My Christian heartbeat hasn't always been that steady. Before answering God's call to pastoral ministry I was an on-again, off-again believer suffering from what the medical community might diagnose as spiritual arrhythmia. Even after seminary and forty years of church leadership there have been times when my spiritual pulse was hot and racing and other times when it was barely detectable. It's not a rare condition, this irregular spiritual heartbeat. The growing nominal Christian population and declines in most measures of Christian practice may indicate that the heart healthy Christian is more the exception than the rule on the American religious landscape. What gives here?
Solomon obviously knew the dangers of a heart out of spiritual rhythm. He wrote---
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23, ESV
That he wasn't writing about the the myocardium, the heart muscle so central to the functioning of our miraculous bodies, is obvious. He had previously cautioned his son to be attentive to his words by keeping them in his heart (v. 21). Who would dare argue our need for greater physical heart care? Even so, Solomon was writing about the spiritual heart, the inner seat of everything emotional, spiritual, and even mental in us humans. That heartbeat defines the cadence of life. And, often, it's weak.
Scripture identifies the many sources of the spiritually fluctuating heartbeat. Reflect on the following verses for a sense of how this kind of arrhythmia can slacken the strength of our spiritual pulse and influence---
Let not your heart turn aside to her (the adulteress) ways; do not stray into her
Proverbs 7:25, ESV
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.
Hebrews 3:8, ESV
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your
hearts in a day of slaughter.
James 5:5, ESV
They have hearts trained in greed.
2 Peter 2:14, ESV
And, there are many others. However, even though the language in each of the above portrays a slight variation in the daily realities that can affect our heartbeat (the heart that is turned aside, the hardened heart, the fattened heart, or the heart trained in greed), the common thread is that in each the heart is divided, unsure, and therefore unsteady.
Just as clearly, God's Word gives direction in the training necessary to restore the heart healthy Christian.
Training 1: The refreshment of being with other believers.
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the
hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Philemon 7, ESV
Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
Philemon 20, ESV
Training 2: The comfort of being established in good work and Bible study.
Comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:17, ESV
Training 3: The freedom of being strengthened by grace.
For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9, ESV
Training 4: The focus of seeking approval of God and not other humans.
Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected
him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the
Lord looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7, ESV
Training 5: The discipline of focusing life on eternal things.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being
renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal
weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to
the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that
are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV
The spiritual heartbeat of the nation right now is a reflection of the inconsistent, unsteady spiritual rhythms of a great majority of believers. Restoring the nation to spiritual vibrancy involves, in great part, the influence of heart healthy Christians. I'm praying that the training to begin that restoration begins in me.
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