Part 1: God’s Heart Search
What do you long for in life & ministry?
My heart longs to bear spiritual fruit for the glory of God. I desire my life and ministry to be useful to God and count for eternity! My heart cries out with Moses:
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Ps. 90:17)
I don’t want a wasted life. At the end of this age, with life behind me and eternity before me, someone waits. My Master.
His first words will ring in my ears for all eternity. I long to hear these words: “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21)! This will be my soul’s treasure and joy. I want “Well Done” ringing in my ears for all eternity!
But this fear haunted me: “What if I fail?” What if the life I thought was pleasing isn’t actually pleasing to my Master? What if God says: “I had so much more that I wanted to use you for. If only you had trusted me…”
Because of the potential to fail, I want to know if I am on course to obtain the prize. Marathon runners check their times at mile markers to ensure they are on pace to finish well. That is what I want to do. If I am off course I want to know now while adjustments can be made. If I wait, it will be too late.
So what should I do? Do I simply try to run harder and hope for the best, or is there a better way?
Paul shows us a better way. He tells us to “run that you may obtain” the prize. There is a way to run and a way not to run. Paul ran with a desire to win. But he ran with more than desire. He also did “not run aimlessly” (1 Cor. 9:26). In other words, Paul didn’t simply run harder, he ran in the right direction.
To help me find that direction I began to ask this question:
“Why did God use some people more than others?”
I looked at people that God used in amazing ways. Men like Enoch, Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, and Isaiah. What set them apart? Was it their abilities, actions or heart? Why did God choose to use them instead of others? Maybe it had nothing to do with the individuals and it was simply God’s sovereign choice.
God’s Sovereignty & Man’s Responsibility
The answer was like a coin. It had two sides.
The first side of the coin is God’s sovereignty. God chooses who He will bless and strengthen. “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.” (Ps. 78:70-71) God has the right to choose who He uses and how He uses people.
My attitude should be like Isaiah who said, “O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Is. 64:8) Without God’s choice and blessing, I can do nothing. I have the same remarkable ability as a lump of clay…none.
Everything I have comes from God. All my abilities and possessions came from Him. Even my desire to know and serve God is a gift. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7) This is both thrilling and humbling. God gives me everything I need to be useful in life and ministry!
The second side of the coin is my responsibility to respond to God’s commands. I must use what He gives. Like the servant who was given 5 talents and then made 5 more, I am responsible to use what God gives me. I am unable to do or become anything in my own strength, but “I can do all things” through God’s power at work in me (Phil. 4:13).
Because of this responsibility, God is looking for people that are responding to Him. These words of Isaiah changed my life:
“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Is. 66:2)
This verse thrilled my heart. God is looking. This idea may strike you as simple, but let it really sink in. God is looking. The creator of the universe is searching the world over for people to use for His glory. He is looking for people to bring about His perfect plan. And he is not just looking for willing people! There are a certain kind of people “to whom I will look”.
What thrilled my heart was this thought: Could I become the kind of person to whom God looked? This became my consuming desire: to become one to whom God looks. Not that my behavior would guarantee that God would use me as I planned, but that I would be ready for whatever task He chose to set before this lump of clay.
If God was truly searching for people to use for His glory, then surely it would be scattered through His Word. And as I looked, that is just what I found. God is conducting a search.
God’s Heart Search:
"The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14)
“But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9)
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 33:18)
“For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.” (Ps. 138:6)
“So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.” (Acts 7:45-46)
“he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.'” (Acts 13:22)
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:12)
When God looked, what was He looking for? A servant after His own heart.
God is searching for men & women who are pleasing to him. When God searches for someone to use to accomplish His plan, He is not looking at my accomplishments, appearance, eloquence or abilities. God is looking at my heart.
This means that no one is more qualified to be used by God than anyone else. There are no unfair advantages. What set David apart was his heart. The qualification for being pleasing to God is not an ability, but a state of the heart. All of God’s children are able to become pleasing to Him. I can be one that catches the eye of God, not because of great things I do, but because of a heart that pleases God.
But, just because I am willing, doesn’t mean I am useful. As servants of God, there are degrees of usefulness. Some servants are more useful than others.
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:20-21)
Did you notice the “if”? Usefulness is contingent. My heart determines my usefulness to God. This is not to say that God is somehow limited in how He uses me. God uses me every day despite my sinfulness and brokenness. I will never be a perfect vessel on this side of eternity. But this passage is very clear. The state of my heart determines how the Master chooses to use me. God uses all of His children, but He uses us in different ways. The NIV translation says it well: “some are for special purposes and some for common use”. This doesn’t mean that the common tasks are unimportant. Daily faithfulness in common tasks prepares me for the uncommon. I must be faithful in little tasks before God will entrust me with big tasks. As God refines me, I will become more useful for “honorable” and “special purposes”.
What kind of service do you want to be used for? Do you prefer to be the “wood and clay” or the “gold and silver”?
God has used these verses to create a deep longing in my heart to be “useful to the master”. When God has a task and is looking for someone to use, I want to be ready. I want to be one to whom God looks.
By focusing on my heart. I still remember the day that God hit me with the following truth. Everything that day was going wrong and preventing me from “ministry”. I let myself get upset, angry and impatient. But, God challenged my heart with this truth: Who you are is more important than what you do, because what you do flows out of who you are.
This absolutely flipped my view of serving God on it’s head. God does want my actions, but my actions flow from my heart.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Prov. 4:23
Above everything else, I needed to focus on becoming the kind of person that God has called me to be. Every moment of every day, my love relationship with God is the single most important part of my life. Without the heart, ministry fails.
The reason is simple: if I am called to make whole-hearted worshipers & disciples of Christ, then I must first be a whole-hearted worshiper & disciple. I must model the message. As I do, the Holy Spirit works through me to create spiritual fruit. Does God promise the greatest spiritual fruit to those with the best planning strategy or the most activity? No. He promises the greatest spiritual fruit to those whose hearts are fully His. Even more amazing, He is searching for such hearts!
When God looks at your heart, what does He see?
Becoming a servant that is pleasing and useful to God is not out of reach, it is attainable. It starts with your heart.
Who you are is more important than what you do, because what you do flows out of who you are.
More to follow...
For years the desire to be a servant after God’s own heart has consumed my personal devotions and journalling. "After God's Own Heart" is a series of blog posts from those journals. I write not as an expert, but as your fellow servant seeking to please our glorious Master. My prayer is that these meditations will be a stepping stone for others to join me in the journey of becoming a servant after God's own heart.