Much Ado… Or The Heart?

6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. 7 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. 1 Sam. 16:6-7

One time, our church’s overseer, the very top man in our denomination, was invited by the leader of a big denomination to go and minister in his church. This pastor decided to take along with him one of his fellow elders. Now, our overseer is a man of slight build, while the man he took with him is big and tough looking. Moreover, our overseer dresses in the simplest way possible; but the elder prefers a more flamboyant look. On this particular day, the elder had chosen to wear a sharp-looking suit with a tie to match. The overseer wore only a shirt and coat. No tie.

When they arrived at the church where they had been invited, they found a big welcome team of pastors and elders awaiting them. With the exception of the host pastor, none of the others were acquianted with the visitors. Upon arriving, it was clear to the welcome team who the “bishop” was: it was the man in the suit and tie! Everyone hastily congregated around our church elder, pumping his hand and telling him, “Welcome, bishop!” After which they walked over to the overseer to give him a far less enthusiastic welcome.

Our elder, noticing what was happening, coughed and offered to speak up. When he had gained their attention, he said, pointing at our overseer, “Guys, he is the bishop!”

Much as we would like it to appear otherwise, we are all victims of the above scripture. The first reason for this, of course, is because God has said it; and if God says something, it is exactly as He has stated it to be. Therefore, here, as stated by God Himself, we are all victims of looking at men “on the outward appearance”. There is no exception. Whoever you are, reading this post right now (with all due respect), better own up. Don’t think for one moment that you are free from this one.

There is a way, of course, under the New Covenant, by which we can be free of this impairment in our spiritual lives; a freedom that God desires so much for us. And what, pray, is this way?

It is to have the Lord Jesus Christ firmly enthroned in our hearts. In other words, it is to identify our lives fully with the sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul says of himself in Galatians 2:20:

I am crucified with Christ…”

This is what we have been called to: to crucify our lives with Jesus. That is why the Apostle Paul talked of

“the preaching of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18)

Without crucifying our lives with Jesus, we are very much prone to being influenced by men on the outside, i.e. their outward appearance. We will be easily swayed by power, wealth, culture, and color. There are just too many Christians today who are enslaved by these things!

When Samuel therefore looked at this man, Eliab, he was easily swayed by just two things: the man’s countenance and stature. Eliab must have looked like an MMA fighter, but a handsome face. But God would have none of that nonsense. Notice His short reply to Samuel:

“I have refused him”.

Samuel was taking God into territory He does not play in. God does not look at a man’s face or stature. Nor in anything that is natural. God told Samuel,

“for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

God looks on the heart, not on any natural qualities or accomplishments we might have.

What am I leading up to in saying all these things?

Believers today think they may persuade God with things like much prayer, song, and hard work in ministry. But that’s just not right and it is unacceptable with God. Prayer, worship and ministry are all good, but the only thing with which we can persuade God are our hearts. A good heart is the first pre-requisite to any attempt at persuading God to be on one’s side.

A good heart goes a long way towards accomplishing the will of God than all the prayers in the world. God knew that, in the long term, David’s heart would work out His will more than his brothers’ seemingly outstanding worldly attributes.

You can always tell the man who is after God’s heart. It is not the man who is perfect (no one is). Rather, it is the man who trembles and who can humble himself. Humility is key to doing God’s will. A humble man will go far with God in the long term. If he sins, he can ask God for forgiveness. And God can continue using his humble heart, for in a humble heart God is free to move about and do what whatever He wants to, whenever He wants.

[Our overseer (seated to the left) is a simple man of God]

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Serving Christ

1 And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi. 2 Then Saul took three thousand men out of Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. 3 And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. 4 And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good to thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. 5 And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. 6 And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord. 7 So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went his way. 8 David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. 1 Sam. 24:1-8

And we wonder why David was a man after God’s heart!

And we wonder why we never seem to touch God…

But the things that touch God are the things of the heart.

Imagine: here was David’s mortal enemy, Saul, sitting on his haunches right in front of him, defence-less. All it required was one strike with the sword, and all David’s problems would be gone. Well, at least that was what David’s men thought. But David was a man of the heart. Moreover, David was a man after God’s heart. That is what makes the difference. Always.

But, in a moment of weakness, David did that which was unthinkable with God: he stretched forth his hand and cut off a piece of his enemy’s robe. But, almost immediately,

“David’s heart smote him.”

And David firmly prevented his men from doing any harm to King Saul.

One time, my wife called me from her place of work. She asked me, “Are you at home?”

“Yes, I am”, I replied.

