“The desire of the righteous ends only in good.” (Proverbs 11:23)
“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:19)
Our hearts are the seat of our desires, will, and choices. We explored this truth briefly in earlier devotions (particularly those of January 22-24, February 15, March 11-16). It’s time to go deeper, to explore the challenges of knowing our hearts’ desires and the implications of them for living a vibrant, biblical Christian life. We usually think of our hearts only when we are experiencing strong feelings, such as love, affection, hurt, pain, fear, anxiety, delight, happiness, or excitement. But our hearts are at work all the time; they hold and control our beliefs, our choices, decisions, and worldviews.
Often individuals’ belief systems begin with their feelings; “I believe what I feel” or “I believe what I have experienced.” However, Christians are called to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The only way to have “righteous” desires, those that will be fulfilled by God is to conform our hearts and minds to Christ’s. There are several general problems with our hearts that hinder our union with Christ. One is the distractions and lure of worldly pleasures and possessions—like the food mentioned yesterday, devices, online applications, videos, games, messaging, movies, sports, TV, pornography, the love of money, sexual freedom, twenty-four-hour news feeds, academic pursuits, beauty, etc. In the parable of the sower, Jesus told his listeners what happens to the gospel when worldly desires are strong. “As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Another problem with our hearts is that we don’t think there is a problem with our hearts. Instead, we focus on our behavior, circumstances, and the actions of others as the cause of our difficulties. We do this without thinking, some more than others because it is an aspect of our sin nature that will not be conquered until we lose this body of sin at death. No wonder Paul delighted in remembering that he was crucified with Christ. Satan is vindicated whenever we start trying to “fix” ourselves by changing our behavior, which keeps us from examining the source of our problems in our hearts. He also fans the flames of conflict among us, so we bicker and fight and hold onto resentment and bitterness rather than humbling ourselves to take responsibility for our part of the problem in our relationships or circumstances. We will touch on the issue of anger this month, which is exasperated by our societies that are embracing spontaneous, violent outbursts, both orally and in writing, in texts, posts, and blogs.
Will you examine your heart today? Are you willing to ask God to show you the problems in your heart and consider the ones described above? Then will you ask him for the grace to help you sort them out and unite your desires to his?