Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and truly you shall be fed.…
In the course of conversation with a brother minister, I was told that a layman had put to him this question: "What is the meaning of the seemingly unqualified promise, 'He shall give thee the desires of thine heart'? Surely it is somewhat difficult to believe that promise as it stands." Undoubtedly, as our text stands, or I should say, on the face of it, it is obviously untrue. Most people would be prepared to say that they do not get, or very seldom get, the desires of their heart. The woman who has to battle with odds against a world with which she is very little fitted to deal. If you were to ask her whether she has had, or is likely to have, her heart's desire, you would receive a flat denial. Her heart's desire is that these dear ones, against whom she wilt not hear a word spoken, should be placed above the reach of the world's criticism, or censure, or persecution. What do you think, you older men, as you look back upon life, concerning God's dealings with you? When you were young you had great hopes for your own future; unlike a woman's, they were very largely desires of personal ambition. But very few of us ever come to the experience after which we strive. The successful man — successful as the world would call it, or, to be nearer the mark, as he himself would acknowledge it — is in a very small minority in this place. If you look back, you can see how you have taken the wrong turn; where you uttered a word which did you disservice — you had better have been silent — or where you were silent when it had been better you had seized the chance and risen. Inferior men have passed you on the road, less scrupulous men have climbed to positions of honour and respect which you do not occupy to-day. Then there are other experiences which a preacher must touch with a still more delicate hand. Here is a man of whom his neighbours say that he has never looked up since his boy died. All his heart's desire was centred upon that lad. These are such common, everyday experiences that one hardly needs to indicate them in your presence. How do they look alongside of the psalmist's prayer: "He shall give thee the desires of thine heart"? I will tell you how to approach the text now. Remember, he who penned this statement was a living, breathing man. For he knew life then as really and truly in its heights and depths as you and I know it now. So when he wrote down: "He shall give thee thine heart's desire," he must have meant something in all seriousness, and I think the context will help us to understand what it is. "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity." He is writing for himself; he had been fretting against the evil-doers, and he had been declaiming against the workers of iniquity. Listen further. "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." Understand, this man is on the very borderland of a temptation: he is going to repay evil with evil; he is going to fight the world with the world's weapons, and his utterance is one of warning directed to his own conscience. But at his best he rises to a new height: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him .... Delight thyself in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." This man evidently has not been receiving the desires of his heart, he has been seeing the less worthy prosper, and it is out of his own experience that he writes. He has seen something; it is that the pure in heart, the noble in character, are on the side of God, and the best that they have is drawn from the heart of God: therefore God will give them their deepest desire if only because it is also His own. For now we bare struck the very point. The heart's desire is the deepest desire, and it may be, and often is, that a man's heart's desire is hidden from himself, and known only to God. Here is a man who wants something intensely. What do you want it for? It may be a good desire, as well as a bad one. Most people assume at once that when a man is in quest of money he wants it that he may do some mischief with it or indulge himself by its possession. This man may want money that he may liberate his own soul from its present prison-house, that he may enlarge his borders, be good, do good, get good. Or here again is a man who has a holy purpose, in which himself is hardly concerned; it is for another's good he wants the power that money can give. So now, if you pray for £500 a year — I will put the request as simply as I can state it — if you are praying in any such terms, whether God answers the prayer or whether He denies it, your heart's desire is not for the thing called money, it is for the moral and spiritual result the money can bring. Here is a man asking for fame. He may be utterly wrong in the praying of this prayer, most likely he is: "Ambition, that last infirmity of noble minds." Well, what does he want? He thinks he wants fame. If he gets it, he will say, like Merlin:Sweet were the days when I was all unknown, But when my name was lifted up, the storm Brake on the mountain and I cared not for it. Right well know I that fame is half disfame, Yet needs must work my work.Ofttimes the thing you think you want is not the thing you really want. The man wants what he supposes fame brings, but which fame never brings. There is a satisfaction that goodness and goodness only can give, and it is the satisfaction that comes from achieving his best of which he is really in search. You may not get either the money or the fame, but you shall get the thing you suppose they will bring. Yet a man may put his prayer into such a form that he supposes himself to be seeking the good when he is seeking nothing of the