What’s in your heart?
Deuteronomy 8:2 &16
“The Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands… so that in the end it may go well with you.” NIV
The Lord has always insisted His people demonstrate their commitment to Him by observing His commands, by walking in His ways, by living according to His purpose. The very first commandment – to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind – defines this total commitment.
It is easy to confess our submission to God; living out that confession requires constant effort, resolve and the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are not careful, we end up loving God only with our lips instead of with our hearts, going through the motions without any passion or commitment.
This tendency to pay only lip service to God was a recurring problem with the people of Israel. Time and again He had to send prophets to plead with them to repent and turn their hearts back to Him. When they were faithful to Him, they were more than conquerors; when they went their own way, they ended up stressed out, beaten down and oppressed by their enemies.
God was always knocking on the doors of their heart, pleading with them even, to stay the course. Often, He would allow them to experience desert times, times of affliction, times of testing so He could get their attention, cause them to reflect upon their ways, give them occasion to take stock of the attitude of their hearts and make a course correction.
The desert times were as important to their faith journey as the times they spent by the river being refreshed and restored. It is in the desert moments of our lives that we discover the truth about our attitude to God. It is during those times when everything appears to be falling apart that we really discover the depth of our commitment to Him, whether it was just words or something deeper.
Invariably, the road to what God wants to accomplish in each of us almost always leads through the desert. He does not lead us into the desert to punish us but to strip us of all those things that keep us from our God-given purpose and to prepare us for the greater things still to come.
Isn’t it interesting that God even led His own Son into the desert to be tested before He allowed Him to begin His ministry and fulfill His purpose?
And like Jesus, we come out of those desert times “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4;14) – stronger, humbler, closer to God, more passionate about our purpose, ready for what lies ahead. The desert prepares us for the day when we might have to say to God, “Not my will, but yours, be done.”
When those desert times come upon us then, can we see it as a sign that God is trying to get our attention so he can realign our hearts with His, so He can reposition us to take hold of bigger and better things.
And can we embrace the desert times and say like David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)