The Big Question

All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question. 

 

What would you do if God appeared to you and said “Ask me for anything at all. No lists, no restrictions. Ask for anything at all and I will give it to you.” Wow, talk about a tempting question! I wonder what my answer would be. What would be yours?

Would we ask for riches, stuff, glory, honor, or position? Would we ask for all those things? What would anyone ask given that situation?

We have a record of at least one man who was asked this question. We also have record of his answer, which may surprise you. Lets take a look at 1 Kings 3 and discover the real definition of being rich. Join me, won’t you?

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5 NASB

Solomon was asked the question of the century – maybe of all time!  From verse 6 until verse 8 Solomon recounts how God had blessed him. Solomon speaks about how God has  blessed him. He recounted how God placed his father (David)on the drone and then how God placed David’s son (Solomon) on the throne. Solomon remembers how good God had already been to him. Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says “yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Solomon demonstrates maturity in this statement: he is self-aware and knows that he doesn’t know enough. Now look at how he answers in verse 9

So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 NASB

What an amazing answer to such an open-ended question. Solomon didn’t ask for riches, power, or position. He asked for an understanding heart. Some understand this as Solomon asking for wisdom so he will be able to judge His people well. Truly this was a selfless act on Solomon’s part. What is incredible about this passage is when one reads this in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, Solomon asks for a Lev Shomeah –  a hearing heart.

He could have asked for anything and he asks to have a heart that hears. And it wan’t for his own fame or fortune he asked for this. Solomon asked for this kind of heart so that he could govern God’s people correctly. How refreshing this is, especially in today’s me first society.

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Often I wonder if I have a hearing heart. I wonder if I care enough to want a hearing heart. Ouch.

Life is much easier if we choose not to listen with our heart. If we just listen with the ears we have, its easy to dismiss the problems of others. It gets easier to dismiss the hurts other have is we hear only with our ears.

Hearing with my heart is difficult. It makes life much more complicated. I must struggle more if I hear with my heart.

I must actually care.

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All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question.

How you and I answer reveals much more than our desires of life. It reveals our motivations, our commitment, our Christlikeness.

When we answer this question, we need to think carefully about the answer we give. If we answer like Solomon, there are serious consequences. We place our heart eat risk of deep hurt because we will listen with it. If we decide to answer a different way, it too has serious consequences for our continued sanctification.

We cannot refuse to answer the question – What do YOU want?

 

As for me, despite the consequences, I want to choose…I must choose to have a hearing heart. So God with a trembling soul and a weak heart, I humbly ask that you give me, Your servant, a hearing heart so I can minister to Your chosen rightly, for who can do that unless empowered by You.

 

וְנָתַתָּ֨ לְעַבְדְּךָ֜ לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֨עַ֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֔ לְהָבִ֖ין בֵּֽין־טֹ֣וב לְרָ֑ע כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֔ט אֶת־עַמְּךָ֥ הַכָּבֵ֖ד הַזֶּֽה׃

Heart Surgery

God cares about the position of my heart rather than the actions of my hands.

 

What is my motive for serving God? What is my motive for sharing my faith with others? Am I learning God’s word so that those who see me will think I’m great, smart, or something else about me? Or am I learning, sharing, and serving out of a grateful heart? Which describes you? Motives are often more important that the act.

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)

The fourth plea from the Psalmist comes now to change the position of his heart. The Psalmist wants his heart to be bent toward God’s testimonies. That is really cool if we think about it. The psalmist wants his heart bent toward God. Why would he use such language?

“Incline my heart to your testimonies…”

Well, if we think about this I believe that the answer will be apparent. The heart of man is evil, that much is true from Scripture. Every inclination of mankind’s heart is toward evil, toward rebellion against God and His commands.

Nothing much has changed in the years since the first rebellion in the Garden of Eden. We continue to fight God for control. We continue to kick back at His commands. We scream and yell about our freedom and how God’s rules impinge on our freedom. We are indeed a selfish and arrogant people. God has placed His law to protect us. His rules form boundaries that will keep us from harm. Our harm is from not observing His laws.

The Psalmist is asking God to change the inclination of his heart. He is asking God to change how his heart is oriented. In essence he is asking God to correct the incorrect bend of his heart from rebellion and evil toward God’s righteousness. What a prayer this is to ask.

If God is to “re-bend” our hearts, we need to be ready to experience pain. This pain will be deep. To change the bend of one’s heart means that our every behavior—our every motive—must be changed. But can I change it myself? No. Only through God can our evil heart of stone be turned into a heart of flesh that seeks after God and His righteousness. It is only through the transforming work of God that we can do anything right or good.

The “re-bending” of our heart is a life-long process. It is like progressive sanctification I wrote about earlier. We continually become more like Christ. The process we undergo in this “re-bending” is fueled by trials. We get placed in trials to change our attitudes, heart orientation, and motives. Courage is needed—faith is required—to ask God to re-bend one’s heart. Do I have that faith and courage? Do you?

“…and not to selfish gain!”

The Psalmist wants his heart—himself—to be bent toward God’s testimonies—God’s words—but that is not the end. He desires that this re-bending will cause his motives will be toward God and not toward selfish gain.

Every church has experts in everything who are quick to judge, critique, and condemn. Sometimes these folks are pastors and elders. Other times they are those who sit in the pews. If a man can not serve quietly in submission to an elder or pastor, that person should never be allowed to lead a church. Someone who constantly draws attention to himself instead of being as quiet as possible should examine his motives. Sadly though these folks will probably never truly look at their motives. Remember, they’re the smart ones. But this problem has been around since the church began. It will remain until after the millennial reign of Christ.

We see this in the Judaizers in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We also see it in John’s 3rd letter when he referenced Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). When we read about Doitrephes we read about a man who out for his own gain, his own position. He wants to be first. He wants to be “the man” when it comes to things of church. He always wants to be first. He is not so much a servant as he is a taskmaster.

Have you ever met on of these folks? You probably have. I have both seen these types of people while sitting in the pew as a congregant and preaching form the pulpit as a pastor. I like how Chuck Swindoll refers to these folks. He calls them “Boars in God’s Vineyard.”

What about me? How are my motives? Am I overly critical about tiny things? Do I want to bend toward God’s testimonies? How about my motives? Do I serve to truly build the body of Christ or do I have selfish motives? The motives of the heart are more important than the actions of the hands. How about you?

Crush me O Lord! Make me into YOUR workmanship and not mine. Conform me, shape me, change me, use me for YOUR glory, not mine. Re-bend my heart toward you and not toward selfish gain.