kind. The heart's desire is that oftentimes which lies beneath desire; it is the best of which a man is capable. His prayer is a symbol, the true reality is the heart's desire. There are not a few here who have not understood up to the present that the heart's desire may best be gratified when the surface petition is denied. God turned you back, it may be, long, long ago, when you bought you saw your road plain before you, because He understood better than you did your heart's desire. God shut a door in your face; if you had gone through that door, I do not say it would have been to material ruin, but, you would not have been the man you are to-day, the man of serious purpose and high character. God denied you your brief worldly success, and you are a bigger and better man because it never came; and God gave you what you never anticipated when you rebelled against the way that He chose for you long ago, but you may yet live to praise Him with a full heart fervently because He understood so clearly your heart's desire. Now, one thing more, my brethren, hard as it may seem to say it. Even now, when you have come to the valley of humiliation and to the shadow of death, God is giving you a great opportunity. He believes in your nature too much to lead you always through green pastures and by still waters, so he has given you the chance of being a hero, and some day you will say, "Right was the pathway leading to this." How well God understands the heart's desire! Now one or two observations upon the principle. The first is this. Every great capacity assumes an equally great satisfaction. Sir J. Burden-Sanderson, of Oxford, once said in a lecture before a scientific assembly, that if in any nature you found a great capacity, a vessel to be filled, there was that wherewith to satisfy, that wherewith it should be filled. It is so undoubtedly in spiritual things, lie shall satisfy that which He Himself has fashioned. Many of you, however, have ceased to affirm consistently and by your life that which you have been trying to gain impulsively or spasmodically. The other day I was watching at the seaside a boy fishing by the side of a grown man. The man knew what he was about, the boy was only beginning. The little fellow did not catch anything, he did not allow the fly to stay down long enough; every few minutes up came the hook, that he might see Whether anything had taken place in the deep waters. His eider companion sat stolidly there, and fished perseveringly on. He gained something, where the little fellow did not. So many of our lives are so inconsistently adjusted that we deny with our act what we affirm with our lips. We pray to God to do what we do not live ourselves; we seem as if we are always pulling up and beginning again. Yet a prayer, to be consistent and fruitful, should be the utterance of a man's whole life and character; we stand at our highest, or ought to stand at our highest, when we pray. A great capacity presumes a great satisfaction — give it a chance in your own life. For it is not merely what a man's lips utter, but what his whole life affirms, that is his real prayer. Secondly, there are some seemingly impossible things which I would bring within the range of answered prayer. There are not a few here, it may be, who are accustomed to pray half-despairingly for the sake of those whom God has given them to love and care for. How impossible it seems that you should prevail over an evil will, if it be the will of another, in your intercessory appeals to the heart of God. And then is not God Himself helpless before the citadel of the human will? I do not care to go into metaphysics on that subject, but I would have you remember that you are encouraged in the highest of all prayers, Christ-like intercession, to act as though there were no barrier before the will of God. Where does your personality leave off and another's personality begin? It is in a sense true this morning that I, who address you am you, and you who sit answering silently back are me; we are one for the time being, or there would be no communion. Believe then that, as we are linked together by invisible bonds, love could draw some tighter still. I would never believe, I would never care to assert at any rate, that there is any point where the will of man can exalt itself determinedly and lastingly against the will of God. May those who feel that they have to carry a heart's desire not for their own sake but for another as the great Heart Eternal, take courage from that thought; pray as though there were no barrier which God cannot overcome, and through which the Christ, the Redeemer, cannot pass. Lastly, there is only one thing more I would leave with you. Though the psalmist is speaking here of the righteous man, the principle to an extent holds good of the prayer of an evil man. All evil desire has its appropriate recoil. No man whose life is a curse ever manages to blight the career of those against whom he has sinned as he blights himself. God shall give you some of your hideous desires, and they will come back to you in bane where they might have come back to you in blessing. If you are in quest of something that is unhealthy and degraded, be sure it will recoil upon you — that very desire. God may gratify it, and by gratifying it punish you for entertaining it. A man who has given himself to evil becomes the victim of evil. But if, on the other hand, every one of us here has clarified his desire. He who knoweth our heart's desire will not fail us in the day of its accomplishment. "You shall see of the travail of your soul and shall be satisfied. For eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
(R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.