January 1, 2014

The Heart of the Matter

Just last night, I noticed an article in the Oregon Journal about presidents. It went through and named them one by one, identified their opponents, and listed some physical characteristics of each. It seems that in the majority of cases, the tallest man won. The article went on to say that a survey was done to find out if height could have influenced the careers of other successful men—those who are making the most money in the world. It showed that taller men receive the best pay.

This is the standard by which men measure each other—by outward appearance and countenance. God does not look at man this way. He sees deeper than the outward appearance and judges according to what is in the heart.

We see this demonstrated in chapter 16 of 1 Samuel, where the sons of Jesse were brought before Samuel in succession so that one of them could be anointed king. The first son who came forward was a beautiful specimen. Verse 6 says Samuel “looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” Down in Eliab’s heart, though, was something that made God refuse him. Verse 7 says, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” We know this man was not refused for his countenance or the height of his stature. He probably was not refused for his intellect. There was something down in his heart that was not quite what God wanted it to be.

A person may have his sins pretty well camouflaged in this life, but everything will be revealed on the Judgment Day.

The Lord searches the heart and knows what is on the inside. A person may have his sins pretty well camouflaged in this life, but everything will be revealed on the Judgment Day. It is the content of the heart that matters. How is your heart today? Is your heart set on the things above? How diligent are you in doing the Lord’s work? Are you putting your all into the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Eternity is a long time. These things are worthy of your consideration.

David was the last son to be brought before Samuel and surveyed that day. He was the youngest, and just a boy, but there was something in his heart that made God choose him. In 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” When I think of the heart of David, I am reminded of when he was a shepherd boy and a lion came against him. He took that lion by the beard. Think of that! Most of us would have been considered very brave if we could have grabbed that lion by the tail, but David met him face to face and slew him. It was not just David’s strength that slew the lion. David had a heart that was perfect toward God, a heart to do his best for the Lord at whatever he was given to do, so the Lord showed Himself strong on David’s behalf. God is still looking down on earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who trust Him.

When I was a young boy, we did not have many books at home, but we had one that I liked to read every now and then. It was titled, “The Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous.” It appealed to me because I fell into the category of “poor boys.” One of the stories in the book was about a man who was interested in replicating Chinese porcelain for France. What impressed me most was that this man was so intent on keeping his kilns going during experiments that he broke up the furniture in his house to use as firewood! Nothing else mattered to him but keeping those fires burning. He eventually made a name for himself by creating a new type of pottery. He succeeded because he put everything he had into the effort. The Bible tells us in James 1:7, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I believe this means a man who is wavering between one thing and another. God is looking for a heart that is singularly focused on the Gospel.

There was a time when my heart was not focused, but I did not realize it. I was a young Christian man who thought because I had to earn a living, I had better set as high a business goal as I could for myself. I thought a person could direct a great deal of energy in two directions and be successful in both the business world and in the work of the Lord. I saw two courses laid out before me: one was worldly ambition and a desire for the things of this life and the other was a desire for the things of Heaven. I saw no conflict between the two, but I remember hearing my mother pray one day. She said, “Lord, I don’t ask that You make my boys a success in this life. I don’t ask for anything in this world for them. I only want them to make Heaven.” This prayer troubled me, and little by little my eyes were opened. I realized there was only one thing in this life that mattered and that was making Heaven my home. I never made much of a success of the things of this world, but this old world is going to perish. It is the things above that are eternal. I want to make a success of those things.

In thinking of the man who broke up his furniture and threw his table and chairs into the fire, his actions seem foolish. The Bible tells us, though, of an almost identical incident. There was a farmer who was plowing his field when he felt the call of God. What did he do? Why he chopped up his plow and the other tools he was using and threw them into the fire. Why? His heart was singular to the glory of God. Those plowing instruments were not important. They were material things, and he was focused on the spiritual. That man was Elisha. He left his home, his family, and his friends to follow God. That is the willingness it takes. That is also what David had: a heart that wanted the things of God.

Moses was a man who was successful in life, but chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Is that the way you look at it today? Are you counting the hard things of the Gospel worth more than the pleasures of this life? God is looking at your heart. He does not care how tall you are. He is not interested in your outward appearance or what material things you possess. Take those material things and consecrate them, dedicate them. Throw them into the fire spiritually. God cares what your heart is set on.

John the Baptist was a man of God who stirred the people to repentance and prepared the way for Christ. One day some of his disciples began to be alarmed because the crowds who came to hear him were getting smaller. John’s attitude was, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That is a heart dedicated to the cause. He was willing to see the work of Jesus go forward without him. He wasn’t concerned for his own interests. He just wanted to see God receive the glory! There are some who have their hearts in the Gospel as long as they can be out in front and in the limelight. They aren’t willing to do the work behind the scenes. We want to have a heart that is willing to do whatever we are called to do.

Where is your heart today? Jesus said the “kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). His heart was for the Gospel, and it didn’t matter the cost. He was going to get the Kingdom of Heaven. Do you have it? Are you that kind of Christian? If you are not, you may fall by the wayside when the last Trumpet sounds. It is only those whose treasures are laid up in Heaven who will make the goal.

apostolic faith magazine