The emergency room doctor wrapped up his assessment by saying, “So, we want to keep you here overnight to run a few more tests – most of what we’ve seen looks pretty good, but we need to get a better picture of what’s going on with your heart.” Not exactly what a pastor wants to hear on a Saturday morning, anticipating both the joy and the responsibilities that come with our Sunday gatherings for worship. (Gratefully, our elder chairman, Don Harootian, was willing and able to step in and partner with our Sunday worship team, bringing good encouragement from John 15 to be a church body that bears “good fruit.”)
Back in the hospital, tests over the next couple of days continued to probe that fist-sized pump in the middle of my chest for any and all irregularities. And Sunday evening I was discharged with instructions to: 1) check in for a follow-up plan with your cardiologist, 2) resume normal activities, and 3) follow a heart-healthy diet. That was good news, and the thought then occurred to me that this was pretty good spiritual counsel as well: 1) check in with the Great Heart Doctor who alone can assess the true condition of your heart, 2) resume normal activities of living in keeping with His follow-up plan, and 3) take in a heart-healthy diet of the cleansing and strengthening fiber of God’s Word.
Throughout the Scriptures we are instructed to pay attention to the condition of our hearts. “Watch over your heart with all diligence,” cautions the writer of Proverbs, “for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). Our hearts are the center to which Jesus appeals as He calls for us to make God our greatest love. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” commanded Jesus (Matt.22:37).
Yet when we are soberly honest about the true condition of our hearts, we must admit that Jesus was absolutely right in His probing diagnosis, “for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21, 22). Talk about “irregularities,” what Jesus exposes is a heart desperately in need of spiritual renewal!
And if that’s what we were left with, if that truly was the final word on our condition, we could become very, very discouraged, “the joy of our hearts has ceased,” said Jeremiah, “woe to us for we have sinned” (Lam. 5:15, 16). What a relief to know, that’s not the last word on our story. A repentant King David reveled in the assurance that “a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). And so, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” and “unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps. 51:10 and 86:11).
The old spiritual divine, A.W. Tozer wrote, “The widest thing in all the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s greatest tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little beside ourselves.”
Only God is worthy to occupy that central space within our hearts, bringing life and health to us and to all who we touch in the world around us. And He is only at home in that space when our hearts have been made new by His Spirit. Thank God for His promise through the prophet, Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone…and cause you to walk in My statutes” (36:26, 27).
I’m grateful for a great team of health care workers who are applying their best knowledge and skills to keep my central engine running in its best possible condition. Even more grateful am I for my Great Physician who applies His skill to transform my heart for an eternity that begins right now of enjoying Him.
Thank you for your prayers and partnership in this great ministry that God has entrusted to us. I look forward with great expectancy to the work He will yet do through us as we yield to Him, the great Healer of Hearts. And what a delight to be serving together with you, that others too might be made new in His care.