Lord of Our Appetites

Lord of Our Appetites

Text: Psalm 37:1-9 — Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! 8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. 9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Introduction: What’s an appetite? It’s a strong hunger or desire for something. Sometimes it’s a physical longing … such as an appetite for food! One of the blessings of living in a country that is as prosperous as America is that we have an abundance of all kinds of good foods to enjoy. Of course, as with any other appetite, we can overindulge ourselves with what we eat. A while back I learned of a restaurant in Las Vegas that invites risk-takers to eat to the extreme. It’s called the Heart Attack Grill. Famous for its flatliner fries cooked in pure lard, butterfat shakes, no-filter cigarettes, and the triple bypass burger, this aptly named place appears to be living up to its reputation. The restaurant’s most recent victim, a woman, was eating a double bypass burger slathered in cheese and bacon and smoking cigarettes as fast as she could when she collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Owner Jon Basso said that he wished her a swift and full recovery. But, he added, the woman got exactly what she asked for: a brush with death. “We attract … thrill seekers [and] risk-takers,” he told the Los Angeles Times, adding that his restaurant is a “bad for you but fun” restaurant that “caters to people who don’t really take good care of their health.” The Octuple Bypass Burger can top 19,900 calories (almost 8 times the recommended daily amount for the average man). Basso said the Guinness World Records book recently contacted him to say that the burger was being crowned the most caloric sandwich on Earth. The restaurant also offers free meals to people weighing more than 350 pounds. “I tell you,” said Basso, “we attract that very bleeding edge, the avant-garde of risk-takers.”Yes – they do! Their customers are people who know no boundaries when it comes to satisfying their excessive lust for food.
Now there are other kinds of appetites as well. The word is often used as a figure of speech in the Bible and refers to any inner craving of man, whether good or bad. Our Lord uses it in the good sense in John 7:37-38 — If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scriptures have said, ‘Out of his innermost being (the place of his deep longings, ie. his soul, heart) will flow rivers of living water.’ The Apostle Paul uses the same word in Philippians 3:19 in the bad sense – (speaking of enemies of the cross of Christ) – Their end is destruction, their god is their belly (in this case their sinful cravings), and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
People hunger for many things. Those of us who are believers and stand with Christians throughout history in confessing Jesus as Lord, need to constantly examine our inner cravings and hold them up to the light of Scripture. Otherwise, we may find that we’re attempting to fill ourselves with the same kind of stuff that King David associates with evildoers of whom he says in Psalm 37:2 — (they will) soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Now follow along with me this morning as we discover what we should hunger for.
Context: All of us recognize that a life in the pursuit of God can create some hardship for believers. When we set our hearts and minds on heavenly things, we do not always enjoy earthly blessings as a result. This can often be a difficult pill to swallow, especially when we see people who live immoral lives with complete disregard for Godprospering while we endure hardship!! That’s the circumstance that King David addresses in Psalm 37 when he begins, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” A better translation is … do not become heated by evildoers. We might say today, “Don’t get all worked up…” This emotional reaction is a real possibility when Christians see those who are openly rebellious to God enjoying earthly blessings while they miss out. It seems pretty unfair and causes some to get a little angry about it. I’m sure there were times when David felt this way (Psalm 43:1-2 – Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me?). Still, he learned over a lifetime that the prosperity of the wicked is not evidence of God’s reward. So how are we to respond to this seeming contradiction (bad people enjoying prosperity) when we see it playing out?  The answer is not to seek to fulfill our appetites with worldly pleasures as the wicked do but to find our satisfaction in our relationship with God.
I.     Trust in the Lord (Psalm 37:3 – Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness). Faith in God is always the cure for overcoming any illegitimate appetite. It helps us to see things for what they really are, not for what they seem. For Christians, this kind of trust always leads to obedience … in this case it means that we do what is good … despite how the wicked prospers in pursuing evil. The phrase “dwell (tent) in the Land” refers to the life of one who does not call this world his home, but is merely passing through (Our citizenship is in heaven – Philippians 3:20). When we put our faith in the Lord, do good and remember that our home is in heaven, we will strive to be faithful to the Good Shepherd and trust Him alone to satisfy our deep longings. Application: Faith doesn’t ignore one’s circumstances. It acknowledges the facts but then reasons that it doesn’t all add up. Why not? Because God hasn’t yet been figured into the equation. Faith says “I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and disregard what’s happening all around me. I’m willing to see it for what it is, but the bottom line is … I will trust in the Lord’s power and goodness to make it all work out in the end.” It is only when we trust in Him that Christians can hunger to do good, remain focused on the prize and cultivate faithfulness, even in a world where the wicked appear to be better off than the righteous.
