Tuesday, May 23, 2017

God's Heroes Have a Heart

Introduction
            We are starting a new message series at my church based on our upcoming VBS curriculum “Hero Central”.  For each of the next five weeks, I will share a message based on the daily VBS themes about how we can be God’s superheroes.  The message today is about having a hero’s heart.
            If we're going to talk about a hero’s heart, we should start by defining what we mean by “heart.”  Obviously, we’re not talking about the muscle that beats in your chest and pumps blood throughout your body.  When we say heart, what we mean is “the essence of who you are.” Your heart is the core of who you are, your passions, your interests, who you really are as a person and what you’re made of.  Your heart is what you're dedicated to; what you would fight for, live for, and even die for.
God’s heroes have a certain kind of heart and the Bible tells us what kind.  I want to share a story about David—a person described as a man after God’s own heart—and we will see what kind of heart we should have to be one of God’s heroes.  But first, let me set the stage for the story.
The story comes from the Old Testament Book of Samuel, named after the prophet Samuel.  The people of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations around them.  So they asked Samuel to anoint a man named Saul to be their king. 
Saul was an obvious pick for king.  Saul looked like a king.  He was very tall.  The Bible says he was “head and shoulders” taller than everyone else.  So Samuel anointed Saul and he became Israel’s first King.  However, Saul had some serious character flaws.  He looked like a king, but his heart was not right.  He disobeyed God several times.  He was selfish and deceptive.  God was sorry He ever made Saul king.  So God told the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king to take Saul’s place.  And that’s where our story picks up. 

1 Samuel 16:1-13
1Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

Notice here, that Samuel thinks Eliab would make a good king.  Eliab was the first born son of the family and he looked like a king.  Like Saul, Eliab was a taller than most men.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

The Heart of a King
            The key verse in this passage is verse 7 - “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We can see what a difference heart make by comparing David to Saul.  Saul looked like a king.  He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else.  But he had a no heart.  In fact, the Bible story most people know is the story of David and Goliath.  Goliath’s most striking feature was he was a giant.  Goliath challenged the armies of Israel to choose one man who would face him in one-on-one combat.  The one man in Israel’s army who should have accepted the challenge was Saul.  He would have been the best choice.  Saul was a very tall man and a warrior.  He was the only one who could come close to matching Goliath physical stature.  But Saul didn’t have the heart to face Goliath.  The one who ended up fighting Goliath was the little boy David.  And David was so small, the Bible says he couldn’t even wear Saul’s armor.  Saul had an impressive physic, but David had heart.
            A study of David life reveals the heart of a hero.  He was brave, because he depended on God to fight his battles.  He was full of faith.  He believed God could overcome any obstacle and he was willing to wait on God to work things out in God's way according to God's timing.  David was compassionate, merciful, fair, and consistent.  When he made a mistake, David was quick to take responsibility, repent, and ask forgiveness.  David heart lead him to be faithful to the end of his days.  David had the heart of a hero.  The ultimate accolade the Bible attributes to David is this.  It says he was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
            But that's why Samuel 16:12 is kind of confusing to me.  It seems out of place.  It says David was "dark and handsome".  Now, if this passage is about looking at a person’s heart and not their physical attributes, why would it mention anything about David's appearance?  Translators have struggled to translate that verse.  The key words that cause trouble is the Hebrew for "ruddy" and "countenance."  Ruddy can mean dark or hairy or red or other things.  The sense is that David was a rough, unrefined looking fellow.  It’s not that he was ugly, but maybe he didn't fit his society’s beauty standards.  My grandmother was a red head.  She used to say kids picked on her when she was in school.  They would chant, “I’d rather be dead than have a read head!”  Kids can be mean to other kids they see as different.  And most kids are either brunette or blonde; and the less common red headed kids often get picked on.  They don’t fit the norm.  Neither did David.
            But the scripture also says David had a good countenance—another word that’s hard to translate into English.  Have you ever known someone who was beautiful, even though they didn’t fit the typical beauty standards of society?  Maybe they were short or a little on the heavy side or had something else unusual about them?  They weren’t the kind of person you would see in a beauty pageant or the cover of a magazine, and yet something about them was especially attractive.  If you only looked at a 2-dimensional picture of them, you wouldn’t think there was anything special there.  However, when you meet them in person, there is just something exceptionally beautiful about them.  I've seen this often in very godly people.  Their godly hearts give them a beautiful countenance.
I think that is what verse 12 is trying to tell us about David.  He didn’t fit the typical standards of what a handsome man of the day was supposed to be (and obviously, his family didn’t think he was anything special; they didn't even invite him to the dinner).  And yet, David had a good heart, and it just exuded from him and made him handsome to anyone who was willing to look at his heart instead of just his physical appearance.   