“Oh great!” she said cheerfully. She then told me, “So-and-so is traveling to Dar es Salaam and he asked me if we could lend him that big suitcase of ours since his is not big enough to carry the stuff he needs to go with. I answered him yes.”

I almost burst a vein. ‘So-and-so’ was one of my wife’s co-workers, but he also happened to be my mortal enemy. He consistently showed the uttermost contempt to my wife, even though she was his superior at work. By extension, I took it that he was insulting me also – and I had taken it to heart.

On this particular day, when my wife called me, I got extremely angry. I answered her right away, “Wife, I have an appointment in town and I am leaving right now. Tell him he can come pick it up tomorrow.”

I had no appointment with anyone in town; but I wanted to give the fellow a run for his money.

“Baba Keren”, my wife pleaded. “He has already left.”

So much the better, I thought as I hung up.

But just that morning, I had read my Bible; and the particular scripture I had read was Ephesians 6:5-8:

“5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

The Lord had led me to read that scripture that morning because He knew I would need it. The portion that had especially touched my heart was verse 5:

“… obedient… as unto Christ.”

At that particular moment, after I had hung up on my wife, all of a sudden I realized I was not being obedient to Christ. I was not serving Christ, but my ego. I realized I needed to be serving Christ. But at what a price!

I jumped up and hurriedly picked up my phone and dialed my wife’s number. Oh, the joy of hearing her voice answering at the other end.

“Flo”, I said, trembling.

“Yes”, she replied.

“I am sorry.” It came from the depths of my heart. “I will wait for ‘So-and-so’ right here at home.”

“Ok, no problem dear. He will be there in half an hour.”

Initially, I had planned that even if he found me at home, I would wait for him inside the house. But now that had all changed. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I rushed to prepare the suitcase. I washed my face and smartened up. Then I took the suitcase and went and waited for the man outside the house. I stood there, greeting passers-by, until the man arrived half an hour later.

I knew I was serving Christ.

When the man arrived in the company car, he found me waiting for him. My heart was beating so hard because I knew that through serving this man who regularly tormented my wife, I was serving Christ.

I walked up to the car and warmly greeted the man. Then I lugged the suitcase and put it inside his car. But I did not walk away. Instead, I stood there and engaged the man in the friendliest small talk I had ever had with anyone. All the while, the man was looking intently at me. But, unbeknown to him, I was serving Christ.

When I was done, I bid him goodbye and walked back into my house. I waited to hear the sound of the car leaving, but the man did not go. He stayed there in his car outside my house for a long time. I don’t know what was going on in his mind, but I would love to think he was pondering the treatment I had given him.

Whatever the case might be, when we have the heart of Christ, we do things exactly as Christ would do them.

[And now, for your listening pleasure…]

Who Dwells With God?

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Is. 57:15

A friend of mine and I were walking in the street when we passed someone talking on the phone, and as we passed by we overheard him saying into the phone, “You know, forgiving someone is the most difficult thing to do in this world.”

When we had walked clear of the man, I said to my friend, “I think asking for forgiveness is even harder, because you are required to humble yourself in order to do so.”

As we walked we thought a lot about that. We came to the conclusion that in many of our dealings with people we are called upon to have a humble spirit, otherwise we cannot please God. And we will hurt people.

It is incredible what the Bible states in Isaiah. The Bible says that God inhabits eternity. Just think about that. Moreover, it says His Name is “Holy”. And who does scripture say God dwells with in His eternal and holy abode? The Bible does not say that God dwells with the holy; but rather it says He dwells with the humble and contrite in heart. In the simplest terms, it means that God is solidly on the side of the man who can humble himself.

Why, pray, not with the holy?

I am sure that, more than anything else, God would love to dwell with the holy man/woman. That means a man or woman who does not sin. But there actually is nothing like a man or woman who is sinless. The Bible declares that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All!

There is only one Man whom the Bible testifies that He did not sin, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Him,

“Who did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).

That is perfectly clear. Jesus did no sin. There is nowhere in the Bible you will find that written about anyone else. Every other man and woman has sinned. Even the men whom God boasts of in the Bible sinned. Abraham went in to a concubine. As for King David, the man whose heart singularly pleased the Lord, well… we don’t want him feeling bad up there, so let’s cut the talk.

Many believers are trying hard to live a sinless life. That is commendable. But many forget the crucial ingredient that God looks for in a man’s heart. God looks for humility. A humble man pleases God more than anything else, and he will go far, even in this world, because God is on his side.

A humble man is one who has a soft, malleable heart and who quickly falls down and repents. That was the case with King David. When the Prophet Nathan showed him his sin, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

He did not add or deduct from those all-important words.