II.     Delight Yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart). People delight (take joy and pleasure) in all kinds of things. Sometimes it’s a sports team that wins a championship. On other occasions, it’s an unexpected gift or treats we receive. For many parents, their children are a delight. Here in Psalm 37, David tells believers to make God the source of our joy … not the things of this world. When we find pleasure in our relationship with Him, we do not envy the wicked, we pity them! When we discover that every single attribute, name and deed of God can be a delight, we look to Him for our satisfaction and joy. As long as we find our joy in Him we can pray with confidence knowing that God will give us the desire of our hearts. I like how the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon puts it, “Those who delight in God will … ask for nothing, but (that which) will please God.” That’s why we can know with certainty that we will have the innermost desires of our hearts. God will always give us whatever He wills for us (See 1 John 5:14-15). Illustration: In a TV commercial a young man was struggling with whether to go through with an arranged marriage. In his home country, they were the norm. But after living in America, he was having second thoughts about adhering to this ancient custom, especially since he’d never met his wife-to-be. Still, when she flew into the airport, he dutifully waited for her, flowers in hand, and a gloomy expression on his face. But when she stepped through the terminal, everything changed. In his eyes, she was the most beautiful woman in the world! Suddenly his glum demeanor disappeared. The thought of marrying this young lady was no longer a dreaded duty; it was a delight. What had changed? Not much really, except that he’d seen her. Many people seem to have a similar experience with God. They dutifully serve Him out of obligation, drag themselves to church, but their hearts aren’t in it. They’re like that guy at the airport, grudgingly holding flowers for God, trying to live holy lives because they know they should. But it’s burdensome, joyless. What can change this? Seeing God. When we get a vision of who He truly is, suddenly we’re energized to know and follow Him. Once we gaze upon his grandeur and glory, the relationship is no longer hard work. Once we learn to find our delight in Him—everything becomes a joy!
III.     Commit Your Way to the Lord (Psalm 37:5-6 – Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday). So far we’ve said that our spiritual appetite can only be satisfied as we trust in the Lord and delight ourselves in Him. Now Kind David shares a third important factor for us to consider. Whatever path God has ordained for us, we are to submit to it (Commit your way). That’s how we eliminate any envy directed toward others. We accept His plan, give thanks and trust Him to accomplish it. And when this is our approach, Christians won’t worry whether everyone notices that we’ve taken the “high road.” God will make it clear to everyone at the right time(He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday).  Our focus must always be on God’s glory … and when it is, He will see to ours.
IV.     Be Still Before the Lord (Psalm 37:7-9 – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him).  This isn’t that easy to do. In fact, it can be pretty difficult. So, how can we still ourselves before God and wait for Him to show up? This requires a measure of self-control that is evidenced in two ways:
A.    We Refrain from Anger (fret not yourself (ie. do not burn in anger) over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.) – Sometimes Christians can see the prosperity of the wicked and grow resentful over it. “Why is it that they are doing so well and we’re having such a difficult time just getting by?” Most of the time our anger is not righteous and even when it is, anger has a tendency to become unrighteous. That’s why God attaches a time limit to it: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26). The best thing to do is to turn everything over to the Lord and let Him deal with it. Ask him to take away your anger and replace it with peace.
