God Looks on the Heart
Several people came to me, after hearing my brief testimony last weekend, desperate for help. One said, "Carole, I know what the Bible says and I really do believe it. But please just tell me HOW do I get from where I am now, to where you are at in walking by faith!" My answer of "dig into God's Word for hours every day" does not satisfy the desire in each of us to have quick and easy results! Then, the morning after I got home, as I was praying for specific individuals and for the participants of Singles Advance '94, I cried out to God, in the same reality that I personally faced about 12 years ago -- that many people of God -- "MY PEOPLE" says God, were "perishing for a lack of knowledge." (For the fact of the matter is, if Sunday morning sermons are the only input you get, your chances of having a life changing miracle is pretty slim.) What I have learned has totally transformed my life. I am no longer an insecure, emotionally troubled individual. And I can assure you that there is absolutely no way I could have stood before you with the hope, joy and overcoming victory like I did. Instead, you would have found me buried in a local cemetery or sitting in a room in State Hospital for the mentally handicapped, overwhelmed with grief. So Tuesday morning, my cry to the Lord was this..."IF ONLY I had the money, then I could send these people some books, some tapes, some literature that would help them gain knowledge!!" Immediately, I felt impressed to write to you monthly -- a teaching and encouragement of truth from the Word of God -- to bring you hope for your future -- and to help you endure the hardships that you face with JOY!. Not that I personally have anything at all that would help you -- but it's Christ in me, the hope of Glory, that I yield to and believe that He will use my fingers as I type this out, to bring the message of GOOD TIDINGS AND GREAT JOY THAT SHALL BE TO ALL MEN!
I take this commission from the Lord very seriously. The Bible gives a very stern warning to all teachers, for we will be held accountable for any deceptions or misleading of God's people. All my life I have prayed "Lord, put me on the front lines!" - ignorantly thinking this was where the glory would lie. Little did I realize, that this is the place of the most violent and non-ending warfare. Knowing what I know now about battles, it's tempting to say that if I had the opportunity, I would not pray that again.--.but the truth is, I could never be content to be anywhere else! For where the greatest evidence of the battle is -- is also the position of witnessing the greatest miracles and Divine Intervention!
Hebrews 13:8-9 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by GRACE, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them." May every word I write be to exalt our Lord Jesus Christ! And may I remind each of you that you have the responsibility to test and prove everything I say, everything any other teacher or preacher says, from the Bible. For if you are not well acquainted with the scriptures and specifically the teachings of Jesus, you are in danger of being carried about with various and strange doctrines.
Imagine that you are in a food line - like the one at our Singles camp. You have your tray and are moving down the line to pick up your food. There is a bowl of thick, hearty stew - which you take. You notice a stack of paper sitting right next to the stew though, and as you glance down the line of people who have gone before you, you observe that they have each taken a piece of the paper and laid it on top of the stew. You do the same and find your table to sit and eat. You notice that everyone is stirring and mixing this paper in with the stew - which, although it seems quite odd and unusual, no one else seems to be questioning the fact that human beings normally do not eat paper! But you are different - curiously you lift off the paper and examine it. As you read what's written on the underside, you realize that it is a comment card - already filled out. You read someone's comment about how wonderful this stew is and a light bulb goes on above your head. 'The cook put the pile of comment cards next to the stew, as an endorsement of the stew!' to encourage people to try it themselves - but never with the intention of them eating the card! It's sole purpose was to be considered and laid aside, while each person ate the stew and arrived at their own conclusion. So too, whenever we hear the comments and opinions of others, we must lay the endorsement aside - to be considered yes, but not to be eaten as food equal to the "meat" of God's Word.
I've sensed that instead of teaching about faith in God, I should go first of all to the message of God's grace. For it is by grace, that all the blessings of God are given to us. It was and is, by grace, through faith, that we were saved. It is by grace, through faith, that we are healed. It is by grace that we are worthy to be "called the children of God." Grace takes all the strivings and human efforts out of our Christian walk. Grace, simply put, is "God's ability in us to do what we could not do ourselves". None of us could have received the gift of salvation without the grace of God. His grace that called us - His grace that made Him even want us in our ugly, sinful lives. His grace that gave His one and only Son, to suffer and die for us - to take our place, not just for eternal life, but to live this life "more abundantly". His grace that drew us and opened up our spiritual eyes to the truth of salvation. For salvation itself is so totally unbelievable - beyond our human ability to comprehend, without the grace of God that has made it a simple process - for we only need to believe on the name of Jesus to be saved! Think about the tremendous FAITH that you put behind that decision to BELIEVE that God made you - to BELIEVE that God loves you! To BELIEVE that He wants you! To BELIEVE that He took our lives - as worthless as "filthy rags" (And if you are like me, I don't bother to even try to clean the filthy rags that I have - I throw them away!) and cleansed us from our filthiness. God has never thrown anyone away because they were just too bad. God saw in each one of us, washed by the blood of Jesus - a spirit that was whiter than snow! We could not have done it ourselves - it took God's great grace to get us saved!
