A few days ago, I shared this devotional with the amazing staff at the Modesto Pregnancy Center.
Our hearts are the source of our greatest potential for
ministry to others and the very part of us we must protect the most. Tenderness, compassion, mercy…these can flow
from our hearts to others who wander into our lives and so desperately need
them. But Jesus said our hearts—apart
from Christ—can be a source of problems as well. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery,
sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:19.
Could it be, then, Jesus was giving us a warning to check
our hearts every once in while? I
My wife, Patty, and I were commenting the other night:
ministry can tempt you to be a little jaded.
It seems like the more we deal with the pain of life, the more callused we
can become. I’ve seen it in pastors
dozens of times: they survive ministry for 30 or more years but can’t stand
people by the end of it all. How can
I think it’s our sin nature.
Lest we begin to gather spiritual stones to throw at those who have
gotten this way, we must remember the Old Christian proverb: “But for the grace of God, go I.” Here in Matthew 15:19 Jesus reminds us of our
propensity of evil thoughts: “Murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false
testimony, and slander.” Since
everything springs from our hearts, we must be very aware of what’s going on.
Proverbs 4:23 counsels us “Guard your heart above all else, for it
determines the course of your life.”
There are at least three areas of our lives where we must guard our
Anger. Although there are times when anger is
appropriate, most of the time in ministry it isn’t. We must guard our hearts against feeling a
sense of anger when people need ministering.
“You can’t get mad at the world,”
I’ve always heard, “for acting like the
world—they don’t know any better.” It’s easy to let the repetitive nature of what
we do in our work for the Lord make us angry about the same, sad story over,
and over, and over, and over, and over again.
But this is not the compassion we are called to have.
Pride. This often takes the form of spiritual
pride. We have a feeling of “I’ve got it
all together” so we come across as “holier than thou” when people need us the
most. When our hearts must be the most
tender, we can instead testify to a spirit of pride in our position. But we must be like Christ who made Himself
nothing and poor so we could gain everything and be rich in Him.
Hurriedness. This one is a little tougher to grasp. But I once had a mentor tell me when it comes
to pastoring we must “walk slowly among
the people”. This was his way of
saying, “take time to see the people on the side of the spiritual road needing
our attention. Don’t just hurry by on
the other side of the road pretending we don’t see them in need. Instead, arrange your schedule and your mindset
so you can see the people who are standing there saying, “help”.
19 The acts of the
flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20
idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish
ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies,
and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will
not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and
desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with
the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying
I pray the Lord keeps your heart in check in these three
areas of anger, pride, and hurriedness.
May He use you to minister to those who need His love the most.