Many of us cannot curl our tongues around such words. Some of us would rather die even rather than utter such words. And yet, it came naturally with King David.

We read of other kings who, when they were confronted, had the man of God locked away. And many of us are like that. But not David.

A humble and contrite spirit is the first pre-requisite with God. Don’t press God about the fact that you are His child, etc. He is not interested in such self-righteousness. When Jesus began His ministry here on earth, the Bible tells us the first words that came out of His mouth.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat. 4:17)

He was talking of a humble, repentant heart.

There is a safe passage in this unsafe world. The passage is in our hearts – our humble hearts. God will fight ferociously for the humble man. That is an indisputable fact, and it is borne out in many lives of men and women who have humbled themselves in this world.

There is a shortcut to where God is. We can easily jump over in one leap and be with God. It is simply by wearing a humble heart. God welcomes a heart that is clothed in humility. For this reason the Bible says,

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Yes. God gives grace to the humble. But He resists the proud.

Whatever you are engaged in, just calm down. Even if you are successful, do not allow success to get into you; lie low like an envelope. Wear humility like a garland around your neck. Own up and surrender whoever you are to God. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself…” (Mat. 16:24).

Surrender your will to God.

Whatever battles you are going through, humble yourself, and God will give you the victory.

That, beloved, is the gospel of the cross that the Apostle Paul preached. It is only through this gospel that we can say with Paul,

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

“The Sons Of God” – Part 2

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19

Although Adam might have been able to fly, yet, under the New Covenant, we could hardly find time to talk about Adam and his flying skills. On the contrary, we are to look at the heart. Something bad happened with Adam’s heart. And thereafter, grief, sorrow, fear and death reigned over the earth. Whether Adam was able to fly thereafter or not is no more of importance to us.

I truly thank God for the revelation that He has given to the church concerning the heart. Where would we be without this revelation? No doubt we would be preaching the charismatic gospel of material prosperity, et al.

But the Bible says:

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

I have heard many preachers try to make this scripture to be about the human intellect. But they could hardly be more off-track. This scripture is not talking about the brain. Indeed, no scripture addresses the human intellect. All scripture addresses the heart. All it is saying here is that as a man is in his heart, so is he. As a man is in his heart, so is everything about him.

Elsewhere, the Psalmist wrote:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps. 139:14)

The Psalmist was in the Spirit when he wrote those words. He was not in the flesh. The Psalmist here therefore is talking about the heart. God could hardly be bothered with our bodies the way we are.

In the Bible, we find men and women who had the heart of God. Men like David. And Abigail, among countless others. I have it in my heart to write about these two especially and, God willing, I shall do so within the next few days.

God has given us a heart that is fearfully and wonderfully made. A heart where God can dwell. Through Jesus Christ, our hearts have become the dwelling place of God.

Is that not so wonderful! But for us to arrive at the place where God dwells in our hearts, we have to pay the price. And, pray, what is the price?

The price is to circumcise our hearts. Those are the “sufferings” the Apostle Paul talks of in our key scripture above. Notice,

“we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

The true gospel of Jesus Christ preaches the singularity of the sufferings and death of Christ through crucifixion. It may not be a “pop” gospel, but it is the true gospel. Any other gospel, any other Jesus, is not genuine and the preaching of such simply draws men and women further from eternal life (2 Cor. 11:4).

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Himself said,

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The denial of self and the taking up of our cross is not easy. But there is no different path. The cross makes for a beautiful heart. A beautiful heart, on the other hand, makes the difference in this world – and in the next.

I find myself singularly wanting in any endeavor to do justice to this important subject. What I have written here is my small contribution for now. I pray it might make a difference in the lives of any who read it.

[Man is an incredibly wonderful creation. God intended it to be so. Judge Frank Caprio]

The Greatest Gift Of All

The greatest gift that God can give you is a humble and contrite heart. A heart that repents easily, with no questions asked. That is the greatest gift that any man can have from the Lord. Notice, of all people, the person that God is willing to dwell with in His heavenly abode.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Is. 57:15)

In the world, the high and mighty consort with the equally well-heeled. But with God it is different. His dearest friend and closest companion is the man who can preserve a humble and repentant heart. God’s singular friend is the man who is lowly in heart.

In Isaiah 66:1-2 God we read also:

“1 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

Lest we misunderstand God when He says “poor” He is not talking about financial or material lack. He is not talking about that kind of poverty. God has never headed that way. You could be poor as a church mouse all your life, and it wouldn’t bother God in the least. You wouldn’t be the first one. In fact, we read of people in the Bible who were rich, but who joyfully allowed themselves to be robbed of their material riches on account of the gospel (Heb. 10:34).

