There is no doubt about the fact that being a bus conductor in a big city like Dar es Salaam is one of the most challenging jobs. But today I met a man who took it all in his stride. He had the warmest smile which he wore throughout. And he even had time to engage his passengers with light talk as the bus cruised along.
Indeed, a man is only as big as his heart is.
Incidentally, he was also an incredibly handsome man. He was beautiful both inside and out. In my heart I wished him well.
How amazing scripture can be! The problem is, of course, that we do not take time to meditate on God’s Word and thus unearth the treasures hidden therein. If we did, we would have so much grace, peace and joy in our lives.
I am going to write four consecutive posts in quick succession. They are of things that have been on my heart for a while, but of which I had not the time to write.
The first thing I want to share is based on Matthew 9:4
“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”
Let’s bring this scripture up close and look at it from every angle possible. The first thing we see is that our thoughts are born in our hearts. We praise men of great intelligence; God praises men of great hearts. God has little regard for the mind of man. He looks steadfastly upon the heart of man. That is why the greatest job that we could possibly do in the realm of the spirit is to deal with the condition of our heart.
I was talking to my daughter one day on the phone. She is in her early 20s, and she has all this life ahead of her to worry about. In our phone conversation, she was telling me about some of her worries. She has often accused me of being the most uncaring father in the world, and on this day I rose superbly to the occasion. I said to her, “Daughter, what you have told me is a very small thing with God. If you were to lose both your legs or arms, that wouldn’t worry God in the least. One day you will not need them. What worries God is the condition of your heart.”
The second thing we see is that God knows our thoughts. The Pharisees had nowhere to hide from Jesus. Jesus knew their every thought!
In Ps. 138:6 we read:
“Though the Lord be high, yet he hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.”
Pride resides in our hearts; but it manifests itself on the outside in different forms. Now, here, scripture tells us that, long before this proud man has ‘spread his wings’ for us to see, God has already discerned him… from afar off! How is that so? It is because God knows all the purposes and machinations of the heart of man. But the Bible says that God resists the proud man (Jam. 4:6).
Another scripture that speaks to us in this regard is Luke 24:38. Jesus spoke similar words when He said to His disciples,
“Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?”
Trouble here means worry. Worry is one of the greatest evils that is forever chasing after us. We all know that worry destabilizes us mentally, emotionally and even physically. However, long before we become ‘mentally unstable’, so to speak, we need to realize that the problem begun somewhere in our hearts. But when we have Jesus in our lives, we have the KING of peace living right in us! How could we allow ourselves to be troubled? Jesus rebuked His disciples for allowing themselves into this condition of heart.
“Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?”
Let us go back to pride. How do you deal with pride?
Let’s say you have given a substantial financial offering or gift in church. You probably are aware that other people have not given as much as you have given. As you comfortably settle back in your seat, you feel this sense of self-importance begin to wash over you. You are not thinking about it: it just comes naturally.
Where did this sense of self-importance come from? It came from the heart. Everything starts in our heart! And why is it an evil thought?
It is evil because the Bible says that when we give, even our left hand should not know what our right had has given (Mat. 6:3)! That is why, even as we give, we should be lying on the floor, face pressed down hard on the ground, BEGGING God to forgive us for even thinking that we are WORTHY to give to Him. What could we give that could possibly even begin to match the sacrifice that Jesus gave on the cross?
Lying flat on the floor in total abjectivity, as I said, is the ideal position to give from. Moreover, it is the position that we must work from whenever we are doing anything for the Lord, including ministry. But I am talking about a condition of heart.
Did you know that heaven is all peace… that is, until we allow evil thoughts into our hearts. It is then that the alarms go off in heaven. All of heaven is about us; and an evil condition of heart troubles God greatly. Imagine you or I troubling God because we have allowed evil into our hearts! That is why we need to humble ourselves daily and ask for forgiveness and spiritual strength to stand strong against the onslaught of the flesh, the devil and the world.
The greatest undertaking that a man can aspire to – and which singular thing brings the greatest joy to God and the angels in heaven – is for him to is to watch over his heart. If we wish to impress God, it all begins with the condition of our heart. But the heart that pleases God does not come automatically. It is the result of a work – a work of the cross. That is why we need to catch the revelation of the cross. The cross keeps hammering at all that flesh in our lives to keep our hearts pure and humble.
I repeat therefore that the greatest undertaking that any man of God can aspire to with regard to God is to watch over his heart.
[Our greatest aspiration: the athlete teaches us many valuable lessons]
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]
21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Mat. 5:21-26
Let us begin right away with verse 25.
“ Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge…”
The Bible is talking in the Spirit, not in the natural; therefore, it is not talking about an earthly judge, but a heavenly one. There is a heavenly court, and there is an earthly court. Jesus was not therefore lawyer-ing in the natural; on the contrary, He was talking about things in the Spirit.
