Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“O GOD, my heart is fixed; I will sing
And give praise, even with my glory.” – Psalm 108:1

       Now and then I find myself likening my heart, and that of others, to the ocean, with the greatest depth of the sea representing the innermost recesses of the heart, unseen, often misunderstood, and unobscured only to God, while, by contrast, the rolling, tossing, flowing and breaking of the surface water, aptly representing human temperament, is what observers may discern to be the state of current conditions. Occasionally what bubbles to the surface from the lowest point of our heart can surprise us, frighten us, sober us, or even delight us as the case may be. Even though born again people, whose hearts are anchored in the Rock of ages, may suffer through raging waves of life’s distresses that mount up in their fury, pushed by stormy tempests that howl in morbid anguish, yet for all that there remains a calm assurance deep within. Why? The answer is God is.

      Dare we accuse God of being far off and unconcerned by our plight, as did Jesus’ fearful disciples when the wind and waves threatened to sink their boat, as they cried out “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” What happens to our faith when our hearts are melting in fear, and disappointment haunts our minds because our fervent prayers seem to have been carried away by the winds of adversity? Emotions may rage, like the foaming sea, tossing us helplessly into an abyss of darkness, yet in spite of it all, somewhere deep within our heart and soul there remains a flicker of “knowing what we know”, a flame of faith, a flame that cannot be extinguished regardless of the pounding lies of the Adversary, because God is.

      The Bible records for all eternity the trials and tribulations of certain men and women whose faith shines from perfect hearts towards God as the stars shine in the heavens. With repetition we become familiar with their names, and the events that surround the testing of their faith, yet therein lays the danger that familiarity brings; that is, our spiritual eyes and ears become dulled down to the power of unchanging truth encapsulated in gems of Scripture. As obscurity begins to stretch the distance between ourselves and the priceless lessons, spiritual principles, and personal applications that the Holy Spirit longs to impart to our hearts, our spirits languish in a Sargasso Sea of lethargy that drips the poison of unbelief into our minds. Our ship may be in the water, and our sails hoisted, but there is no anticipation, or even yearning for the welcoming “wind” of the Holy Spirit to deliver us out of our pathetic state.

      The problem today is the growing number of surface Christians who have no hunger or thirst for the deep things of God. Just “accept Jesus” and God will do the rest, and when you die, He will be so happy to see you, because you are so wonderful, and carry your limp, little empty soul to Heaven. Such people can be likened to “fair weather sailors” who will only venture upon the ocean if it is smooth, calm and shallow enough to wade to shore in the event their boat gets rocked. Deep sea diving to explore and discover the mysteries and treasures of the unfathomable sea is the farthest thing from their dismal minds and dead imaginations. Likewise, the pursuit of God, as with deep-sea exploration, comes with a cost few are truly willing, or prepared to pay. It can cost a person everything, as it did Job, who, in spite of the cost, maintained his integrity because his heart was fixed on the knowledge that God is. Job made these powerful declarations, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” Job 13:15, and “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” Job 23:10.

      Twice in Genesis 5 we read “Enoch walked with God.” (See Genesis 5:21-24.) From just four words in two short phrases we know that (because God is holy) Enoch had a pure heart, for no person can walk with our holy God if he, or she, is not in total agreement with Him. No person can “walk with God” in arrogance and pride, nor can we walk with God in unbelief, and sin. We read that Enoch walked with God for a total of three hundred years “and begat sons and daughters” (vs. 22). You have to keep in mind that Enoch did not walk with God in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden before the fall; but rather, he walked with God in a fallen world that was sinking deeper and deeper into debauchery and evil—the same debauchery and evil that is being replicated in our present world. Yet, in spite of this godless situation, Enoch’s heart was “fixed” on the Lord God, and after three hundred years of unbroken communion with his Creator, God “took him.” Enoch was a man who chose to faithfully walk with God, a walk that undoubtedly took him through spiritual depths and heights that post-flood believers can only try to imagine.

