By: Jenni Walker
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
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Why is cultivating an encouraged heart from the Lord so important for us as wholehearted followers of Christ? It has everything to do with the focus of our hearts. I can “get through the day” with things like fresh coffee, a few inspiring Facebook quotes (or even verses), a venting session to my spouse or best friend, posting a few funny or picture-perfect moments from the day on Instagram, a “self-care” pedicure or Pilates workout, and my favorite worship song on the radio. But if my goal is just to feel better, to feel more in-control of my circumstances, or to avoid adjustments I need to make, then I am woefully off the mark.
Last week, we looked at this question: HOW do we keep an encouraged heart as followers of Jesus Christ? “What is a girl to do? Does the Bible tell us to ‘just suck it up and deal with it’ when we begin to feel consumed by the responsibilities of family or work or life, or when we begin to feel like we are losing heart or lacking purpose in what we are doing day-in, day-out? No, it does not! But neither does it tell us to focus on ‘loving ourselves’ in order to be our ‘best selves’ for others…[There is a problem] when ‘self’ becomes our primary focus.”
We concluded last week that things such as wanting inner confidence, an ordered life, and a cup of coffee are not wrong in and of themselves, but my own personal comfort should never be on the throne of my heart. We looked at how we must train the heart to continually be oriented toward Jesus in all things and how this indisputably involves TIME. If time is such a big part of cultivating an encouraged heart that is focused on Jesus, we may wonder to ourselves, just how do I find the time? This question has been asked through the ages. Thankfully, we do not have to come up with the answer on our own! The Bible has a lot to say about time, and there is a common link that we must consider or we will continually miss the mark even when well-intentioned.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15–16, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” What is the common link? Wisdom. Wisdom and time are often described hand-in-hand in the Bible.
A wholehearted woman of God cannot have a strong, encouraged heart without wisdom. God Himself is the author of wisdom; He declares what is right. Proverbs 4:10-11 says, “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in the right paths.” Just a few verses later, we are told, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart” (verses 20-21).
As we see in Proverbs 4, whatever you keep “in the midst of your heart” is what the time given to you each day will center around. A supernaturally encouraged heart cannot happen without the wisdom of God! This heart of wisdom comes from surrendering fully to God, who IS truth, who is the author of wisdom, and who is the perfecter of our faith as we follow Him in our time on this earth.
For the next two weeks, we will look at some practical, godly, wise ways to “take the time” to receive an encouraged heart from the Lord. They are not merely part of a self-help to-do list as “one more thing” to add to the schedule of the day. Rather, they are ways to keep the Word of God and His ways wisely “in the midst” of your heart and to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking unto JESUS” in all things (Hebrews 12:1–2)!
But before we dive into that, it is so important to consider as we conclude this week considering what first must be stripped off and laid down in our lives. Hebrews 12:1 says, “… So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back” (NCV). Sin is sin. But things that “get in the way” of the individual heart “looking unto Jesus” with wisdom, strength, and godly encouragement can also become sin in our lives. James 4:17 puts it this way: “Anyone then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.”
What is God asking you to “remove from your life” right now? Have you found something that, over time, has begun to distract, deplete, and weaken your heart and foolishly invite other things into whatever your focus should be? While there are many things in this life that may not be “wrong” or inherently sinful in and of themselves, we are commanded to honestly and humbly consider things that could become hindrances to your walk with the Lord by competing for your focus, time, and attention.
Where do I even start…? you might be thinking to yourself. The answer is clearly given in the example of Jesus described in Hebrews 12:2, which says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (NLT). We keep the eyes of our heart on Jesus wisely and courageously, knowing that He is the champion of our faith. HE is the One who we respond to and we live for. This verse shows us that Jesus, too, had to look to something: the joy set before Him. Ladies, this is not an invitation to arduous living. But it is serious. Ephesians 5:15 commands, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise.” Responding to the seriousness of our calling as Christ-followers invites us, too, to consider the joy set before us. With wise, strengthened, encouraged hearts, our lives take on the joyful life of Christ more and more!
TIME TO REFLECT
- Take some time to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. How does having a heart of wisdom go hand-in-hand with cultivating an encouraged heart in the Lord? What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about this?
- Hebrews 12:1 says, “So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back” (NCV). What is God asking you to “remove from your life” right now? Have you found something that, over time, has begun to distract, deplete, and weaken the focus of your heart?
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)