Here on earth, there is no place you can put someone on trial for being angry. Not even in the most despotic countries. There is no judge in the world who can utter the words, “You are hereby accused of anger.” Or of hatred, or lust.
These are things of the heart. Their court is heavenly, not earthly. And God, and not men, is the judge of these ‘crimes’ of the heart. And the Bible says we are to be reconciled with whoever we have committed these things before we reach to the judge. The Bible says,
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him”.
When exactly are you “in the way” with your adversary?
It is now. Now – right now – is the time to make our inner peace with every man. Who knows tommorrow? If we have anything – anything – in our hearts against a brother or sister, or, indeed, anyone, we need to make sure we clear that situation as quickly as possible with them. Then shall we be at peace with God, who is the true Judge of these things. As I said, no earthly judge is going to judge these things; but God will.
The Bible talks about issues of the heart. This is therefore a state of one’s heart. The heart that can do this is a repentant heart, a heart that pleases God (Is. 57:15; 66:2). This is the essence of the cross: to crucify our pride, and whoever and whatever we are, that Christ might live in us.
Recently, our church decided to hold an outdoor meeting in a certain village, and we were directed to the only person who could rent us sound equipment in that region. The minute we made contact with the man, that same evening he began sending us threatening messages, telling us that he would rent the equipment to other people if we did not pay immediately. We hurriedly came up with the money and paid him.
Unbeknownst to us, much of the equipment was unserviceable, and it would not perform. The worst part was that we realized this too late, just when the meeting had started. We went through a lot of trouble trying to get other equipment, and at more cost.
When I called him to explain the situation, the man again became hostile.
It was the perfect setting for hearts, especially mine, to be tested. The meeting was succesful, and a number of souls came to Christ. But, unknown to me, something was not right in my heart. But I only realized this after the meeting ended. After the meeting ended, something in me kept saying, “Call the man, and thank him.”
But I would push the thought away with the logic, “Why thank him? For failing us?”
I realized the problem was the pride in me. I feared that if I called, the man would not respond the way I wanted him to respond. I had discovered he was not a peaceful man. Probably he might insult me? Probably he would chastise me? So many scenarios came to my mind.
But, during one of those days, I locked horns with my heart. I said, “What if he were to kill me? Would I still stand up for the gospel?”
With that bold thought, I dialled the man’s number. I was determined to make peace with him at whatever cost.
When the man picked up the phone, and after the initial greetings, I told him that I wanted to thank him for the help that he had given us, and that I was sorry for whatever shortcomings might have arisen in our dealings with him.
I waited for his response. But it was not forthcoming. The man kept quiet for a while, and I thought he had gone away, but he had not. Finally, he spoke. He said, “Forgive me also for all that happened.” He spoke a few more words; but for me, that was enough.
I told him, “Forgive me also.” I loved the man.
Our peace was restored. But, at what a price! But it was a small price to pay compared to what I would have had to pay if I had allowed that situation to fester in my heart.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Cor. 4:5
Oh, how we worry! How we worry about what people think about us. Some of us worry until we develop stomach ulcers.
(I guess that’s why I love President Donald Trump. He never seems to worry about anything!)
I love what the Apostle Paul says here:
“… it is A VERY SMALL THING that I should be judged by you.”
Can you imagine that? And yet here we are, believers, fretting about every little thing that is said about us and frying our hair on account of people’s attitudes towards us. But Paul says he does not worry in the least about what people think or say about him. In other words, Paul is saying that that was the least of his concerns. What a relief!
Of course, there are legitimate worries for the believer; and I am not talking about the stock market. Worrying about the stock market translates to worrying about your stomach, which is something that God is totally against. Actually, there is only one legitimate worry for the believer in the entire world, and that worry is sin in his/her life. That’s why the Apostle Paul talks of
“the hidden things of darkness…”
“the counsels of the hearts”.
Yep! That should really worry us. It should worry us if we have dark corners in our hearts. And it should worry us if the counsels of our hearts are not aligned with God’s will. That should really, really, really have us worried!! And we should not stop worrying until we have cleared every trace of darkness from our hearts. Let us strive to live a sinless life through living the crucified life; and we shall experience true freedom!
But there is another side to the coin. There is another side to this grace that we have been called to inherit. Right here the Apostle Paul tells us what that grace is. He talks about not judging things before that time.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
Have you ever realized how quick we are at judging people? By judging, I believe the Apostle Paul meant both good and bad judgments. On the one hand we heap praises on people; and on the other we judge others harshly, largely based on… well, what we don’t know! We think we know people; but we can never really know a person’s heart perfectly. Probably the most difficult thing in this world is knowing absolutely what is in a man’s heart. In fact, it is impossible for mortal man to know what is in another man’s heart. Only God knows our hearts perfectly. We know only in part. So what does scripture tell us here?