      Consider the perfect heart of the pre-flood era’s greatest ship builder, Noah, Enoch’s great-grandson, who “was a just man and perfect in his generations, and … walked with God” Genesis 6:9, in spite of living in a time that was a prelude to ours in which “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Genesis 6:5. If Noah had lacked faith and righteousness, none of us, including all animal life, would be here today. 2 Peter 2:5 describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness,” a preacher who no doubt preached the forthcoming judgment of the Lord to his siblings, his nephews and nieces, and their families, as well as friends, neighbors and to everyone within earshot. The very act of building the magnificent ark was a testimony to his obedience, and the coming judgment upon all flesh. No one could accuse Noah of not sounding the warning to humble themselves and repent before it was too late. In that final moment when God shut Noah, his wife, their three sons and their three wives in the ark, it was too late for any “last minute conversions to righteousness.” So shall it be at the last trump. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” 1 Corinthians 15:52.

      The parable of the ten virgins sounds a clear warning from our Lord that our hearts must “keep burning” in faith and expectation for His coming. Nominal Christians can be likened to the five foolish virgins who were unprepared to meet the Lord at His coming. Their half-heartedness resulted in eternal separation from the bridegroom. “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” Matthew 25:11, 12. Half-heartedness is the fruit of a divided heart. King David prayed, “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth; unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore” Psalm 86:11, 12.

      Of all the kings of Israel, King David stands as the king whose heart was perfect before the Lord, in spite of his many sins. We read in 1 Kings 11:4, and 6b that “when Solomon was old . . . his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.” To keep in mind—in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance “perfect” in Hebrew, “Tam” means, complete, pious, gentle, dear, perfect, plain (remember Jacob, a “plain” man?), undefiled and upright. A study of the life of King David as well as the Psalms he was inspired to write reveals a sensitive man with a pure heart. While some commentators conclude that his life can be compared to a roller coaster, in keeping with the “theme” of this short article, I prefer to compare him to the currents, tides and myriad of oceanic expressions, ranging from benign water, rippling softly upon the shore to the sudden appearance of a rogue wave far out to sea. King David is an excellent example of a man who experienced extremes in the “highs” and “lows” of life, and everything in between, just as followers of Jesus have found themselves tempest tossed, persecuted, misunderstood, maligned, slandered, and given up to death through the centuries. The key is, no matter how wrong or impulsive David’s decisions may have been as he navigated on the sea of his life, nevertheless his heart “went fully after the LORD” and, like Job, David never denied Him in his heart, nor allowed his heart to turn against Him, for his heart was “fixed.” His secret? Repentance! “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:10, 17.

      How much is a perfect heart and an excellent spirit worth? Undoubtedly much more than all the sunken treasure the ocean can hold. Daniel, whom scholars calculate was maybe as young as fifteen years old when carried away into the Babylonian captivity is a shining example of a man with a pure heart, and excellent spirit. In Daniel 1:8 we read “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” In Daniel 6:3 we read “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with anything that was idolatrous, or unacceptable to the Lord, and he maintained that commitment throughout his entire life, even though the temptation was always before him to compromise with the world.

      Daniel may have been a captive to a worldly king in a worldly kingdom, yet he guarded his heart in order to keep it perfect, pure and excellent before the Lord. The example of Daniel in comparison to the contemporary Christianity of today brings to mind the picture of a humble man, rowing a modest boat far out at sea, while steadfastly refusing the temptation to abandon his rowboat in order to take advantage of climbing aboard a luxury cruise ship.

      As we sail upon the seas of our times, imagine we are scanning the horizon in search of the true Church of Jesus Christ—the Church made up of members of the Body of Christ whose hearts are pure, fixed, anchored, committed, and established. Of all the vessels at sea, the biggest, most modern, beautiful, luxurious pleasure cruise ship, loaded from top to bottom with every kind of carnal pleasure known to man, cruises into sight. Would your heart beat with high anticipation that this is surely the successful Church Jesus died for? But, before you climb aboard and settle in for a pleasure cruise, look again. Consider the great sea of lost humanity, and then answer this question: Could Jesus’ true Church possibly be found among the little, unassuming, weathered vessels, battered by the storms of life, which are, nevertheless, still faithfully fishing for the souls of men?

      You decide.