In the early days of the battle, after my husband left our family, I struggled so hard with EVERYTHING! All I would hear from the Lord was the familiar scripture "Be still and know that I am God." I would try so hard to be still ... but being 3 months pregnant, having two other young children, facing the creditors, the losses, the fighting, the betrayal, etc. etc. etc. - was just not a very still life! One night in complete frustration with the Lord telling me to "be still" I cried, "Lord, how can I be still when my whole world is crashing - I feel as though I'm being hurled through space, bombarded by all this flying debris - trying to protect my children - trying to survive - and you tell me to be still??? Let's be real Lord!" But, my forgiving and understanding Father patiently took me to this same scripture in the Amplified Bible, where it reads "Cease Striving and know that I am God". He taught me that if I really believed that the battle belonged to Him, then I needed to stop trying to figure out the battle plan and make all the arrangements, to stop my attempts to be in control and step back. To follow Him as He led me through. Protected by His mighty stature - allowing His armor to shield me from the weapons of the battle. To cease striving was more understandable than to be still. I'd always done pretty well at fighting my own battles - now God was calling me to do something that was so out of character for me that it was an impossibility without His grace to give me the ability to do it. God brought me to the place of realization, that it was a do or die situation. To depend on God meant giving more than lip service to my desire to please Him. It was a tremendous step of faith - it FELT as drastic and foolish as stepping off a cliff - but I stepped into the hand of Almighty God and allowed Him to carry me.
Read the account of Saul in Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-31; 21:39,40; 22:1-21 Saul was a very religious man - brought up and highly learned in religion, but totally lost. He is the example of what people are like who try by their limited human abilities, to please God. He was a complete failure even though he accomplished much for the religious leaders of his day. I used to wonder why God would prove Himself to Saul in such a powerful manifestation of His Spirit. I mean, Saul would have been a complete fool to have ignored the warnings of God - did He really have any choice but to give his life to the service of God? It seemed that God gave special favor to Saul and that if God would just extend this same favor to everyone - the whole world would be saved! After all, the Bible says that God is not a respecter of persons - so how come God gave such special help to Saul to keep him out of hell? But God opened my eyes to the truth of Saul's life and the fact is this. SAUL HAD A HEART to please God. Even though he was doing everything wrong and was actually an enemy to the things of God - God looked past Saul's actions and looked to his heart. The great grace of God that honors our desire to serve Him - to please Him - that goes through all the sin - all the filth - all the ugliness - and does whatever it takes to set us on the right path!!
You can also see the evidence of God's judging us by our heart condition, more than by our actions, in the life of King David...a man described as "a man after God's own heart". Yet we all know the sins that David was guilty of. Both David & Saul, both you and I, all of us are given help based on our heart that cries out for God's will.