What troubles God is when our hearts are not right. As long as you are okay in your spirit, God is satisfied with that.

On the contrary, when God says “poor” He is talking about a heart condition. He is talking about the person who does not count himself righteous before Him. He is talking about the person who can say from the bottom of his heart,

“God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13)

Such a man/woman makes God exceedingly glad.

I have heard it said that man’s best friend is the dog. Well, coming from Africa, I don’t know much about that. That idea comes from the white man, but we Africans might have closer friends than dogs.

But it sure is nice to know who God’s best friend is. God’s best friend is the man who can humble himself. It is the man who can say simply, “Forgive me. I have sinned.” He can say that to God, and to his fellow man.

Man’s (and God’s) worst enemy is prideful self. From these scriptures we can see clearly that God hates pride. God cannot sit with a proud man. And by proud I mean someone who cannot humble themselves. Someone who does not carry a repentant heart.

What is a repentant heart?

Probably the best illustration in this regard are the two famous kings of Israel, King Saul and King David. They both sinned before God. David took Uriah’s wife and then had the man killed so he could keep her.

Saul disobeyed God by not killing all the Amalekites as God through Samuel had commanded him to (You can read the entire account in 1 Samuel chapter 15). In retrospect, Saul’s was a far greater sin than the one David committed! It is called the sin of rebellion.

But, anyways, both sinned. Whether big or small sin, both sinned.

The truly interesting thing was that God gave them both a chance to repent. I mean, He could have chosen to kill them both instantly the minute they sinned without even sending someone to confront them. It being the Old Covenant times, such a thing was not unthinkable with God. Anyways, God gave them both a chance to repent.

But Saul would not repent. Instead, he dived straight into self-justification. And He wanted more. He wanted to come out of the whole saga with his pride intact. And so, therefore, after unloading a ton of excuses, he told the Prophet Samuel:

“I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.” (1 Sam. 15:30)

Can you imagine that? How can the two go together:

“I have sinned: yet honour me now”?

There was absolutely no repentance there. This was what killed Saul. The man would not bend.

These are the kinds of attitudes that God absolutely cannot stand. God cannot stand a prideful and rebellious heart.

Saul was irredeemable, and this was how things ended for him:

“34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:34-35)

As we see with King Saul here, if you are a man or woman with an extremely hard heart, God can reach a point of no return with you and leave you. The condition of our heart is something to constantly watch over. God left Saul and the outcome was very bad for Saul. He reached to the point that he went to consult with the very witches that he had ordered killed when he had a zeal for God!

In contrast to King Saul, let us see King David, who also sinned. After David was informed of his sin by the Prophet Nathan, notice how short the interaction was:

“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

It is not that we cannot sin. But it is the repentant heart that God is looking for. God will perfect the man with a repentant heart.

[The meek shall inherit the earth – Mat. 5:5]

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Of Pilgrimages To Israel

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Jn. 20:24-29

Recently, a brother came to me and he wanted to know whether there is any spiritual merit in one visiting the land of Israel.

“Absolutely none”, I told him. “You might as well walk up to that tree and back”, I said, showing him an old, gnarled tree standing nearby.

The man then went on to tell me about how he had once visited a church and there he overheard a preacher talking about how he had made a pilgrimage to Israel and claiming that, while there, he had been baptized in the River Jordan. Upon which the congregation went into a frenzy of cheering and assorted melodrama.

“I have never been to Israel”, I told the brother. “But, according to what I have read in the Bible, the Jordan is not a particularly clean river (2 Kings 5:12). That man went into a whole lot of trouble for nothing.”

Ours is a walk of faith. It has nothing to do with this physical or material world. We are called to behold the spiritual, not the physical. In Galatians 6:15 the Apostle Paul writes:

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

Making a pilgrimage to Israel does not make one “a new creature”. On the contrary, it is the equivalent of the circumcision of which the Apostle Paul writes here that it avails nothing. Visiting Israel makes no one spiritual. Walking the streets where Jesus walked might get up all the goose bumps in you, but it will not make you spiritual. Much less getting baptized in the River Jordan.

What makes us spiritual is when we get the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ in our hearts. Becoming a man or woman of the Spirit is a spiritual journey, not a physical one.

But preachers today have discovered the spiritual blindness of believers and they are exploiting it to the max. They are not only making pilgrimages to Israel but they are going even further than that. They are bringing back purported spiritual artefacts from the holy land and selling them to believers back home: today there is “holy” water, “holy” oil, “holy” sand and nearly “holy” anything being shipped back from Israel to Africa to be sold at exorbitant prices to unsuspecting believers.

