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Addressing the Heart (Psalm 40)

I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.

-Psalm 40:8

We are rightly shocked anytime we receive news that a Christian leader has committed a willful sin. Shockwaves of hurt and discouragement ripple across the body of Christ. The damage is even greater when the sin is particularly grievous, or continued over time. The more lives were reached, the more far-reaching the damage. Psalm 92:12 depicts the righteous growing like cedars, which are large, strong evergreen trees. Their branches offer shelter and shade to animals, and their cones provide food to the wildlife. When such a large tree, with its far-reaching branches, falls to the ground, the damage and detriment are great. A measure of protection and covering is lost.

King David himself fell in this way, when he sinned with Bathsheba. Whether David or a more contemporary leader, we wonder, “How did this happen? Where and when was the line of intimacy with God disconnected, so that such a great fall resulted in this person’s life?” 

Often, we note how David’s sin began with a willful look, a small decision to allow his eyes to drift. We recall the piercing truth of Jesus that the guilt of adultery can be fully incurred in just one choice made with our heart and carried out with our eyes. These are sobering reminders for us.

David’s sin began in the heart. But could it be that he was off track even before the choice to lust was ever set before him? We are told explicitly that his temptation came at a time when kings should be going out to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). Perhaps David was not where he was supposed to be.

Usually, for Satan to get us face to face with a temptation that threatens to take down our ministry or even our walk with God, he has to first mislead us in the subtle things. He aims to get us where we were never called to be, so we can be confronted by what we are unready to withstand.

It is no mistake that scripture says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). And it is also no mistake that, shortly after this, Jesus teaches us to pray, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). Jesus willfully plunges into temptation for us, but then tells us to ask, “Father, please keep us from even walking down the road that temptation is on!” Quite possibly, little acts of disobedience and little issues of the heart are the reason why certain temptations are even allowed to enter our lives.

Please understand me; every Christian is tempted and undergoes fiery trials. Battles can be intense. The Lord is for us always. He provides a way out and is ready to give us the victory. 

Yet, simple logic tells us there was a life-altering temptation with far-reaching consequences waiting for David, but he would never have had to come near it if laziness had not first entered his heart. He was home alone when he should have been battling. He was rising from his bed in the evening (2 Samuel 11:2). Either he was waking from a nap, or was unable to sleep after an idle day. Regardless, the simple decision to take it easy, when God had called for battle, bore disastrous fruit.

The very thing we may easily convince ourselves is unimportant, as it is only a minor attitude of the heart, is the very thing God puts His finger on to say, “This is dangerous,” because He can see where it leads. If we begin walking one degree off from what our compass reads, we will not notice it at first, but at the moment when it matters, when it is too late to correct, we will be far away from our destination. 

Likewise, if we allow the Spirit of God to search and deal with the little issues of the heart, we can avoid great snares and many troubles God never intended for us. In the moment of testing, we will find a victory that only the Holy Spirit can provide. And all the days in between, however difficult or dark, will carry His joy, the sweetness of His presence, and the assurance of His favor. If we are careful to make sure that our hearts delight to do His will, our actions will surely fall in line.

-Pastor Alex

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