On Delight over Duty

by Bethany

Highlighted Verse: Revelation 2:4-5
Full Reading: Isaiah 32; Revelation 2

Danger | It is dangerous to obey God without delight. Although the church in Ephesus was “enduring patiently and bearing up for [his] name’s sake,” Jesus lamented their lost delight in God: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” [1].

Duty | In his 25th anniversary poem to his wife Noel, John Piper shows how delight honors God more than duty [2]. Piper pictures himself giving 25 roses to Noel and her asking, “Why so much?” With hand upheld, he replies, “You know it is my duty that I go each year and buy what husbands ought.” Of course, Piper knows this is ridiculous, but he asks his readers, “What’s wrong with duty? I admire this virtue very much. Do you not think that she was given due esteem …?”

Delight | He returns to the scene and offers Noel a different reason for bringing the roses: “It makes me glad to bring you things. In fact, Noel, I think it brings me more delight to spend this night with you than anyone I might.” Then he asks his readers, “Does anyone believe that my good wife would angrily reply, ‘You [are] selfish … It makes YOU glad to bring me things … Well, I suggest that you should see what duty, discipline and strain might make you do for me through pain.” Why isn’t she offended? Piper continues, “The pleasure that I take in her is but the measure I infer that all her excellence conveys. Delight does not indict but praise. It fills the longing of my life and glorifies my worthy wife … if I kissed my wife simply because it’s right and not because it’s my delight, it would not honor her so well.”

Desire | He then turns to God: “I hope that now it is not odd when I say, so it is with God. His goodness shines with brightest rays when we delight in all his ways. His glory overflows its rim when we are satisfied in him. His radiance will fill the earth when people revel in his worth. The beauty of God’s holy fire burns brightest in the heart’s desire.”

Prayer | Lord, Let us obey you in delight, not duty. Let us go often to you to cultivate our holy affections. Teach us to take great care to live in the practice of righteousness so that we do not lose our first love [3]. Amen.



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[1] Revelation 2:4-5 ESV  |  [2] John Piper. “For Noel on our 25th Wedding Anniversary.” 19 December 1993.  |  [3] Jonathan Edwards has recommended, “Live in the practice of these inclinations. If you long after God and Jesus Christ, then often go to God and Christ and converse with them. If you long to be near God, then draw near to Him. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, then take great care to live in the practice of righteousness, to live a more holy and heavenly life. If you long to be more like Christ, then act like Him and walk as He walked. This is the way to have your holy inclinations increased, and hereby they will in some measure be satisfied.” (Jonathan Edwards. Spiritual Appetites Need No Bounds.)

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