As I write this, it is a gorgeous Monday evening. My habit on Monday is to spend time with God, putting an emphasis on listening. I talk to God all week long, but seldom do I set aside time to listen. Today it happened that my listening time coincided with a run during my lunch hour. After changing into shorts, t-shirt and running shoes, I headed out the door and began the conversation with a question. “Lord, I say that I love you, but do I really?” My mind was looking at the motivation behind my worship. I find that frequently my desire to follow Him seems to be rooted in the realization that doing so is in my best interest. That is hardly self-less, unconditional love.
King David, described as a man after God’s own heart, must have had a remarkable level of insight into God’s nature and character. In Psalm 35, David discloses his need of rescue from enemies. He sees God as rescuer and declares this in verses 26-27.
I asked myself, “what jumps out at me more in verse 27?” Is it God’s delight, or my prosperity? I have to admit this verse is underlined in my Bible because of the latter. These verses highlight two polar opposites, enemies who rejoice at distress and God who delights in prosperity. God delights in what is good for me, should I not delight just as much in what is good for Him?
After His resurrection, Jesus approached Peter and twice asked him, “Do you love me?” Both times Jesus used the Greek word agape which asks for unconditional love, regardless of the benefit to self. Both times Peter replied with “You know I love you.” Peter did not claim to have agape for Jesus, He used the Greek word phileo which indicates affection or attachment, but stops short of unconditional agape. Finally Jesus asks a third time, “Do you love me?” This time He uses phileo to which Peter can rightly respond in the affirmative. Jesus was stretching Peter toward unconditional love.
When David told of God’s delight in our prosperity, he used the word shalom which is a bigger word than just prosperity. It is contrasted with distress, and really means not only prospered but also complete, whole, and at peace. Most of the things I pray for are for my own shalom. What if instead, my most earnest desire was for God to be delighted? Rather than seeking shalom for myself, I should be asking Him what will bring Him delight. Ironically, doing those things He delights in will bring me the shalom I was looking for.
He continually asks each of us, “Do you love Me?” Not because of a selfish need for love, but because He knows our agape for Him is the door to shalom for us, and He delights in that!