God Looks on the Heart

Man looks on the things that can be seen from the outside – the natural appearances. But God looks on the heart. God’s x-ray vision not only sees the arterial sclerosis which many people carry, undetected, but He also sees the attitudes and the intentions of our heart.

When God looks at your heart He not only sees the condition it is in, but He knows where it is going. God can anticipate your entire eternal outcome, by seeing your heart. Wow!

You ask for chapter and verse? Let me step you through this piece by piece.

Firstly we know that God looks at the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

OK, got that? But when God looks on the heart He not only sees its current condition, such as being filled with anger or joy, but He sees its ‘nature’. That’s how God could declare David to be a man after God’s own heart.

“But now your kingdom will not continue: the LORD has sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be captain over his people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you.” 1Samuel 13:14

At the time Samuel gave this prophetic declaration to King Saul, David was only a boy. Yet God described him as a ‘man’ after God’s own heart. God knew the character of David’s heart. God knew that David was not perfect, for no man is perfect except Jesus Christ, yet God knew that David’s heart would choose to honour God.

In the ensuing years we find David moved to build a house for God. We find David eager to restore the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. We see David unafraid to make a fool of himself in worshipping God. We see David deeply repentant over his sin. We see David willing to fall into the hands of Almighty God and longing for the courts of God. David’s ‘heart’ was set on the pursuit of God.

Despite his adultery, murder, failure as a parent and other sins and weaknesses, David’s heart was known by God to be a true heart of worship and commitment to God. So God could predict the enduring quality of David’s life, from his boyhood.

Men are often duped by the appearances of others. We are impressed with or we ignore people, based on external indicators. But even someone who is excited about God and their own salvation may not have the ‘heart’ for the long haul and the challenges that lie ahead. Jesus taught that some would receive the word of God with joy, but would fall away when they faced trials.

“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” Mark 4:16,17

The devil can’t see our heart. The devil, like us humans, needs external evidence to know what is going on. We see that in the exchange over God’s favoured servant, Job. God knew Job’s heart and so God confidently boasted in Job. The devil, however, could not see Job’s heart and assumed that Job’s love for God was motivated for selfish reasons.

“And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?” Job 1:8,9

God allowed the devil to bring Job under great affliction, to prove Job’s heart. God had no doubt about the outcome, because He could already see the quality of Job’s heart.

By the way, that’s how God is able to ensure that we are not tempted with anything that is beyond us. God knows where each of us is up to and what we can endure, at our heart level.

Note too that the devil wanted to sift Peter like wheat, to see what rubbish there was inside him which the devil could exploit (Luke 22:31). The devil can’t see what’s in there, so he has to go on a fishing expedition to see what he can dredge up.

Since the ‘heart’ is the ‘heart of the matter’ we are warned to diligently guard our heart.

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

David prayed to God to give him a right heart, and we do well to pray that prayer as well.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Keep Your Big Mouth Shut

Bill Cosby is credited for the line, “I opened my mouth and my MOTHER came out!” It is true that we can find ourselves sounding like our parents when we speak out at times. But when we open our mouth much more can come out than the things our mother used to say. Many people are ‘hung by the tongue’ when they say things they regret and have to put right. Many a couple or family members have been hurt by things one or both have said.

Keeping your big mouth shut can be the wisest thing to do – just about any time. Solomon gives us several healthy directives about managing our mouth. He says that saying less (keeping your mouth shut) is a good policy. If you are a fool, you can hide the fact, just by keeping your big mouth shut.

“In the multitude of words there is no lack of sin: but he that refrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19

“The heart of the righteous studies to answer: but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Proverbs 15:28

“He that hath knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.” Proverbs 17:27

“Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:28

I recently sat in a meeting where a fool turned up. The person was well meaning and tried to be friendly and pleasant. But they did not know what they were talking about. They could not tune in to the issues being discussed or the depth of feelings some people present were grappling with. So, they just opened their mouth and talked about their own favourite subjects.

By the way, everyone’s favourite subject is themselves. Their next favourite subjects are their opinions and the way that seems right to them.

I watched as various people present responded graciously to this foolish mouth. They also shut down the conversation until the fool was gone and they could once again speak among people of understanding.