It’s All About Your Heart
You can’t tell a hero by the way they look.  I love the way this is often portrayed in movies and comic books about superheroes.  Superheroes often have an alter ego.  Take Superman, for example.  He is handsome and muscular and “able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound” and yet in his everyday life he dresses as the unremarkable Clark Kent.  Clark dresses kind of nerdy and wears glasses.  Clark’s love interest—Louise Lane—hardly even notices him.  And it’s ironic, because Louise has the hots for Superman.  All the while, Clark (Superman in disguise) is right there beside her and she doesn’t even notice him.  You can’t tell a hero by the way they look.
We tend to focus on all the external things when we judge a person.  We look at things we think are good.  We say:  “They look good. They wear nice clothes.  They have a big house and drive a new car, so they must be good people.”  Or we think they fit in with everyone and are popular and everyone likes them, so they must be special.  We also look at things we think are bad.  We say, “That person is rough looking, drinks, has a bunch of tattoos, cusses a lot or doesn’t use proper English, wears the wrong clothes, drives a dirty car, etc…”  And so we think they are not a very good person.  We are focusing on all the wrong things when we look at these external factors.  It’s your heart that makes you a hero or not.
The core problem of humanity is the human heart.  In Jesus day, the religious teachers said if you ate the wrong food or didn’t wash your hands or touched someone who had leprosy or was unclean, it would make you unclean and sinful.  Jesus knew this was nonsense.  He said it is our hearts that make us sinful and unclean.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”  Jeremiah 17:9 – “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” 

We Must Focus on the Heart
So, we need to focus on the heart and worry less about all those outward things.  And remember what is your heart? It is the core of who you are; it is your character; it is your passion; it is what drives you and motivate you; it is what is most important about you; it is what you live for and what you would die for.  And most of us, if we are really honest, realize our hearts aren’t right.  Our relationship with Jesus isn’t really what’s most important in our hearts.  When we look at what consumes most of our time, money, energy, resources, and thoughts, it is not God and His Kingdom and His righteousness.  We focus on our own selfish pursuits or our families or our careers or our security or our politics…  Christ may be part of our life, but he is not first in our life.  And anything that takes first place in your heart besides Christ is a problem. 

Accepting Responsibility
We like to make excuses for ourselves.  We say “That’s just the way life is.  That’s how the world works.”  But that’s just an excuse.  Or maybe we try to blame our shortcomings and our bad hearts on things that happened in the past.  “You know, it was the way my parents raised me” or “It’s the abuse I suffered as a child” or “It’s because I was bullied in school” or “I have a chemical imbalance…”  You can insert your excuse here: ________________________________.
It’s time to take responsibility for your own heart.  Until you take responsibility for your heart, you will never change.  You have to accept responsibility. It was not your parents' fault.  It is not the social class you belong to. It's not where you grew up.  It is not the way you were mistreated as a child or anything else. If you are not living up to God’s potential, if you are not living as a hero for God, it is because you have a sinful heart.  It is the Human Condition. And we must recognize this, confess it, and cry out to God for salvation! That is the only way. For as long as we continue to make excuses for ourselves we will never get to the heart of the matter and find healing for our heart. You will never become the hero God wants you to be until you admit your heart is broken.

Closing Invitation
            The Good News is Jesus came to give us a brand new heart.  If we will confess our sin, repent, and ask for help, Jesus will save us and give us a brand new heart--a hero's heart.  He said, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26) 
Is that what you want?  Do you want to be one of God’s heroes?  A hero that has a heart just like God’s?  Then why don’t you ask Jesus to give you one today.  I offer the following prayer to help you talk to Jesus about getting a new heart.  Let it be your words to Him today. 

Dear Jesus, forgive me for the ways my heart has not been right. 
Regardless of what I’ve done on the outside, the core of who I am has been off.
I have not loved You with my whole heart.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.
I have not always put you first in my heart.  Please forgive me. 
Help me to turn from my wicked ways.  I want to have good heart, a hero’s heart.
Jesus, please give me a new heart and put a righteous spirit within me.
Help me to live for you whole heartedly from this day forward.
Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.