February 14, 2007

A Whole Heart

2007 1505 page12 capt came at me out of nowhere, or so it seemed. Right at the beginning of 2 Chronicles 25 was an incredible commentary about the state of King Amaziah’s heart. His heart? I was prepared to read about his exploits as a leader, even his failures. I was anticipating one of the standard tombstone testimonies attached to the kings of Israel: They either did what was right in the sight of the Lord, or they did what was evil. There was rarely any deviation from the either/or choices of the monarchs who crisscrossed the pages of the Old Testament. But now, there it was, this odd “package” of words that forced me to stop and consider not only their import, but also their impact.
The passage started off by stating that this king “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” That was great news, considering that most of the kings got tagged with the sad refrain they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” If the passage had stopped there, everything would have been fine. But it didn’t. Here is the complete testimony regarding King Amaziah: “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chron. 25:2).*
That comma between two diametrically opposite statements was disturbing, for it set up a dilemma I had not given much thought to before: The possibility that we could do all the right things, in all the correct ways, in alignment with God’s stated will, but it still be unacceptable to God because our heart was not where it needed to be—it was not loyal to Him.
2007 1505 page12When you read the messy details of Amaziah’s story in the rest of the chapter, a clear sense emerges as to what he did that compelled God to make that startling statement about his heart. It’s worth reading the entire chapter.
But the defining issue is the realization that God puts more emphasis on the state of our hearts than anything else. Unfortunately, it is a rare thing for God to find a person with
a loyal heart. The Word says: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
I can almost picture God leaning over the banisters of heaven, spanning the entire globe in search of just a few people about whom He can actually say their hearts are truly loyal. He could then fulfill His promise to show Himself strong in their behalf.
It doesn’t matter how impressive we may be, how diligent we are in ministry and service, how many skills we bring to the table in blessing God’s kingdom. The only thing that matters in the end is the state of our hearts.
When Samuel was looking to select the next king of Israel after Saul’s abysmal failure, after he had reviewed a number of impressive candidates, at least on paper, God told Samuel that while we humans get worked up over charisma, appearance, great skill-sets, academics, and other peripheral things, God is more concerned with the heart than anything else (1 Sam. 16:7).
When David became king, he didn’t do all the right things all the time, but God called him “a man after my own heart.” David returned the favor by sharing in multiple verses throughout the Psalms that his greatest passion and desire was to serve the Lord with a “whole heart.” I like that—a whole heart!
I don’t know about you, but what I don’t want said about me is I did all the right things, but not with a loyal heart. I want more than anything else to serve God, not only with a loyal heart, but with a whole heart.
How do we get there? Every morning we ask the Holy Spirit to take lordship over our hearts. We actually give up control. And with that kind of heart in care of the Spirit, we go out to serve and share as disciples of Christ—with a whole heart.
*Bible texts in this column are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Fredrick A. Russell is senior pastor of the Miracle Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.