching and ministry is that both we and our hearers come to delight in God, that moves us beyond a simplistic mode wherein the application of the Word is reduced to a series of easily achievable steps, well-suited to the carnal man. Instead, to delight in God ultimately means we first have died to the possibility of true delight outside of God. That demands a confrontation with God’s Word that exposes our deadness – our ultimate hatred of all God truly delights in – and our absolute need of daily grace to renounce our deadness and be raised again by the grace of Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life. Only then will we and they delight in God.”

A reinforcing circle
Delight in the Lord. When the Lord is the delight of our lives, we may be pleased to be blessed with many good things from His hand, but our delight will always be in Him. He will thus be the desire of our hearts – to know Him and rejoice in Him more and more. He will be the desire of our hearts, which, as we seek more of Him, He will gladly give, to our increasing delight and joy.

Rusty Rabon explains: “I'm drawn to two words from the text: delight and desires. What we delight in determines what we desire. The food we delight in drives our choices at the grocery store or restaurant. The things we desire drive or determine our choices in other areas of life as well. If we have no delight in God – find no delight or enjoyment in His presence through the Word or prayer or worship – then our desires will be for things other than the things of God. But if our delight – joy, happiness, fulfillment – is found in the Lord, then our desires will then be turned toward things that please and honor Him, and He will surely give us such things as we come to Him in prayer.”

Our preaching and teaching must train the souls of God’s people on God, especially on the glorious vision of Jesus Christ, exalted in majesty, and on the magnificence of His soon return. We must never tire of pointing out the many excellencies of Jesus, at the same time urging God’s people to consider how much He loves them, and calling them to draw near and delight in Him with all their soul and strength.

Let those who help you in preparing to teach – Church Fathers, reliable commentators and grammarians, and friends with whom you consult – lead you to delight in the Lord, so that all your desires become organized around knowing, loving, and serving Him. Then those you help by your ministry will be drawn with you into the joyous celebration of God’s love, to delight in Him above all else.

This contrast between the vain and fickle joys with which the world is deluded, and the true repose enjoyed by the godly, ought to be carefully observed; for whether all things smile upon us, or whether the Lord exercise us with adversities, we ought always to hold fast this principle, that as the Lord is the portion of our inheritance, our lot has fallen in pleasant places, as we have seen in Psalm 16:5, 6.

  - John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 37.4

For reflection
1. How is it evident that you delight in the Lord?

2. How does delighting in and desiring the Lord serve us in the midst of adversities or want?

3. What are some ways recently that you, in your preaching and teaching, have emphasized the love God has for His people?

T. M. Moore

For a cogent review and handbook for preparing to preach and teach, order a copy of our book,
Text to Transformation, by clicking here. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, provides an overview of the whys, hows, and results of the ministry of the Word (click here). You can find books by Dr. Stan Gale at his online bookstore (click here). Helpful resources from Rusty Rabon can be purchased here.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore