The Heart of God

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 1, 2019 1 comments

by Logan Ames

Theologian J.I. Packer, author of the popular book Knowing God, spent a lot of time studying and writing about the subject of human beings attempting to understand the mind of our Creator. In a separate work called Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, he established this conclusion: “A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man’s image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all." We’ve probably all either gotten frustrated ourselves or known others who have gotten frustrated with trying to figure out what God is up to in their lives and getting absolutely no answer. This quote from Packer reminds us that we worship a God who is unattainable, indescribable, and beyond what we can fathom. Sometimes, we just have to accept that we cannot know and will not know until we are with him face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Of course, this acceptance does nothing to help us overcome the frustration of not understanding why the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth would allow certain circumstances to happen in our lives. In my view, the only way to begin to deal with what we can’t understand is to stop trying to figure out the mind of God and start seeking the HEART of God. It is true that God Himself says in Isaiah 55:9: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." However, nothing is mentioned there about God’s heart. You might ask, “What’s the difference between God’s mind and His heart?” I’d answer that by suggesting you consider the difference between your own mind and heart. After all, you were made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). The mind is how we process things and make decisions, but the heart is whatever we are passionate about at our very core. My wife and I have to use our minds to process decisions regarding finances, food choices, and parenting, but we are passionate about the Lord and our heart has been stolen by our precious daughter, Evangeline. We just melt when she laughs, cries, does something for the first time, or learns new words and phrases. In my ministry context, I use my mind to handle administrative tasks and make sound decisions, but my heart and passion are definitely in teaching and proclaiming God’s Word!

It seems to me that James has the idea of seeking God’s heart in mind when he writes to remind his readers of the prophet Elijah. In James 5:17-18, he explains that Elijah experienced great results from his “earnest prayers," both when he prayed for no rain and when he prayed for rain. Now, we must not misunderstand this: Elijah could not “make it rain." Elijah didn’t have some special power to turn the raindrops off and on. Though he got the results he prayed for, Elijah did not change God’s mind. Rather, he sought God’s heart. James is directing the early Christians regarding their prayer life and encourages them to take everything to God in prayer and to do so fervently. But an unspoken theme and message has emerged in this section of his letter: pray the heart of God.

If you’re not sure that unspoken message is there, just go back and take a look at James 5:13-16. Check out the specific situations and things that James mentions regarding the need to pray. He says we should pray when in trouble and when happy, both of which can come from God to fulfill His purposes. He says we should “sing songs of praise," which obviously bless God. We should seek the Lord when we are sick and we should also confess our sins to one another and to God. All of these things are important to the Lord! James doesn’t write that we should seek God for the lottery winnings we wish we had, because that would not be consistent with the heart of God. In fact, James directly opposes that type of prayer earlier in his letter as “asking with wrong motives” (James 4:3). One of the most important things when we pray is to pray about and for that which we know or even sense is what God wants. It’s an effort to align our human will with God’s rather than trying to convince Him to do what we want.

Getting back to the example of Elijah, James declares to his audience that “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” (v. 17a). He wants them to know that being imperfect human beings does not mean we cannot seek the heart of God. To properly understand Elijah’s example, you have to know his story. I encourage you to go back and read it, but I will give you the cliff notes. Elijah entered the scene of ancient Israel during a horrible time. 1 Kings 16:29-34 gives us just a snapshot of what was going on at that time. King Ahab was on the throne and “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (v. 30). He considered previous sins of the king of Israel to be trivial, married a foreign king’s daughter named Jezebel, and began to worship foreign gods. His evil reign also resulted in the deaths of many prophets of the Lord at the hands of Jezebel, as well as the rebuilding of the cursed city of Jericho that the Lord had already wiped out during the time of Joshua. All of these evil things are taking place in the land of Israel, the land that was promised to their forefathers for the people who were set apart by God as they trusted in Him to bring them out of captivity in Egypt. Elijah had to be thinking, “God has done all of this for you and your ancestors and THIS is how you respond to Him?”

Elijah had to have sensed that God would not tolerate this kind of blatant disobedience. Though He would always love Israel and never leave them without hope and a plan for the future, there were many times throughout their history where God chose to discipline them rather than bless them. God talked to Jeremiah about His plan to do this based on how the people behave and what is best for them (Jeremiah 18:5-12). Elijah, believing that this had to be one of the times of national discipline, comes to Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1 and boldly declares, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." This discipline had to hit Israel and Ahab where it counted. Without rain, the land would not produce the abundant harvest it was designed to produce. Without the abundant harvest, food would be scarce and people would die. Ahab even later calls Elijah the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17), but Elijah reminds him that his disobedience toward God is what has caused the great famine and lack of rain. Elijah proved that he was close to God’s heart, while Ahab was far from it and couldn’t have cared less.

My friends, when you sense the heart of God, don’t be afraid to pray and pray earnestly for His will to be done. Sure, God might do it anyway, but He certainly wants to know whether you care about the things that are important to Him or just what feeds your own personal gain. You can read much about His general will and desires in Scripture, you can seek His more specific will in prayer, and you can fellowship with others who will help you understand it. Those things are all part of the process. Once your will has been aligned with God’s, even if only for that day, that is when James urges you to pray earnestly and watch God work!

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Joseph said...

For many years I've ministered to believers that the only meaningful prayer is the prayer that prays God's desire. All other prayer is just human vanity.

And regarding knowing God is to know His heart... In 1 John 4:16 we read that God is love, and if the mind of God is the faculty by and through which God processes what He is — His being — then His heart must be His being.

Which then tells us that... God's being is love.

And for sure scripture tells us that we can know the love of God... Which then means that we can know God... Because God is love.

To know His love is to know Him.

I recently wrote at length to someone on this matter. The brother had spoken to not being able to know "" God is God, which is true... We certainly can't know how God is God.

But we can know what God is.

And perhaps... Knowing what God will can bring us into know how God is.