“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“She’s gonna listen to her heart. It’s gonna tell her what to do…” Lyrics from Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart” song
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
What are the top 5 activities you love to do? Take a minute and think about them or write a list. If you could drop everything right now with no stress about leaving it behind, what would you do for the day?
The list of things you love to do that you just wrote down or thought about are some of your heart’s desires. The thing you would do today if you could, is at the very center of who you are. Your heart, your core—the very center of your being. They are also, more likely than not, things that God loves and created you to love.
On a relational level, your list of activities is where you connect with God individually as well as where you show his heart to others as you do the activities together. This truth is the foundation for what we call our fun small groups like “horsing around” (horseback riding), hiking, skiing, and others at Aspen Ridge Church.
In this article, I hope to encourage my friends who don’t believe in God to look at the activities that give them purpose and ponder the meaning. Perhaps to think deeply on why they love those activities so much and if there is a greater love behind their love. Don’t you wonder why there seems to be more to these activities than just the material world involved in them? More than just stuff, more than atoms and molecules. Something seems deeper, even eternal, doesn’t it? Almost like it will last forever.
I also want to inspire my friends who love a certain activity and love Jesus to lead or join a small group where you can show that love to others. Or simply invite a neighbor or friend to go out and do that activity with you. God’s glory will shine through you as you do the activity you love! Finally, I want to highlight the power of prayer. To hopefully accomplish my goals here, I’d like to tell you a story about a summer adventure I had with my family.
As we packed the Tahoe for a 4-day journey to go yurting in the rugged mountains of Colorado, a Bible verse came to my mind. The scripture that I had in my heart that day was “…You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2). With the Tahoe and topper briming to bust with food and backcountry gear, I said to my family “I live for times like this with you guys. A scripture that has been on my mind today is ‘you have not because you ask not.’ Take a minute and think about something you love and that you want God to give you on this trip. Then, during our prayer ask God for it. He loves to give us our heart’s desire!” Then we paused for a minute to think about what we wanted.
I started the prayer telling God we love him, asking for protection, and so on. Our standard yet essential pre-journey prayer as a family. Then I said, “I ask you God for a 20-inch trout.” My wife, Danielle, then prayed for us and asked God to “see a moose.” I knew she would ask to see a moose. Moose sightings for our family are a rare and treasured event. For Danielle, even more so.
There are two species of animals Danielle gets most excited about. Hummingbirds are the first. Especially the very first day they return to sunny summer Colorado. As I ate lunch today outside, I saw two of them fighting over one of the feeders she has on our deck. They were like medieval green knights jousting with their beaks in a swirling dance on the air!
And she loves to see moose. When she sees them, she screams “MOOSE!” Then it’s anybody’s guess whether they will get scared off by her joyful chatter about these glorious animals or if they will just continue to do what moose do and look for greener grass, probably annoyed at all the fuss as we fumble to take pictures from our smart phones. I think I love Danielle’s joy of seeing moose more than I do the moose watching itself. I can’t even imagine what would happen if she saw a hummingbird perched on a big bull moose’s antler!
My 3 boys, or “sons of thunder” as I call them, then prayed their hearts. Lots of fish, mountain biking, fun, rest, and safety were at the top of their prayers. They are thunderously and righteously wild, and our adventures together bring more happiness to my soul than I have words to express in this blog.
After prayer, off we went and in a little over three hours we arrived at our yurt, unpacked our gear and started to unwind. The afternoon was filled with laughter at our dog’s antics, mountain biking (one of my top 5 favorite activities), and a bit of hiking in the wilderness (another of my top 5). A card game of Uno is a yurt tradition of ours that topped off that first night beautifully.
The next morning, we woke up excited to go fishing. “I can’t wait to go FISHING!” Connor declared with a big smile. “Me too!” I said. Growing more mature takes away some of the carefree innocent joy we experienced anticipating and participating in activities as children. However, fishing is one activity that I’ve never lost that pure anticipatory joy about and is my #1 favorite activity—until hunting season, of course!
Our normal honey hole in the area was a reservoir that they drained this year for some structural work. We were bummed about it, but we heard of a few other areas producing some good catches.
We couldn’t get out of the Tahoe quick enough once we arrived at the lakes we had heard about. A new unexplored honey hole is fire for the fisherman’s soul.
“Come on guys, let’s get some fish before someone else does!” As we started down the trail to the lake, a passerby said “Right up ahead is a Moose! Be careful with your dog.” “Moose!” Danielle screamed, as if on cue. We saw it up ahead in the forest and watched it with reverence for a while before it walked out of sight. It was a beautiful dark brown small female moose. After it left our sight, we continued down the trail and 5 minutes later crossed the same moose as it walked through the woods. No excited yelling this time though since we were fairly close to it. Moose can be very aggressive animals. We quietly watched as we walked down the trail to avoid a direct encounter. It kept a careful eye on us as well which added a little excitement to our step.
