If there were Gallup polls in 870 BC, King Asa’s approval ratings would have been soaring. He had defused a military crisis without firing a single arrow. There were no battles, no casualties, and he even built two cities with the stones and timber taken from the fortress that his enemies had abandoned. By any definition, his foreign policy was a smashing success. Songs were probably being written about him.
Maybe that’s why he was so furious when the prophet Hanani confronted him with his failure. A highly positive prophetic visit over 30 years earlier had been the high point of his early success as King of Judah. But this time, Asa discovered that God didn’t care about public opinion, and wasn’t impressed by his apparent victory. No, God told Asa that he had a heart problem: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. You have done foolishly in this, and from now on you will have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).
Asa had impressed his people, but not his God. He had failed while succeeding. That troubles me, because I can relate to King Asa. In fact, I could have more in common with him than I care to admit.
Like Asa, I think I started well. I went to Bible college and then to seminary as I worked part-time in my home church. I became a youth pastor, and married my best friend. I planted churches in two different countries, and we raised two wonderful girls. There were no prophetic words of affirmation, but it was a good start.
Like Asa, my life 30 years later could be considered successful. I’m part of the pastoral team in a large suburban church that has significant gospel impact locally and internationally. I travel the world every year to visit missionaries that we have sent out, and will be preaching this weekend to over 2000 people.
But God isn’t interested in popularity polls, and is not necessarily impressed by my busy schedule. He has a different standard for success, an internal one: “…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Asa reminds me that I can fail while succeeding. He reminds me that none of this will be worthwhile if I allow my heart to grow cold, or hard, or distant, or phony. That scares me. And what scares me most is that there are times where it doesn’t seem to scare me enough.
While on sabbatical almost two years ago, I made a fresh commitment to care for my heart. I was determined that my time alone with God would be the driving force of my life, around which all else would revolve.
That determination has predictably been put to the test, and my consistency has ebbed and flowed. More than I want to admit, I think I have been falling short lately. I’ve allowed busy-ness to rule, with frantic activity taking the place of restful confidence (that might explain why I haven’t posted in almost a month). I give mental assent to this truth from Isaiah, but too often fail to live it out: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
I commit today to the renewal of an intentional focus on my heart. With this blog post, I make a fresh commitment to the development of the kind of heart that makes my God smile. I yearn for a quiet heart, a restful heart, a heart that seeks Him and is not satisfied until it finds Him. With His help, I’m confident I’ll get there.
Your prayers are welcome, and appreciated. And feel free to join me.
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