Quit praising men; and quit judging men. We should take people at face value and leave the judging and praising to God. If someone lies to you, for example, that is your business only to the extent that, once you learn of his lie, you can have compassion on him and pray for him to repent. Beyond there, leave it to God.
The same goes for the praises. Actually, the only Person you can praise with a perfect heart is our Lord Jesus Christ. Go easy with the rest.
One of the things that I am absolutely sure of on judgment day is that there will be many surprises; and not small ones. Some will be very disturbing. Others, hopefully, beautiful ones. For this reason, the Apostle Paul is beseeching us to keep these things (praises and judgments) to the barest manageable minimum down here. According to the Bible, we don’t know anything yet; and for this reason there is no reason why we should even praise or judge men at all! Let’s leave that to God alone.
Ultimately, I love the fact that there is grace is Christ to live the kind of life that the Apostle Paul lived. That is what we should be truly grateful to God for. Paul lived that kind of life; why can’t we? I pray God therefore that He may enable me – and you – to keep the two important things in our lives in mind: firstly, to mind our own business, as it were; i.e. the business of keeping our hearts clear and sinless; and secondly, to take people at face value and leave the judging and praising to God.
[It is impossible for mortal man to know what is in another man’s heart]
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19
Let us read that again.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”
I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham
“… offered up Isaac.”
In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,
“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)
in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,
“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”
Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.
But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”
Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.
“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.
When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ… 2 Pet. 3:18
Oh, to grow! We are to grow in the Spirit. We are not to remain the same. Notice that to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is to grow in grace. The two are inseparable. You cannot say you have grown in the Lord Jesus Christ because you are now a bishop. Our claim to knowing Jesus solely rests on the fact that we have also grown in His grace.
This scripture challenged me greatly especially in my relationship with my wife. Now, there is no doubt at all in my heart that my wife is a rare gem. I consider her one of the most beautiful of God’s creations. She is amongst the regal women of this world (“Regal” means royal, majestic, stately, noble, according to my Thesaurus. My wife is all these. She has an incredible love for people.) I am very sure of the fact that, if it were men giving out wives, I would not have been in the race to ask for Flo’s hand in marriage. Had I come forward, the whole world would have had a long, hearty laugh. That’s a fact. In the natural, I am not the kind of guy who should have married Flo.
But the Bible says,
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” (Prov. 18:22)
In other words, it is God who gives men wives. So, God gave me the woman I should never have had. End of story.
That’s the warm part. But now to the cold facts.
Regal she may be, but my wife is also my ‘iron’. What is it about her being an ‘iron’?
The Bible says,
“Iron sharpeneth iron…” (Prov. 27:17)
She is my sharpener. She keeps seeing all those weak points in me, and God has singularly created her to iron them out. In the early days of our marriage, she was especially enthusiastic about that job. She never wasted a moment in showing me the many creases in my character, after which she went about trying to straighten me out in the best way possible.
That was hard enough in itself. To say that I did not accept her chastisement would be a stupendous understatement. I kicked and fought. But it did not end there. Regal she may be, but my wife is as human as the next. And to err, they say, is human. So, sometimes she erred and saw things that were not there. And she wanted to iron them out as well. She wanted to iron out things that were not there in me!
That was when my patience absolutely ran out. I was never one to take such injustice lying down. And so the mother of all battles would ensue. Mostly it was fought in the dead of night. Its details are yet to be de-classified.
As I got older, I decided to ‘grow’ and so I changed tactics. The trick, I realized, was to keep my mouth shut, and so I kept my mouth closed much of the time. But I closed my heart also. She would talk and talk… and I would keep my cool. I thought, Oh, what peace! What was I thinking all this time, making a scene? How so peaceful to just sit in my corner and watch her yap and yap!
One day, I attended a regional conference where our elder, Brother Miki Hardy, was preaching, and I heard him say, “I have purposed in my heart to never hold a grudge against my wife.”
I remember thinking, ‘I will never arrive there.’
Remember I am talking about the condition of my heart towards my wife whenever she tried to tell me something that grated against my pride or my rights. I am not implying that we lived a ‘war-torn’ life, no. Being the kind of woman she is, I believe I have enjoyed an incredibly happy marriage, in spite of myself. I am talking about those trying moments… the moments that tried my heart.
