It’s probably a very safe thing to say that this is definitely a generation that has heart.
Yes, sir! We’ve got heart! Pass the warm fuzzies all around! Have a “cup of kudos” on the house!
But wait a second. To say that one “has heart” doesn’t necessarily mean anything very … meaningful, especially if all we mean is that we’re zealously throwing ourselves into something or that we have some vague sympathy pains when we see someone in need or our own conscience pricks us.
When we pass from out of the Veil of Tears, which is what we walk through in the here and now, and find ourselves in the presence of the Most High, we will find, like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, that we had heart after all.
The real question then is “what kind of ‘heart’ do we have?” And just so that we’re all on the same page here, by “heart” I mean the part of us that gives us a sense of purpose and meaning and motivates us to action. This “heart” is the core of what is true of us and defines the values that we hold dear.
Having said that, let me hasten to say that one of the best indicators of the future of a generation is the kind of heart that it has. The things for which a generation’s heart beats are the things that will ultimately shape its destiny and define what it really becomes (no matter what it thinks and says of itself).
Imagine for a moment a people whose passion is for material benefit. The church to which they belong will find its burning desire materializing into a miserly withholding of material blessings. If the members are not using the church somehow for personal gain (perhaps in the name of “stewardship”), then they’re stockpiling their personal benefits for a “rainy day” though the life of the surrounding community withers and dies… and so God passes them by to move on to bless someone else… someone who loves Him more than money.
And think of a generation that esteems comfort, ease, and convenience over the call of Christ to “follow” Him. Oh, those who go to a church filled with these folks will spend some of its resources but they will do so with their own comfort as their motive for every course of action. Meanwhile, God leaves them in their spiritual lounge chairs, and continues to look for those who are willing to follow Jesus in sacrificing that which is personally gratifying to their lazier inclinations. He looks for those who are willing to be genuinely used by Him to make a difference in the world.
Now consider a people who see power as their chief desire and aspire to accumulate control over all their circumstances and over other people. A church characterized by such a thirst for power may deeply involve itself accordingly in the world of politics (whether nationally, locally, or even within its own church affiliations)… but is likely to also be plagued on occasion by its own inner turmoils as members clash for control and influence.
No. None of these kinds of “hearts” are the kinds of hearts that God is looking for. All of these passions find their roots in recommendations given us by the world as it limps its crippled way through the starry heavens. Can money mean anything beyond the here-and-now? Of course not. Although Pharaohs of old hoarded wealth and resources in the elaborate and mysterious pyramidal tombs, their spirits ultimately fled their fleshly halls while grave robbers and archaeologists took over management of their goodies. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV).
What about a church that continually gives first thought to its comfort and ease while those about it suffer physically and perish spiritually? Will it dare follow Him in truth? Could it ever consider a more radical definition of Christianity than the carefully crafted creature comforts that too often characterize Christian activities? Will Christians today walk the same figurative path that Jesus Himself walked? “A scribe came up and said to (Jesus), ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’” (Matthew 8:19-20 ESV). Even though saving humanity from the icy cold grip of sin moved Him to take upon Himself houseless wanderings and to even leave the glorious comforts of heaven, He came to save anyway. Even though His victory over death necessitated His letting go of His sinless and perfect life so that He could embrace suffering and the grave, He let go anyway. May we be as Jesus and become lovers of God and not of comforts.
And what did Jesus think of His “followers” who wanted to use their position to obtain power? Not much. “Jesus called them (the disciple) to Him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-45 ESV).
Our ultimate priority must be that of pleasing God as we come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. When it truly is, these lesser passions that don’t find their source in Him, begin to pale and fade. Still, I fear that the “heart” of God’s people has yet to really become what it ought. The strong sense of spiritual malaise, the endurance of strife, and the presence of warped worldly characteristics suggest strongly that things are still not what they could and should be. Do we have heart? Yes. But it has become cold, selfish, and rigid. It neither answers to the sweet call of God, nor does it burn with His righteous hunger to see salvation transform our homes, towns, nation, and world.
But if you, like me, hunger to see more of God’s power at work in your life and thirst for His presence to accompany you in your walk, pray with me that He will gracefully and mercifully touch us and renew our passion for Him and our compassion for others. Let us seek His tender touch and let it change our hearts so that they look, think, and act like His. If we’ll call upon Him and seek His help in this, I somehow know that He’ll answer us.
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.