Wholehearted Living

August 22 Day 234

Wholehearted Living

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I got up out of my seat and went forward. I had only been a Christian for a few months. The message I responded to was to be fully, wholeheartedly committed to the Lord and to follow him with all my heart – wherever that might take me. 

Of course, I have had my ups and downs since then, and my fair share of failures. All of us are far from perfect. I still do things that I wish I did not do. But I have been determined to try and follow the Lord with all my heart and be fully committed to him.

To be ‘fully committed’ with ‘all your heart’ means 100% commitment. It means seeking to do what the Lord calls you to do. It means rooting out anything that is bad – ruthlessly tearing down the high places and getting rid of the other gods in the midst of life.

The Lord is looking for those whose ‘hearts are fully committed’ to him (2 Chronicles 16:9). The psalmist prayed, ‘Give me an undivided heart’ (Psalm 86:11). The expression ‘all your heart’ appears many times throughout the Bible. For example, you are to do the following things ‘with all your heart’:

  • Love the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Matthew 22:36–38)
  • Trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5)
  • Obey the Lord (Psalm 119:34,69; 1 Chronicles 29:19)
  • Praise the Lord (Psalm 111:1; 138:1)
  • Work for the Lord (Nehemiah 4:6; Colossians 3:23).

This is how to enjoy life and life in all its fullness (John 10:10). It’s a life of love, trust, gratitude, joy and meaningful work. In the passages for today we see why and how we should live wholeheartedly.

The brevity of life

Psalm 102:1-11

The psalmist is aware of how short life is: ‘For my days vanish like smoke’ (v.3a), ‘My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass’ (v.11). He has this sense that time is running out. Life on this earth is so short. Make the most of every day. 

The psalmist is suffering. He cries out, ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry of help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly’ (vv.1–2).

This is a striking example of wholehearted commitment to God even in the midst of distress. Choose to turn to God. Know that God is eternal (v.12) and that he can be trusted.

Lord, I thank you that, while my life is ‘like the evening shadow’, you are eternal and I can trust you. I lift my problems before you now… Let my cry for help come to you.

The certainty of resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Paul tells us what was at the heart of his preaching, and why he followed Jesus so wholeheartedly: ‘The gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand’ (v.1). This is the gospel whereby you are saved (v.2); hold firmly to it.

  1. The message
    It is a very simple message, ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (vv.3–4). 

    His death had a great purpose. It was ‘for our sins’. The penalty for sin has been paid. The power of sin is broken. And one day, even the presence of sin will be removed.

    You can be sure of this because of the resurrection. This is the certainty of your hope for the future.

    Jesus died and was buried. One day, you will die and be buried. Jesus was raised from the dead. One day, you will also be raised from the dead to full and eternal life. 

  2. The evidence
    The resurrection is a sign in this world of the future God has in store. Paul spoke of the future in light of what God had done: ‘He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead’ (Acts 17:31). Faith is not irrational. Faith is grounded on the event of the resurrection.

    Paul gives some of the evidence for the resurrection:

  • He highlights that Jesus was ‘buried’ and ‘raised according to the Scriptures’. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were written about before he was born.

  • He points to Christ’s appearances to Peter, to the twelve, to 500 others, to James, all the apostles, and finally, to Paul himself (1 Corinthians 15:6–8). 

This is not an exhaustive list of the appearances – but enough to show it is well attested. He shows that the resurrection is rooted in history, grounded in Scripture and confirmed by experience. 

  1. The importance
    The resurrection really matters. If there is no resurrection, the consequences are dire. The resurrection was the basis of Paul’s preaching. Without it ‘everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors… a string of barefaced lies’ (vv.14a–15, MSG). Since that was what they based their faith on, without the resurrection ‘your faith is futile’ and ‘you are still in your sins’ (v.17). There would be no hope for the future, ‘those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost’ (v.18). In fact, Paul concludes that without it Christianity is worse than nothing: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people’ (v.19).

  2. The result
    ‘But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries’ (v.20, MSG). Therefore, the resurrection is certain. One day all those who are ‘in Christ’ will be raised from the dead. Then death will be destroyed (v.26). ‘God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive – a perfect ending!’ (v.28, MSG).

    Because the resurrection is certain, Paul writes, we endanger ourselves every hour (v.30): ‘I die every day’ (v.31). He is 100%, wholeheartedly fully committed to the Lord. He even fought wild beasts in Ephesus (v.32). He was willing to risk his life because of the certainty of the resurrection.
    This is the reason why Paul urges us to ‘stop sinning’ (v.34). Satan’s tactics often start with doubt. If he can make you doubt, then next he will tempt you to sin. In one sense, all sin stems from unbelief. 

The message of Jesus, his death and resurrection, is good news. It is the gospel. You are to receive it and believe it. You are to take your stand on it. You are to hold it firmly. Like Paul, pass it on to others.

Father, thank you that Jesus died for my sins and you raised him from the dead so that I could be totally forgiven, set free and, one day, be raised with Christ. Help me, like Paul, to be wholeheartedly committed to passing this message on as of ‘first importance’.

The eyes of the Lord

2 Chronicles 16:1-18:27

‘God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him’ (16:9, MSG).

Hanani the seer came to Asa, King of Judah, and said to him that he was in trouble because he had ceased to rely fully on the Lord (vv.7–9). ‘For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him’ (v.9).

God sees everything you do. He is looking for those whose ‘hearts’ are ‘fully committed’ to him. The ‘eyes of the Lord’ see into your heart. Are you living wholeheartedly for him?

Asa, who had done so well for most of his life, in the last years, ‘even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord but only from the physicians’ (v.12). There is nothing wrong with getting help from the medical profession. He is not criticised for seeking help from the physicians. He is criticised for not seeking help from the Lord.

His son, Jehoshaphat’s ‘heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord’ (17:6). Again, he started very well. ‘He didn’t fool around... he was a seeker and follower of the God of his father and was obedient to him... He was single-minded in following God; and he got rid of the local sex-and-religion shrines’ (vv.3–6, MSG).

He was tested by the fact that 400 prophets all had a ‘lying spirit’ (18:21). Only Micaiah, son of Imlah, had the courage to speak truth to power. The devil is a deceiver. In an age when there is no shortage of voices to hear, we need the discernment of God not to be fooled by deception but to listen carefully to those who, like Micaiah, say, ‘As sure as God lives, what God says, I’ll say’ (v.13, MSG). 

Lord, I thank you that your eyes ‘range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed’ to you (16:9). Please, strengthen me as I recommit myself to serve you wholeheartedly.

Pippa Adds

2 Chronicles 16:7

‘Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord…’

Even godly leaders can become self-reliant, or reliant on the wrong things, or the wrong people. However difficult, we need to be open to correction and stay dependent on God.
 

 

Verse of the Day

‘Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry of help come to you… Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly’ (Psalm 102:1–2).

References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.