Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2013
…How to Discover the Healthiest and Happiest Way to Experience Life
Scottish runner Eric Liddell won the gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics in the 400 meter race. Next to being a missionary, running was his passion. In the Academy-Award winning film Chariots of Fire (1981), he is famously quoted as saying, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” The great tragedy of life for so many people is that they never discover what they were born to do or get to know the joy of doing what is in their hearts. Are you living from your heart?
I cannot define the heart in a spiritual sense; I can only describe it. The relationship between the physical heart and the heart as the Bible addresses it remains a mystery to me, though I do believe that there is a vital relationship between the two. When our lives are not lived from our heart spiritually, it can have a bad effect physically.
Generally speaking, the Bible addresses the heart as the source and center of our motivation in our true self. The Scriptures tell us that we cannot truly know our own hearts apart from God (see Jeremiah 17:9-10). Only God, our Creator, can cause us to know our true motives; what we were created to be and do. Understanding ourselves can be a difficult but rewarding journey as we fellowship with God and trusted friends, but it’s a journey well-worth taking. We are not merely a “type of person”, we are each unique.
In his book, The Power of Uniqueness, Arthur F. Miller, Jr. writes that we are all born with a specific genetic makeup; that our motivations, abilities, and patterns are predetermined from birth, and began to manifest at the earliest stages of life. Recently psychology has focused mainly upon environmental causes of behavior, but Miller focused upon created causes. He looks at thousands of cases where the individual uniqueness played the dominant role. His approach is very biblical and cites the numerous texts that confirm our created individuality. We were designed to serve God in specific ways; our motives, abilities, and patterns are unique (see Psalm 139).
The problem is that society treats us as “types” and seeks to conform and stereotype us. It categorizes us by race, class, or some other method. When we accept this, we begin to live outside of our hearts and callings with destructive consequences. We cannot force ourselves or others to be who we, or they, are not. The real answer to finding peace, joy, and fruitfulness lies in being in harmony with how God made us. Then we “feel God’s pleasure when we run.” The most difficult lesson for me is to accept people for who they are and not who I want them to be.
FROM THE HEART
I am impressed at how often the Bible speaks about the heart. We are to love God with all our heart, and obey from the heart, hide His Word in our heart, to trust with all our heart, to believe with our heart, to forgive from our hearts, and to give from our heart. Scripture says that our words reveal our hearts. There are hundreds of other references to the heart.
Hypocrisy is when life and heart are in conflict, when we act and speak in ways that betray the truth. The Bible warns against that behavior, not only because it displeases God who desires “truth in the inward parts”, but because it is destructive to us. God deals with us from His heart to our heart. He calls us to live from the heart—how He created us. If our hearts condemn us, He can handle our confession and give us a clean heart (see Psalm 51:10; 1 John 3:18-21). But He will not entertain pretense. Faith, words, and deeds must be in harmony.
We all live under pressure: the pressure to make a living, perform in certain ways, to avoid certain subjects, to produce certain outcomes, and behave or indulge in certain social activity. In the process, we can lose touch with God and our own heart. We can respond by retreating, or engage but project a false image. Neither is healthy, pleasing to God, or satisfactory in the long term. Culture, vocation, education, and yes, even religion can place upon us the demand to fit in, go along to get along, and paste a smile on our face, while losing touch with our created purpose. Sooner or later, health or relational issues will blow away the façade.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In 1964 the Lord drew me to become filled with the Holy Spirit. At that same time, He gave me Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Since that time I have increasingly seen the unfolding of those words. Righteousness is God’s gift to us through faith in Christ. While He accounts to us through Christ, He works to conform us to Christ. Peace is harmony with God and others and brings us joy. It is all in the Holy Spirit.
The kingdom of God is His government in our lives. He Who made us directs us to express what He made us to be. His created will must be the dominant factor for His glory and our good. The Kingdom is life from His heart expressed through our heart and life—every area, family, education, vocational, and spiritual life.