“Thank you, Lord, for answering our moose prayer!” I said as we continued down the trail eager to get our lines in the water. We ended up having a fantastic day of fishing catching rainbow trout after rainbow trout. As our family likes to do, we had a competition. Who could catch the most? There was a tie for first place the first day and Ethan ended up winning the second day of fishing with 18 rainbows. Adding up our total haul at the end of the trip, we caught 133 trout as a family in about 6 hours of fishing over two days! We were only 20 fish away from the 153 fish caught at the direction of the king fisherman himself, Jesus. (John 21:11)
We also saw more moose on the trip. Driving down the highway in between fishing lakes the second day we saw a momma moose and her calf. Can you guess what Danielle was doing? Yep. She even wanted me to pull an illegal U-turn and exceed the speed limit to pull on the side of the road for a closer look. I plead the fifth on whether I obliged.
It was all so beautiful and her reactions hilarious until she wanted to get out of the car for a closer look. Remember that aggressive moose thing? Yeah. This is especially true with a mom and her baby. “Don’t do it!” I pleaded. She didn’t and thankfully so because it could have been a unique way of seeing a moose up close. Certainly not the one we prayed for!
The momma moose was a deep dark brown and the calf was more of a milk chocolate color with a hint of auburn. As we sat and watched the moose in awe, a mule deer doe crossed the road in front of us. A minute later came the smallest most awkward deer fawn hopping across the road like a rabbit to catch up with momma deer. Those big white spots on her sides and all! Our hearts were full of the beauty of it all.
What are your heart’s desires? What would you like to see or accomplish? Ask him! He loves to give you what you desire. Use the answered prayer to glorify him!
Sometimes God will give you more than you ask for in prayer. More blessing to show off his scandalous extravagance and love for you. Danielle asked to see a moose since to see one is so rare. We ended up seeing three over three days. He threw in a bonus of the cutest white spotted fawn we have ever seen and some pronghorn antelope on the way home with an antelope fawn trotting along with the herd. I think that is the first time we’ve seen a pronghorn antelope fawn.
Sometimes he will give you something different but equally as good, or even better, than what you ask. I asked for a 20-inch trout and didn’t get one that big. Yet he answered the number “20” I prayed for in different ways. He answered my prayer by allowing me to catch 22 trout our first day out! Along with the important reminder of one of my favorite stories of God giving us our desires in that our total catch was only 20 fish away from the 153 fish Jesus arranged for his followers in John 21.
Other times he’ll answer the exact prayer like my three sons’ prayers for lots of fish, fun, and safety. My son Andrew saved up enough money to put toward a new mountain bike that gave him so much enjoyment on this trip. He was having so much fun that I’m sure he would have biked at night instead of sleeping if we let him.
Sometimes God will say “wait” or “no” to prayers as well. Like the prayer for rest on the trip. I didn’t get a ton of sleep on the trip, but I rarely do out in the wilds. Plus, even with limited sleep, I felt rejuvenated at the end of the trip which is the best answer to that prayer anyway.
God answered our prayers on this trip for family community, fun, and adventure and by doing so brought us closer to him and each other. I believe our small groups at Aspen Ridge Church do the same thing for those who join them. They can satisfy our heart’s deepest desires. The desires for adventure, community, and happiness. We have sermon-based groups, topic-based groups, and fun groups like fishing and skiing that are designed to be trees of life for those who participate.
If my family had not asked God for those gifts on our trip, I doubt we would have received them in the abundance we did with the wonder of it all. He loves to give his children what we love and asks us to ask first! Yet there is a much more important and deeper reason God loves to answer our hearts’ desires in prayer.
As the Tahoe was almost packed and ready to head back to Evergreen from our yurting adventure, I was overwhelmed with how much God had blessed us on this trip and the beauty of what we had seen. I was even a bit sad to leave so I took a walk in the woods alone to thank Jesus for everything and praise him in solitude as a slight breeze rustling the aspen leaves above my head made music in my soul. Until I heard “time to go” being shouted from a hundred yards up the hill. Bummer.
As we drove away from the yurt I said, “God blessed us in abundance this trip!” We recapped all the adventure and how God answered our specific prayers on what we wanted to see or do. “Why do you think he gave us all these blessings and joy like we asked for? Why do you think he answered our specific prayers on what we wanted to see and do?” His love for us and desire to answer prayers were the main answers from the family.
“Those are very true” I replied. “I also believe he gives us our hearts desires for fun, adventure, and the things we want because it gives us a small taste of our true heart’s desire for him. For a deep and intimate relationship with him which is far greater than his blessings. He desires to be our heart’s desire. He is our heart’s truest desire, and he points to this truth by giving us these delights and the adventure we yearn for.”
What is your heart’s ultimate desire? That #1 thing. The God of the Bible would say “I am! And so is my kingdom.” And he would be right.
The things we love to do, see, and taste all point to him by giving us a glimpse into eternity and his kingdom. The culmination of which will be the renewal of all things right here on the earth. (Matthew 19:28-29 NIV). What do you want to do with Jesus when we journey this renewed earth together? It’s probably that favorite activity you thought about earlier. Personally, I’m looking forward to fishing and laughing with Jesus. I bet he knows all the good spots! After all, he is the King Fisherman.
Loving you with my heart,
Director of Small Groups