Faith makes answers to our prayers possible...but grace makes it easy. I used to believe that the scripture "Fight the good fight of Faith" meant that we were to be daily fighting to believe...struggling to overcome doubt and unbelief...confessing God's Word over our needs even hundreds of times. And, don't misunderstand me, all of this is necessary and has its place; but I truly believe that the fight of faith we are to be fighting, is the simple LETTING GO OF OUR OWN ABILITIES TO GET THE ANSWERS TO OUR PROBLEMS. Letting go of all the human attempts to win and succeed. Letting go of our struggles to be pure and holy and coming to the reality of the fact that we really are not able to do anything of or in ourselves. When we accepted Christ into our hearts, we gave our hearts to Him and took Him into us. It becomes so much easier to "let go and let God." Simply stated...but extremely difficult to do. In fact, of ourselves, none of us can even let go without God's grace to give us His strength to do so! It becomes Christ in us - the hope of glory - the only hope that we have. The greatest hope and expectation that can be acquired! When the weight of this troubled world becomes too difficult to bear, lay it at the feet of Jesus - it's His desire & commitment to carry it for you. Then take the yoke of Christ - to lean on Him, for His yoke is an easy one and He has promised that His burden is light. The only burden, as such, that we need to carry, is to stay in such complete trust and confidence in God's intervention into the affairs of our lives...NO MATTER WHAT circumstances look like. As the Word says "to labor to enter into HIS REST." The only fight is now the struggle that we face when we're tempted to take the worries, the cares, the troubles on ourselves, instead of leaving them at the cross of Jesus. This is simplicity of the Gospel - yet it SEEMS so complex - it seems so hard, if not impossible to obtain. But the rest and peace that I have come to, has not been easily reached. It has been a process of dying daily to myself and my desires...my demands...my needs and my requirements for happiness. To die to self and live for God is to enter into that blessed rest. And with that rest in the complete reliance and dependence on God to do what He said He would do, takes all the pressures off of us to perform up to some expectation that we have of what God requires of us. God requires us to love. That's it. Just love. For when we love God we will obey God. And when we obey God, we are saying that nothing else in our insignificant lives matters as much as fulfilling His call on us and His purpose in us. To love God and to obey His commandments becomes a manifestation of His grace in us - because none of us could even submit to God entirely without His ability in us to do so. So stir up the gift of Faith that God has imparted to each of us equally. Believe that God is God and let Him take control. He is the God of the impossible! He is the God who specializes in turning difficult situations into creative blessings! He is the miracle worker! "Submit yourselves therefore unto God". To submit means to give up your rights and your position of first place. Give God the right to do what is best for you. Give God the right to bring the right people together with you! Give God the respect and honor that is due Him, by giving Him the right to LIVE in you! Honor the commitment that you made when you said that you were making Him the King of your life. He will rule and reign in majesty and glory and power in each one of us, if we'll just get out of His way. Sound too simple? Too hard to believe? Well, just don't worry about it. Keep your heart turned towards pleasing God - desire to please Him more than any other desire. Desire the things of God more than the things of this world, and you can just count on God to get you to where He needs you to be. You can be totally screwed up - even spiritually so - but God can turn you around, and will bring all the help that you need to come out into the light - as long as the cry of your heart is to please Him. Even if it takes an encounter on a roadway - even if it takes God speaking through a farm animal - God will do whatever it takes to bring you into the place that you can be taught the knowledge that keeps you from perishing!
God is not a respecter of persons and this is what He did for me. I was so lost in sin and mental torment. I hated myself and I hated the sin's that so "easily beset me". But it seemed that the only escape - the only relief I had in my misery was the sin itself - that brief escape from pain that left the guilt and scars of failure looming after each time. How many times I had tried to escape the lure of sin! How many times had I repented and vowed to never go back to the sin. And with each failure came more and more condemnation. I cried out to God for help - because it was beyond my ability to set myself free. I was so entangled in sin, that other than my HEART DESIRING to be pleasing to God, I could do nothing to please Him. But God had a plan for my life, just as He has a plan for your life. And His plan for us is for good and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope. So many of the people I talk to, have no hope - they have no expectation of change - no future to look forward to. But God is great in giving GRACE! And it is this grace - this ability to do what we cannot do in ourselves, that God brings into our lives, when we have a heart that cries out to be free. Even when I had no idea that I was being lead by the Lord - no idea that I was being influenced by the Holy Spirit - no feelings of spiritually came over me. I did not feel the presence of God. I did not sense anything of God at all. But God proved Himself strong to me and on my behalf, because I loved God and I wanted desperately to obey Him. God brought a situation into my life that was no less miraculous than the encounter that Saul had with the Lord, on the road to Damascus.