What made this exchange poignant for me was that I saw myself in the loud-mouth. That’s just the way I behaved through much of my youth. I was opinionated, ignorant, lacking perception, keen to make an impression, insecure and foolish. It took me years to learn to listen, and to learn to let someone else give the answer I could have given.

So, take it from me, and from Solomon. He has more authority to speak on this subject than I have, considering where I have come from and where I still have to go. But, take it from both of us anyway. “Keep Your Big Mouth Shut!”

To My Useless Friends

What are you really able to do of yourself? If you were not useless you’d be dangerous. Praise God you are hopeless and useless. That way God is glorified.

If you could do things of yourself and make things happen the way you want them to, then you would be tempted to do evil things. If evil people have the power to get ahead by evil actions then everyone would be tempted to become evil. Your uselessness is a great protection for all of humanity.

Uh?

Solomon explains it like this. “A man will not be established by wickedness”. Wicked actions do not bring lasting benefits and perpetual profit. The root of the righteous, however, will not be moved, no matter what wickedness is thrown against him (see Proverbs 12:3).

The reason for this limitation is God. God gives favour to good people and He condemns a person of wicked devices (see Proverbs 12:2). So, what can you do of yourself? You are totally dependent on God for lasting benefits from your actions. If you honour and follow Him then you can expect His blessings. If you rebel against Him and do evil, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself against Him.

Now, that’s what is indicated in the ‘fear of God’. When we realise that the consequences of our actions are not what we produce by our actions, but what God does in response to them, then we are awakened to the fear of God. We can do nothing toward our personal success, but keenly follow God’s instructions, leading to great success. Or we can do everything in our power to gain success, while rejecting God and His wisdom, and find that we have no chance of success.

God is the true arbiter of the outcomes. God controls the events and rewards us for our heart toward Him. Unless the Lord protects our assets, we are wasting our time trying to do it ourselves. And unless the Lord is supportive of our attempts to make progress, we are wasting our efforts to get there by ourselves. For King David’s take on this check out Psalm 127:1.

“Except the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.” Psalm 127:1

So, my useless friends, your greatest asset is not your personal assets, but your relationship with God’s incredible assets – which puts us all on a level-playing-field, all equally able to do the impossible and live in the miraculous, all equally useless and all equally open to the fullness of eternity operating in our lives.

It turns out I’m as useless as you, so we have plenty in common. Let’s be friends.

Teachable Heart

Do you hate being told off? Most of us react when someone is giving us a lecture and pointing out our faults. Some people turn off immediately, run away or even react aggressively when being corrected. How do you take correction? What don’t you like when people are bringing up your weakness, failings or faults? Do you have a teachable heart, or are you one of the stroppy ones who react poorly?

What about your children? Do they take correction? Do they become annoyed and frustrated when you try to instruct them?

King Solomon speaks directly about this common weakness in taking correction. He refers to correction as ‘reproof’. In Proverbs 12:1 Solomon notes that those who love instruction love knowledge, but those who hate reproof are the stupid ones.

There are no accolades for those who react when they are corrected. If you find yourself cringing, tensing, resenting the speaker, blocking the input, or other negative response to reproof you are on dangerous ground.

If you also think that your way is pretty good and you don’t need correction, you are even on worse ground. Hmmmm. Proverbs 12:15 says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that receives counsel is wise”. Those voices of correction or reproof are ‘counsel’, and you are wise to receive them. If you are determined that you are right, then you are likely a fool.

Now, I know that there are some people who can turn correction into a toxic substance. That makes it even tougher to receive their words of reproof. What can I say? Those people do exist. They make a compliment into a death sentence. They have the ability to humiliate, denigrate and offend in the very process of giving reproof or correction which is valid.

When those people speak into our life we are doubly challenged. We don’t want to be corrected in the first place, but we also don’t want to be put down, taunted or otherwise offended by the person bringing correction.

