Sacred 4-Letter Words: WILL

Pastor Craig Carter

Since it’s Valentine’s Day (2021), let me open with this question: Are you aware that God wants to be your valentine and you to be His?

God is really into hearts – not symbolic ones, but of the human variety. Did you know that the word “heart” appears in Scripture 700-800 times depending on what version you use?

In the Bible, it does not refer to the tangible, physical body part. Rather, like we commonly think of it, the heart is used in a figurative sense, representing an intangible reality.

God’s preoccupation with the heart shows how important and vital it is. But Scripture also tells us that God wants us to give our heart to Him.

For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth, so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB)

Today we are exploring the biblical concept of the heart by answering three questions: What is our heart? Why does God want it? How do we give our heart to God?

1) What is our “heart”?

In the Bible, the “heart” represents the inner life or “soul” of a person. It includes our emotions, but also it contains our reasoning ability and desires. The “heart” is the essence of who we are. We might be good-hearted, kind-hearted, tender-hearted, or hard-hearted. It’s who we are on the inside … it’s the real you, the real me.

It is also the spiritual center of a human being. God has a “heart,” so being made in His image, our heart connects us to Him. It is the place where we meet God and He meets us.

More than anything else, our heart is the deciding place that determines our actions. In our heart, we think about life’s choices and make commitments. It’s why God wants us to love Him, first and foremost, with our heart.

So the heart is the place where our WILL resides and determines whether we choose right or wrong, good or evil, God’s way or our own way, Christ or the world.

If you have been following along with our current sermon series, Sacred 4-Letter Words, you’ve probably been wondering how this was going to fit, weren’t you? The matter of the heart is a matter of the WILL, the human will.

On two occasions in Scripture, David (King of Israel) is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)

That means David shared a common view of life with the Lord, lived in harmony with God, and was committed to Him (but it’s also worth noting He was far from perfect).

I’m convinced the Lord wants our hearts so that we all become “men and women, boys and girls, after God’s own heart.”

He longs for our desires to be the same as His desires.

He hopes that what burdens His heart will burden ours.

But more than anything else, He wants our will to align with His will.

While we tend to emphasize the outward attributes of an individual, God is much more concerned about a person’s inner “heart” condition.

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

Specifically, He wants our heart to beat in rhythm with His. That leads to a second question…

2) Why does God want our “heart?”

First of all, let’s address what God doesn’t want in regard to our heart. It’s the person who says, “God knows that my heart is right.” I’ve found that’s normally a rationalization for poor behavior, such as failing to keep our vows, talking ugly about someone or lashing out at children.

This is not what God is looking for in terms of our heart condition.

Instead, we must never forget God’s greatest desire for us as His people is to be HOLY. As we’ve seen throughout this series, God wants us to be holy as He is holy – inside and out.

That means we are to think holy thoughts, speak with holy language, and act in holy ways.

But as we observed last week, our MIND is where everything begins. Our mind pulls our emotions which drive our behavior. So before we can have holiness of life, we need holiness of heart.

God knows that if He captures our heart, He captures us. We all understand this principle, don’t we?

To paraphrase a quote from E. Stanley Jones, “Whatever gets your [heart], gets you.” The corollary is also true: Whatever doesn’t get your heart, doesn’t get you.

Examples: You buy something you’ll never use from a kid selling stuff for his school because his initiative tugged at your “heart.” Your daughter quits college because her “heart” isn’t in it. A young person excels at football (despite his small stature) because of his big “heart.”

This only partially explains why God wants our heart. Some of the examples I just gave is because we associate the heart with our emotions or feelings (i.e. something pulls at our “heart strings”).

But as I pointed out earlier, in the biblical sense, the heart represents the essence of who we are and in particular, is where our WILL originates and resides.

I’ve shared before that I used to watch “The Bachelor” with my daughter. Yes, I’ve gone to rehab and I’m now recovering from that poor life choice. The part of the show I hated was hearing countless people say, “I’ve got to follow my heart,” meaning they’re letting emotions control them. That’s not a good path to take.

But, in choosing a mate, there is a sense in which we need to follow our heart. When we get married, we give the other person our “heart.” We make a conscious decision and say, “I do.”