I was in a week of training sessions at the real estate office where I worked. Typically the classes lasted until 1:00 p.m. On this particular Thursday morning, a fellow Realtor invited me to a Christian Business Woman's Luncheon that day, at 11:30. I graciously expressed my regrets at not being free to go. I was lying though, because this was something I was definitely not interested in being involved in! A few hours later however, around 11:15, my instructor announced that we had covered that days topics so quickly that we were dismissed nearly 2 hours earlier than normal! I was happy about this...until I ran into this Realtor at the door, who happily exclaimed "Great! Now you can come to the luncheon!" I went along, but only because I didn't feel I had a choice! All I remember about the meeting was a boring floral arranging demonstration, a boring scarf tying demonstration and a rather boring testimony from an elderly lady. As soon as the closing prayer reached "amen", I said good-bye to my friend and I was out of there...well, almost! As I ducked around and behind the speaker, who was standing at the door shaking hands, her arm shot out behind her back and grabbed my wrist! I wanted to die! All I could think of was "I've been caught! I've been caught!" She held on tight until she finished the brief conversation she'd been in, and then turned around to me. She smiled so sweetly and was so gentle as she asked if I would wait for her to finish, since she wished to talk to me about something. I just forced a smile back at her and sweetly told her "of course - no problem!" I remember waiting what seemed like hours, for her to talk to all the ladies as they filed out the door. I remember thinking that I wouldn't have been in this spot if I had not had been in such a big rush to get out! 'Haste makes waste' seemed to really apply here! Finally, after she had said good-bye to the last of the ladies, she came to me and took both my hands in her hands. She asked me what my name was, and then looked me straight in the eyes. She got very serious in her expression, as if she was hurt, and asked me this profound question. "Carole, do you KNOW that God loves you?" I shook my head yes and said "yes". She shook her head and acted like I had not understood. Again she asked me "Carole, do you know that GOD loves you?" And again, I responded with another "yes". Once again, she slowly shook her head no. A third time she asked me, "Carole, do you know that God loves YOU?" I was getting frustrated by now. After all, I'd given her the right answers! What was the point lady? I'd grown up in a Christian family - attended church all my life. I'd read the Bible. Everyone knows that God loves everyone! How many times had I sung the song "Jesus Loves Me"? I knew that God loved me - He loves the whole world! But tears filled her eyes, as she told me that God had spoken to her and told her three months earlier to take this speaking engagement. He had showed me to her ... where I would be sitting. What suit I would be wearing. And then she said some words that became ALIVE to me and changed my life forever. She said God had sent her to my city, to tell me that He LOVED ME! In that brief moment, all the pain of all the rejection I'd lived with all my life - all the feelings of worthlessness - all the feelings to failure, came pouring out as I finally HEARD the truth that no matter what I was or had been, God still loved me! He knew me! He knew where I lived! He knew that I wanted a better life and He brought this lady to me to tell me that He saw me and cared for me and loved me so much! Praise be to my Father for His great love!
The shock of all this continued as she told me that she had more to say to me, but that she had to leave right then. She asked me how soon could I come to her town. I know my lower jaw was hanging low as I told her that I'd 'coincidentally" made plans to go there the very next day! She nodded as if she knew this, and gave me instructions on getting a hold of her when I got into town. For without my knowing it, God had directed me to make the plans to go to there earlier that week - though I did not know that He had anything to do with it. You see, I was contemplating leaving my husband - I was so miserable! I wanted time to think. Time to plan. I "needed a break" is what I told my husband.
This dear friend spent hours with me, teaching me, praying for me and placing my choices before me. She required that I make my choice that day - either I was going to serve God with all my heart, or I was going to walk away and never again be His child. It was a stern requirement but I felt it was from God Himself. I said, with all my heart, "I choose God!" She instructed me in how to live with that choice, from the scriptures. It wasn't very easy. I had a lot of old patterns, behaviors, idea's and relationships that needed to be changed. In fact, it was hard work, but it was worth it to please the one who loved me! The level of peace, rest and joy in my life today has not been an easy position to reach. But it is worth all the sacrifices - it is truly a reward to all who seek God with all their heart - to those who will not relent or drawback with circumstances and difficulties. God says to you "come unto Me all you who are weary and I will GIVE YOU rest!" Are you weary? Do you need rest from the strivings of this life? Then just lay your life down. Give God your dreams, your plans, your mate, your children, your possessions. Trust Him with your life. Rest in His loving arms and may His grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you!! In closing this article, may the words that the Lord spoke to me lift you up even as they did to me. "You must guard against disappointments when you establish your rules in how things are to be. Rest in Me. Trust in Me exceedingly! If I cannot be trusted, why do you serve Me? I know your heart and I know the pain and frustrations that you are having to deal with...but you don't need to. Bring your burdens to Me and leave them at My feet. Lay down your life and I will give you resurrected LIFE. Learn to go free in every minute of everyday. I cannot use you when you allow troubles to dominate your mind."
If we follow this plan, depending on God's grace to live it out, then we will be walking in complete trust and faith in God. And God is faithful! He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.