To be super-spiritual about it, let me suggest that maybe God has elevated the stakes in your life, by bringing along the offending corrector. The double whammy may be to test your heart even more than normal. By upping the stakes on you God is giving you the chance to press through to greater freedom. Champions don’t train with the primary school squad – they undergo the most rigorous conditions. And so it is with your heart and spiritual growth. By having additional weights put onto the bar you are being given the opportunity to become a champion. The scorning corrector and the toxic rebuke, when received with God’s grace, will give you victories not attainable under the hand of a patient and kind counsellor.

So let’s consider your children again. If they react to your correction and instruction it could be because you are heavy-handed and even toxic in the way you bring correction and instruction. Please search your heart. There is no need for you to make life difficult for your children. If you have sufficient relationship with them, which I hope you do, then you may want to discuss these thoughts with them and encourage them to develop a teachable heart, even when you are not kind in the way you instruct them.

I counsel you to receive counsel. I counsel you to have a teachable heart. I counsel you to receive correction, even when it comes in a nasty package. I counsel you to be of an excellent spirit and to be counted among the wise, not the fools.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Angry Dad, Wise Dad

Just how many fathers can you have? How can you have a Rich Dad and a Poor Dad? How could Jesus say to the Jews, “Abraham is your father but Abraham is not your father”?

Robert Kiyosaki added fresh recognition to the truth of multiple fathering in the title of his best selling book on his wealth journey. In Kiyosaki’s case, so he explains, his biological dad was an academic and not a wealthy man. The father of his friend, however, was an entrepreneur, and quite wealthy. Young Robert decided to learn from the man he called his Rich Dad, things which his Poor Dad was unable to teach him.

So, in that case, we see how there are different levels of fathering. We each have a biological dad, whether we ever met the man or not. We also have people who ‘father’ us, but mentoring our lives. I call that kind of fathering as Devotional. We devote ourselves to their values, skills and qualities. We effectively become the student of our Devotional Father, as Kiyosaki did to his friend’s biological dad. That boy’s biological dad became Kiyosaki’s Devotional Dad.

Devotional sonship identifies us as taking on the values, character or spirit of another person, in order to gain from that connection. The ‘sons of the prophets’, in 2Kings 6:1, were disciples of the prophets in order to become like them. Some men are called the ‘father’ of all who follow a certain course. Genesis 4:21 identifies Jubal as the ‘father of all who play the harp and organ’.

If you are a woodworker then you could be called the ‘son’ of those who invented and developed that craft. If you are a philosopher you may be a son of Aristotle or a son of Plato – since you will have a different philosophical perspective, dependent on who your ‘father’ is.

Last Saturday I taught this topic to a group of Young Adults and I will build this concept into the Youth Horizons book which I am gradually developing. For now, though, let me sow some of this into your thinking.

I am currently reading through Proverbs as I read my way through the Bible this year. What is leaping off the page to me in the early chapters is the abundance of references to ‘son’. King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, quotes from his dad, King David, advising him to seek wisdom. There we have the use of the word ‘son’ in a biological sense.

Solomon then uses the word ‘son’ freely in his own dialogue. The commentators readily assume that Solomon wrote this book for the benefit of his own sons. I suggest otherwise. If Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs for his son, Rehoboam, then the book proves to be quite useless. Rehoboam did not follow the wisdom imparted in the book of Proverbs. Rather than respect the advice of his father and those who are wise, he listened to the foolish advice of his peers.

I suggest that Proverbs was written, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to impart wisdom to all the children of God. The use of the word ‘son’ does not indicate biological sonship, but devotional sonship. Each of us who are devoted to God become God’s sons (even if we are female we enter the same place in God’s presence as any male can lay claim to – so I am not saying ‘sons and daughters’, but ‘sons’).

When the book of Proverbs says, “My son”, it is God calling out to any and all who will submit themselves in devotion to Him and make Him their Father.

You may have a Rich Dad in your biological father and a Poor Dad in your spiritual leader. You may have an Angry Dad in the man who is mentoring you in your career and a Wise Dad in the man who comes alongside to counsel you.

Be careful who your devotional and spiritual dads are. The Jews in Jesus’ day were biological descendents of Abraham but Jesus rightly pointed out that they were children of the devil (John 8:36-44).

I suggest you dive into the book of Proverbs again and read it as if it is written personally to you, from your loving Heavenly Father.