Christians, on the other hand, want things that can be seen, not believed for. It is easier to believe that “holy” oil from Israel can work a greater miracle than the unseen anointing of the Holy Spirit. People believe all kinds of things; but these same people find it very difficult to believe in the simplicity of scripture. But our faith is not built on Israel. It is built on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is what we should desire to see more. There, we will discover the true power and the true wisdom of God, which is the power to crucify our flesh and to allow Christ to dwell in us.

I will be talking more about this in my next post. For now, Adieu, and may the Lord bless you.

[When David killed Goliath, he was in the Spirit]

Abigail’s Beauty – Part 2

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

Many years ago, when I was a small boy, my school organized an expedition for some of us to visit a ship at the coast. When we arrived, the ship’s captain led us on a tour of the big ship; but I do recall that the one thing that made a permanent mark on my mind was the engine room. It was huge. When we walked down there, it was like we had entered a different world altogether. At that young, impressionable age, the engines appeared to be a hundred stories high! Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on down there. In fact, I recall it was like we found no one down there. Just the large engines powerfully humming away by themselves.

Then the captain spoke to us about the engines. I remember the word he used. He said, “The engine room is the heart of the ship.”

The engines, he told us, drove everything on that ship. Nothing could work on that ship if the engines were dead. The engines were the life of the ship. In other words, the engines made the ship to become a ship! Without the engines, that ship was just a big piece of scrap metal sitting uselessly (and possibly dangerously) on top of the ocean waters.

It is the same with us. The heart is our engine room. It is our very life. Our heart controls everything we do. And God, in his infinite wisdom, is concerned only with what issues from our hearts, for this is where our life is. As far as God is concerned, if we are to do things without the heart, we might as well not do them. God does not regard anything that is not done from the heart. That was exactly what He meant when He told Samuel:

“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

The man who wrote the Book of Proverbs probably received one of the greatest insights into God’s working, for he wrote:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Out of a man’s heart comes every issue of his life. His character comes out of his life; and so does his success, his prosperity – and even his beauty. And, in more ways than one, this inner life comes out and brightens a man’s exterior life.

That said, we cannot, as spiritual people, measure success, beauty or prosperity in material terms. No, we measure these things through what comes out of a man’s heart.

Consider Joseph. The Bible says of him,

“And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.” (Gen. 39:6)

What does the Bible mean by “goodly”? Does it mean he was good-looking, handsome? He might have been, but that is not what the Bible is talking of here.

Or, “well favoured”; what does that mean? Does it mean Joseph was built like Hercules? By no means. We might not even have any inkling of Joseph’s physique, for that is not what the Bible is referring to here.

The Bible is not interested in these things. Rather, in using these terms, the Bible is trying to show us the kind of heart that Jospeh had. Joseph had a “goodly” heart (not physique); and the term “well favoured” means he had the grace of God in him. And, through having this kind of heart, Joseph prospered.

How about Moses? The Bible record about Moses states:

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23)

Does that mean that Moses was more handsome than his siblings and that his parents therefore gave more consideration to him than to the others?

Hardly. On the contrary, the writer here is talking in the Spirit. In the Spirit, Moses’s parents saw into his heart. They somehow saw, in the Spirit, that this boy would turn out to be a vessel in God’s hands. And for that reason (for they were people of faith), “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”; and they hid Moses.

Finally, let us consider the life of what most people regard as the Bible’s favorite character, David. In most people’s imagination, as well as in folklore and in countless modern-day movies on the subject, David is given the character of a strapping, handsome young man. My guess is that all this comes from what people read about David in 1 Samuel 16:12:

“… Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

But th church has no place for Hollywood’s portrayal of a Biblical figure. All the attributes that the Bible lays out here talk, not of David’s physical appearance, but of his heart. Yes, the commendations that this particular scripture places on David are many, but that is because the heart of David had so many credentials to it.

Many of us would love to have such credentials attached to our names in God’s heavenly Kingdom;  but there is a price to pay. And these men and and women were willing to pay the price.

The price we have to pay to become beautiful in our spirits, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, is to guard our hearts. And, when it comes to guarding our hearts, there is no way around it apart from denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Christ.

Need we wonder, then, why the Apostle Paul would preach such a singular gospel,

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2)

It was because he realized the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul said,

“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29)

Christ worked in Paul’s heart mightily. The Apostle Paul was one of the most beautiful people spiritually. It was because he allowed the cross to work in him. When our hearts are well, we are the most beautiful people in the world.