My heart belongs to my wife Lee so yes, I am to follow my heart (but not in the emotional sense). In marriage, it doesn’t matter what my emotions may say. For instance, sometimes my feelings toward Lee aren’t all that positive, but that doesn’t matter, because my will (i.e. my heart) says, “Yes.”

God wants our heart because He wants us to say, “I do” to Him and “Yes, Lord, Yes” to His will and to His ways.

If our heart is His, so are we.

3) How do we give God our “heart?”

Again, let’s remember what the heart is…

It’s partly our emotions so we should feel something in our relationship with God. It also has something to do with our thinking so we should rationally accept the Lord. But more than anything else, the heart is a matter of the will so to give God our heart means we are WILLing to submit to Him … and that’s hard to do.

Have you ever heard of the term “strong-willed child”? It was made popular by Dr. Jim Dobson and describes a spirited child who tests the limits and seeks to learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others say. In many ways, we are all strong-willed children of God.

Most, if not all, of us don’t like to submit our will to anyone or anything else.

In other words, we’re like “threenagers.” Are you familiar with that term? It’s a 3-year-old with the attitude of a teenager. Examples:

I have a feeling that’s how silly we oftentimes look to God – unwilling to yield and give in.

But to give God our heart, that’s what we have to do and He wants nothing else.

The eyes of the Lord roam … [for] those whose heart is completely His (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB). The eyes of the Lord search … [for] those whose hearts are completely committed to him (NLT).

I mentioned last week that God is always the initiator and primary actor in spiritual matters, but we also have a role to play. The truth is, our hearts are corrupted by sin and filled with deception. This fact was noted by the prophet Jeremiah who declared:

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT)

As a result, we all need a heart transplant that God performs when we initially give our hearts to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He promised this when he said:

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20 NLT)

Once that happens, Christ takes up residence in our lives as we become FULL of God’s Holy Spirit. But that’s not the end, rather it’s just the beginning of the Christian life. Once Jesus has become our Savior, we then must make Him our Lord (King, Ruler). I once heard it put this way: we must allow Jesus to move from being a resident to becoming the president of our lives.

So to our faith we must add a willingness to obey. Friends, a day must come for every believer when we give up all rights to ourselves and submit our will to God.

It is saying as Jesus said in the Garden, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)

The Christian life, the holy life, is a progressive journey but it begins in Gethsemane. It’s where we pray the prayer Jesus prayed and then, to the best our ability, surrender our will to the will of our Heavenly Father. That one-time decision is then revealed through daily decisions.

That’s what it means to give our heart to God so it “is completely His.”

Because I gave my heart to Lee Flores on 5/22/1982, it belongs to her. Since I surrendered myself and my will to her, I’ve eliminated any options when confronted with choices about what to do or where to go. My heart and life belongs to her, and thank God, she belongs to me.

For some, marriage sounds like bondage, but for me (and I hope for Lee), it’s freedom. So many fears and worries and concerns are gone, replaced with blessings untold.

The same is true in our relationship with the Lord. Giving Him our heart and surrendering our will is the hardest thing we’ll ever do. But it’s also the best thing that will ever happen. Why?

For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth, so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB)

Let me close with a couple of quotes on the subject:

“The battle of the will is the greatest battle a person will ever face. Surrender is not easy, nor painless. Rebellion, however, is more painful.” (from Holy is a 4-Letter Word by Charles Lake and Matt Ayars).

Why is rebellion more painful? Because it means we forfeit God’s support and blessings.

“There is no very great measure of joy in a half-hearted Christian life. Many so-called Christians have just enough religion to make them miserable. They can no longer enjoy the world, and they have not entered into the ‘joy of the Lord.’ That is a wretched place to be in. The way out is simple – absolute surrender to God. Then your joy will be fulfilled. A will and life surrendered to the God of love will bring joy under all circumstances.” (R.A. Torrey, Treasury, p. 444)

As I just mentioned, that one-time decision is lived out through daily decisions. When our heart is completely His, we are willing to go where He tells us to go, do what He tells us to do and say the things He tells us to say.

What does God want you to do for Him today? Where does He want you to go? How does He want you to obey? Are you WILLing?