B.    We Wait for the Lord (Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil for the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land) — A general principle in life is that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). There are times, however, when it doesn’t seem to be working out this way … when those who have an appetite for evil seem to be the blessed ones. The writer of Ecclesiastes expressed this incongruence when he said, “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing (Ecclesiastes 7:15).” It’s at times like these when Christians may be tempted to become their judge, jury and executioner, but the Bible is clear: Vengeance is mine, I will repay. Instead of inserting ourselves as judge and jury over evildoers, the best thing we can do is wait on the Lord for Him to repay. Illustration: Are there some things going on in this world that really bother you? Do you wonder if those who do them will ever receive their comeuppance? A short time ago, I came across the following piece which really disturbed my soul:  Does $140.00 seem like a lot of money to you? A new reading tablet or a piece of home fitness equipment might be a steal at that price. It’s $39.00 more than the price of a one-day ticket to Disney World. … Or $140.00 could be the value of an entire life. According to SumAll.org, the median worldwide cost (half cost more and half cost less) of a trafficked human is just $140. And in case you’re wondering if human slavery is really that common today, here’s a comparison of the state of human slavery in 1860 versus a study released in 2012: Slavery in 1860: There were 25 million slaves worldwide; the median price was $134 per slave; at the time 78% were legal. Slavery in the 21st century: There are 27 million slaves worldwide; the median price per slave is $140; yet slavery is not legalized anywhere in the world. The average length of time that any person is a slave is six years, after which they either escape, are set free, or die. If I think about it I can become very angry about human trafficking. It is the third most profitable international crime, trailing only the sale of illegal drugs and weapons. The only comfort I find when I consider how perverted it is that one human being will sell another for his own profit is that I know God will pour out His wrath on those who engage in it (neither thieves nor the greedy will inherit the Kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:10). So, I set aside my anger and wrath and wait patiently for that day when God will show His.
Applications: Billy Graham, in his book “The Secret of Happiness” states that there are four things that can spoil your appetite for the things of God. (1) Sinful Pleasure; (2) Self-sufficiency; (3) Secret sin; (4) Neglect of your spiritual life. This morning, if you’re wondering how you can reacquire that deep, abiding soul-satisfaction that is sadly missing from the lives of many Christians, the answer is to turn from these things that spoil your appetite and seek a closer relationship with the Living God who satisfies our deepest longings. SPIRITUAL HUNGER REQUIRES A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION. Here are three questions for you to consider:
·      When is the best time to acknowledge your spiritual hunger? Luke 6:21 – Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
·      What is the end goal of your spiritual hunger? Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (as in conformity to God’s will), for they will be filled.
·      Who is the only One who can satisfy your spiritual hunger? The prophet Isaiah gives us the Isaiah 65:13 – This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My servants will eat, but you will go hungry. My servants will drink, but you will go thirsty. My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.
Conclusion: In his book Predictably Irrational, researcher Dan Ariely claims that most of us are masters at deceiving ourselves and justifying our actions. In particular, we often make our decisions based not on what’s right, but on what we want. Ariely tells his own story of buying a car. “When I turned thirty,” he writes, “I decided it was time to trade in my motorcycle for a car, but I could not decide which car was right for me. The web was just taking off, and to my delight, I found a site that provided advice on purchasing cars.” Ariely describes how he answered all of the questions on the website, which then recommended that he purchase a Ford Taurus. He describes his reaction this way: The problem was that having just surrendered my motorcycle, I couldn’t see myself driving a sedate sedan. I was now facing a dilemma: I had tried a deliberative and thoughtful process for my car selection, and I didn’t like the answer I got. So, I did what I think anyone in my position would do. I hit the BACK button a few times, backtracked to earlier stages of the interview process, and changed many of my original answers to what I convinced myself were more accurate and appropriate responses.… I kept this up until the car-advertising website suggested a Mazda Miata. The moment the program was kind enough to recommend a small convertible, I felt grateful for the fantastic software and decided to follow its advice. Commenting on what he learned in the process, Ariely says, “The experience taught me that sometimes we want our decisions to have a rational veneer when, in fact, they stem from … what we crave deep down.” I think most of us would agree … what we crave is often the deciding factor in what we pursue. That being the case … it seems to me that the only way we’re going to make the right choices is to crave the right things. That’s what King David learned and what he passed on to us in Psalm 37. It wasn’t the power of his throne, his sexual attraction to Bathsheba, his great wealth or any otherworldly desire that satisfied the deep longings of his soul. It was his relationship with God. That’s why he exhorts us to trust in the Lord, delight in the Lord, commit our way to the Lord and be still before the Lord. Nothing else can satisfy the spiritual hunger found in every person’s soul. There really is a God-shaped vacuum inside every one of us that only He can fill.