The Overflow of the Heart
The Overflow of the Heart
For many years I wanted to meet the great evangelist Billy Graham (1918–2018). I felt deeply honoured when I discovered he was following me on Twitter! Of course, I followed back! He is one of my heroes of the faith. He spoke to more people about Jesus than anyone else in human history.
I heard Billy Graham speak many, many times. Every single time I listened to him, I felt inspired. He said that before he spoke he liked to fill his heart. He would prepare enough material for five talks so that he could speak ‘out of the overflow’.
According to Jesus, the heart really matters: ‘… out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). How do you store up good things in your heart?
Store up God’s word in your heartProverbs 2:1-11
Do you long to know God better? Would you like to be wiser, more skilful and to have more knowledge and understanding?
I encourage you to make a lifelong, daily habit of reading God’s word. The writer of Proverbs urges, ‘store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding… For wisdom will enter your heart’ (vv.1–2,10).
What do you need to do?
‘Store up’ God’s words within you (v.1). You need to ‘accept’ (v.1), listen and apply (v.2), ‘call out’ (v.3) and ‘search’ (v.4). ‘Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt’ (v.4, MSG). This takes time and commitment. Don’t just prioritise your schedule; schedule your priorities. Set aside a regular time to read the Bible and schedule it as a top priority.
What does God promise if you do this?
You will ‘find the knowledge of God’ (v.5). ‘God gives out Wisdom free’ (v.6, MSG). Because of God’s character he ‘gives wisdom’ and ‘understanding’ (v.6), ‘victory’ (v.7), protection (v.8) and ‘discretion’ (v.11). He promises that God will ‘keep his eye on’ you (v.8, MSG) and ‘protect you, and… guard you’ (vv.8,11).
Lord, help me to continue to spend time with you each day and to apply the teachings of the Bible to my life.
Go on being filled with the Holy SpiritMatthew 12:22-45
The words you speak really matter. Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Every word we speak can either be a brick to build or a bulldozer to destroy.’ Whatever is stored up in your heart will sooner or later be expressed by your words. Be careful what you look at, read and think about. Fill your heart with good things and you will think good thoughts, speak good words and bear good fruit (v.33).
Jesus says, ‘… out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them’ (vv.34–35).
You cannot change your thought patterns on your own. You need the help of the Holy Spirit – filling your heart with his love and good fruit.
Jesus says that every sin will be forgiven except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (vv.30–32). Sometimes people worry that they have committed the ‘unforgivable sin’. However, if you are worried about it, it is almost certain you have not committed it. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven if you repent and ask God’s forgiveness. The only ‘unforgivable sin’ is to refuse to repent and turn to Christ, resisting his Holy Spirit throughout your life.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law may have been in danger, since they attribute Jesus’ healing power to the prince of demons (vv.22–24). They have already seen plenty of miraculous signs from Jesus, but they refuse to acknowledge that Jesus’ power is the work of the Holy Spirit. When they say to Jesus, ‘How about a miracle?’ (v.38, MSG), it is as though they are putting Jesus under cross-examination.
However, Jesus’ reply turns the tables on them. Comparing himself with the Old Testament prophet Jonah, Jesus is referring to what would soon take place – his death and resurrection three days later (vv.39–40). The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sign of his identity.
Jesus gives two case studies from the Old Testament to show that the Pharisees already have enough evidence. First, when Jonah preached to the Ninevites they changed their lives. Jesus is greater than Jonah. Second, the Queen of Sheba recognised the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus’ wisdom is greater than that of Solomon. They, and we, need no more evidence.
Jesus uses a description of how evil spirits work to warn of the danger of turning back to our old lives having cleaned up ‘the house’. Jesus warns that when people return to their old sin, they often do so even more excessively (v.43 onwards), and that ‘the final condition – is worse than the first’ (v.45).
It is the Holy Spirit who gets rid of the demonic powers (v.28). Fight a daily battle to resist evil and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The test of whether your heart is good is what comes out of your mouth. It is out of the ‘overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks’ (v.34).
Jesus says to them, ‘You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words’ (v.34, MSG). The way to make sure that you say the right things is to make sure your heart is full of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help me to fill my heart constantly with good things and guard it from evil. I pray today that you would again fill me with the Holy Spirit.
Wrestle with God in prayerGenesis 32:1-33:20
Are you facing a major fear or worry in your life?
Jacob faced a very worrying situation. He had fallen out with his brother Esau, and feared that Esau might be out to get him. He was in ‘great fear and distress’ (32:7).
Jacob was a man of prayer – in spite of all his sin, he knew God. He recognised his own unworthiness: ‘I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant’ (v.10).
He prayed, believed and claimed the promise of God: ‘Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau – you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea which cannot be counted”’ (vv.11–12). His prayer was answered – more than he could have even imagined.
Prayer is not always straightforward. Sometimes it seems, like Jacob, that we have to wrestle with God (32:22–32; Colossians 4:12). It can be costly in terms of time and energy. This requires determination. Jacob said to God, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’ (Genesis 32:26), and we are told that from then on he walked with a limp (v.31).
Probably the nearest New Testament equivalent is the apostle Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7), which he asked God to remove three times. Your weaknesses and vulnerabilities do not stop God using you. In fact, God often uses our weaknesses more than our strengths. God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Rather he said, ‘my power is made perfect in weakness’ (v.8).
Perhaps you feel you have a ‘thorn in the flesh’ or you seem to be ‘walking with a limp’: you have some vulnerability or apparent handicap. Jackie Pullinger says she never trusts anyone who doesn’t walk with a limp! It is often through the difficulties, disappointments and struggles that our hearts are changed. We see a transformation in Jacob after he has wrestled with God. His attitude to his brother is totally transformed (Genesis 33).
After the victory had been achieved in prayer, everything seemed to fall into place. There was a wonderful reunion and reconciliation: ‘Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept’ (v.4).
Their attitude to each other had totally changed. Esau says, ‘I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself’ (v.9).
Jacob replies, ‘No, please!… If I have found favour in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favourably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need’ (vv.10–11).
Lord, thank you that you are a God who answers prayer. Help us to wrestle in prayer like Jacob. Lord, I pray that you would bring reconciliation in all my relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ. May my mouth speak out of the overflow of my heart.
Jacob’s relationships with his parents, father-in-law and brother had been far from perfect. Yet through it all we see God’s love and provision for them. After he wrestled with God in prayer, we see a new humility in Jacob. For the first time, we read of him wanting to give instead of just taking.
Verse of the Day
‘God gives out Wisdom free…’ (Proverbs 2:6, MSG).
Joyce Meyer, Love Out Loud (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011)
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.