FROM TIM DOERING
The apostle Peter had a number of rough moments that were recorded in the Scripture; however, none receive more attention than his denial of Christ on the night of his arrest. A few days later the single greatest event in history took place, the resurrection of Jesus. Do you remember what Peter did next? He went fishing. Hmm. Why? Fishing was not just a hobby for Peter. It was his old job. It was his career and livelihood until Jesus called him. Why fishing? It’s amazing how therapeutic it can feel to return to what we know and what we are good at when we are feeling broken and empty.
There is an old 90’s hit called Hole Hearted:
Life's ambitions occupy my time; Priorities confuse the mind; Happiness one step behind; This inner peace I've yet to find…There's a hole in my heart; That can only be filled by you; And this hole in my heart; Can't be filled with the things I do.
The sentiment was that a certain romantic relationship could satisfy what work, performance and accomplishment could not. I’m sure the songwriter scored points in his relationship, but the idea of a hole in the heart that needed to be filled was more vintage than this early 90’s throwback jam. This thought can be heard from a guy named Blaise (seriously!) in the 1600’s who was drawing from a deeper well when he scribed the following:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” - Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
The horror of the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden was the separation and loss in our relationship with God. This left a gaping hole. The collateral damage is what we call “the curse.” Childbearing and caring for the fields became extremely painful. This parallels two things we are clearly called to accomplish: multiplication and cultivation. How we relate in covenant to one another and how we engage our work is under-supported, misappropriated and idolized because of the vacuum caused by the absence of God’s fulfilling presence in our lives. The generational result is that we gained a fundamentally distorted view of relationships and mission; work and family.
Blaise Pascal’s belief was that the void left in separation from God could only be filled by the return of true connection with God. As Scripture-based Christ followers, we shouldn’t have trouble giving assent to that truth. It’s our understanding that this is exactly what the gospel makes possible within us and among us in a way that can restore wholeness. But let’s get practical for a second. How is that working for the American church in general? Are we living from that reality? Are we resting in peace and satisfaction? Are we functioning from an overflow of joyous satisfaction? Is the average Christian leader so fulfilled with Christ that they are not concerned about their value to others, their performance, comfort, achievements, or personal happiness? I hope so. Unfortunately, my experience across the Church is that we are still deeply struggling with inappropriate rhythms and connections to our work and to one another. Our insecurities, our workaholism, our expectations, our stress and our responding efforts toward balance, boundaries and general control make it clear that we are not totally dialed in. We live in a world that has much to offer but there is no more dangerous place to be tempted to fill our God shaped hole with people and work than in the family of God doing the work of God.
In order to be effective proclaimers and defenders of the gospel, we must be those who actually embody the gospel. This means that we cannot find our value from people or our legitimacy from our work, even if it is “gospel work.” To the extent that our hearts have divided interests and our minds have divided focus we will find ourselves preaching a gospel doctrine, but living a conflicted existence. Doing God’s work and loving God’s people without being fully satisfied by God’s love is impossible. We need undivided hearts, NOT FOR MINISTRY, not for family, or health, or mission, or balance, or wholeness… Undivided hearts for JESUS!
At Pentecost in Acts 2 we see those who saw the resurrected Christ, waiting on His presence to indwell, strengthen and direct them. And when the Spirit arrived, the fruit was tangible. It was clearly not traceable to the efforts of any leaders. The work was clearly that of the Holy Spirit. The love and satisfaction was clearly being received from God. The result was a people who “DEVOTED THEMSELVES.” This word devoted means: wholehearted adherence to a singular course. In their case they were fully devoted to God, which led to pursuit of the words of God through teaching, the family of God through fellowship, the reminders of God through the sacraments, and the communication with God through prayer.
True relationships and kingdom-effective work come as a result of a heart fully given to God. Do you remember how that story of Peter’s post denial fishing trip ends? It is with him again submitting to the voice of Jesus telling him to do something that didn’t make sense in the place that Peter knew the most about. Jesus tells him to throw nets on the other side after a night filled with the frustration of not being successful in the one job he knew well. But there was one thing that he knew better now and that was the voice of God. He listened and saw the results of the bounty of God. Now Peter didn’t need the feeling of success to comfort him, he had an eye for Christ. He jumped out of the boat, not interested in walking on water, just interested in getting to Jesus. He was home.
A heart fully given to God is a gift that comes directly from God.
Let’s cry out with the Psalmist:
Psalm 86:11 - Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
And let’s listen to God’s response:
Ezekiel 11:19 – I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
From this answered prayer we are restored to our greatest action:
Matthew 22:37 - Love the Lord your God with all of your heart…
Lord, we pray that you would overwhelm your people with your love, that you would bless us with undivided hearts that hunger for your love above all else. Lord, raise up leaders who will guard their people by guarding their own hearts.