Anyways, one day I chanced upon this scripture.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
I was sure I had never seen that word, “grow”, in the Bible. It seemed new to me. I mean, I had given up even trying to get out of the rut, and I had accepted the fact that when Jesus came back to earth, He would find me in exactly that state. But I consoled myself that Jesus would understand…
But, reading that scripture, it dawned upon me that we are commanded to grow. God commands us to grow. That means to stop moaning and to get up and move!! In the army, when you moan about how difficult an exercise is, they drill a bullet right next to your calf, and they promise that the next one will be on target. And they mean it.
But this scripture also means that God recognizes our weaknesses and our helplessness, and that He is there to help us grow in grace.
It was then that I stopped moaning. I stopped moaning, and I began working at growing. And, ever since then, never have I found a more delightful occupation. To grow. To grow in grace.
I know in my heart that I have now reached the place in my life where I could say, as Brother Miki once said, that I will never close my heart to my wife. I have purposed that in my heart. Not that she is perfect. But I have found the impossible is possible, for with God nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37).
Does that mean I no longer react? Hardly. Does that my wife has stopped sharpening me? By no means. She is still my ‘iron’. As a matter of fact, she does not seem to be aware that I have changed and she digs into me even more. And – and I now know this is God’s doing – she keeps making those fallible ‘errors’. God allows her to see things in me that are not there. God allows it because He wants to see how I will react.
In recent times I have heard the phrase “open borders”. With me, it is “open heart”. I have brought up all my arsenal and placed it near the only place that matters – my heart. My heart ought to never shutter again – be it against my wife, nor against anyone else.
Granted, there is more to the Christian life than just relationships. But I believe the area of relationships is especially trying. That said, however, as believers, we are to grow in every area of our lives. We are not to keep glorifying our weaknesses. But we are to move on to maturity.
Fact: on the day of reckoning, Jesus will not ‘understand’ our lack of spiritual maturity.
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]
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23
What does it mean to keep your heart?
It means to guard your heart. It means to not have issue in your heart – with God or with your fellow man or brother. We have a problem with God when we sin against Him and more so when we are unable to humble ourselves and repent. It is the same with people. We are not to harbor anything in our hearts against anyone even if they have wronged us. And if something arises between me and another person which thing threatens to pollute my heart, I am to quickly let that thing go the way I would drop a hot coal from my hands.
Personally, I have come to realize that whenever I have an issue with someone (or with God), mortal fear strikes my heart. I never realized the reason for this until I read and understood this scripture. Then it was that I knew that as long as my heart is not right with God or with my fellow man, death, and not life, reigns within me. The fear that I feel is God’s way of warning me; it is God’s warning bell. He is telling me, “Step back!”
At that particular moment that I am nursing that state of heart, I am a dead man. Dead in my spirit. Were I to die physically at that particular moment, I probably would go straight to hell. I say “probably” because the grace of God is beyond my understanding in this regard. Probably God just might ask the doorkeeper to let me into heaven. But… even if I were to make it to heaven in that state of heart, I would never have the courage to lift up my eyes and look my Lord Jesus Christ in the face. How could I, one who had failed to guard my heart, look at the One who fully paid the price.
“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Heb. 12:3)
And that is forever.
No wonder the Apostle Paul writes:
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)
How so grateful we ought to be to God! The Bible gives us an opportunity, right now while we are here on earth, to do all in our might to pay the price and follow Christ in denying ourselves and keeping that all-important pure heart)
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mat. 5:8)
Do you want to see God when you get to heaven? Guard your heart and keep it pure. If something arises between you and a brother/sister, anyone, deal with it instantly.
When it comes to it being between husband and wife – which is all too common – the Bible specifically speaks to men thus:
“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Col. 3:19)
Is that not all too common with we husbands? Is it not all too common for us to be bitter with our wives? But we are to quickly let go the minute we feel that bitterness beginning to creep up on us. We are to quickly cry to God and make sure – make sure – our hearts remain open, pure, forgiving and loving. That is the cost we have been called to pay. It is the cost for our high calling as children of God.
And to the wives:
“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet. 3:1-6)
Wives are quick to learn the weak points in their husbands. If the wife is not a spiritual woman, she will regard her husband’s weaknesses and despise him in her heart instead of honoring him.
But the wife should take note that she has been called to obey and be in subjection to her husband. In fact, Ephesians tells the wives to be subject to their husbands
“in every thing” (Eph. 5:24).
Are these things just too hard for us? But it is the reason we have been given God’s Holy Spirit. He is our Helper.
And this condition of heart is commanded for every child of God in every situation. If we have any hopes of beholding the face of God in His eternal Kingdom, Rule No. 1 is to guard your heart.
[We are to pay the cost to keep our hearts pure at all times]
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56
Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.
This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.
When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.
For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.
Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.
When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.
My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”
Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.
When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.
Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”
Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.
But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”
With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.
At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!
When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”
After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”
Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.
That was when the pastor called me.
When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.
With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,
“7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.