Proverbs 12:22 says, “Those who deal truthfully are His delight.” That begins with dealing truthfully with God and our own heart. “God is not a man, that He should lie” (see Numbers 23:19). He doesn’t lie nor does He favor us when we do. The publican was honest with God though he had been dishonest and Jesus pronounced him, “justified” (see Luke 18:9-14). When we please God, He takes care of the opposition (see Proverbs 16:7).
Enoch is a wonderful example of walking in harmony with God and being delivered from a corrupt generation. He walked with God right into glory. He pleased God (see Hebrews 11:5).
GIVING FROM THE HEART
Most of us are bombarded with pressure to give to some cause. I try to avoid giving merely because some project seems worthy. My resources belong to God, and therefore I need to give as He directs, though I have sometimes failed in that regard. Pressure of one kind or another has affected me.
I was recently asked to bring a stewardship message to a large congregation and decided that I should, realizing that if I am to speak on giving, I must give. As I prepared the message, I once again looked at the Scriptures and saw that giving must be done from the heart. In Exodus 25:1-2, the Lord instructed Moses to tell Israel to bring offerings to construct the tabernacle. Those offerings were to be given from their hearts.
Exodus 36:2-7 says that they gave so much that they had to be restrained. As former slaves they were grateful to be able to give, and did so from their hearts. Bezalel and Aholiab were the primary supervisors of construction, and Exodus 36:2 says that God had put wisdom in their hearts. They were created to create; they were genetically designed for the task. No doubt their work brought great pleasure to God, to themselves, and others. Whether it was the builders or the givers, the issue was “from the heart”.
The issue in the early Church was the same as in Israel. In Acts 4:33-34, the early Christians were of one heart and soul to give to the building of the body of Christ, and they gave houses and lands for the propagation of the Gospel. There was a connection between their hearts, their giving, the power of God, and His favor upon them.
The apostle Paul wrote to Corinth, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (see 2nd Corinthians 9:7). The issue was not to be pressure or promises, but love. God loves us and gives to us. Giving is the overflow of His heart toward us.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1- 15, Paul records that the Macedonian churches gave even though they were in great trial, affliction, and deep poverty. They gave liberally and abundantly. The key is found in verse five: “they first gave themselves to the Lord.” They gave their hearts before they gave their resources.
God doesn’t need anything; He owns all creation. But God is a giver and wants us to know the joy of a giving heart like His own. Deuteronomy 15:10 tells us that God doesn’t want our hearts to be grieved as we give, but to do it with joy—to enjoy it! The joy of giving is contagious.
True renewal of our hearts comes as we get honest with God, ourselves, and others. That is often difficult because it can involve risk, confrontation, and change. But failure to get honest involves displeasing God, frustration, and other destructive behaviors. We must periodically review life and ask, what about my life is not from the heart? What am I doing that is not experiencing God’s pleasure? If we can reconcile our hearts to God and His purpose, life will flow like waters from the wells of salvation (see Isaiah 12:3-4).
Abraham was a well digger, but after his death, the Philistines filled the wells with dirt. Isaac had to dig out the dirt to rediscover the water. Sometimes dirt gets in our well, whether we allowed it or others threw it in. As in Isaac’s case, there is usually contention. But if we keep moving and digging, we will find our place and living waters (see Genesis 26:17- 22). The issue is finding what is in God’s heart, getting that in our heart, and then living from the heart.
The good news is that we do not have to settle for a life of drudgery, frustration, and meaninglessness. We can have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We may have to face some tough questions and issues, but we can escape the bondage of cultural expectations and conformity and live from the heart if we get real with our Creator who knows and loves us. If we do, renewal will come along with fruitfulness and bring glory to God. The kingdom of God is when He rules our hearts.
May your life be lived from the heart and bring to you the joy of the Lord which will be your strength. You will “feel God’s pleasure when you run.”
Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 17:9-10, Psalm 139, Psalm 51:10, 1 John 3:18:21, Romans 14:17, Proverbs 12:22, Numbers 23:19, Luke 18:9-14, Proverbs 16:7, Hebrews 11:5, Exodus 25:1-2, Exodus 36:2-7, Acts 4:33-34, 2 Corinthians 9:7, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Deuteronomy 15:10, Isaiah 12:3-4, Genesis 26:17-22