Seek with Your Whole Heart
Let’s go back to Jerusalem in approximately 605 BC. The city was living under the specter of disaster. The Babylonian armies would soon press the attack and destroy the city of Jerusalem. Soon the people of Israel would be carried off into captivity in Babylon. Into this situation the Lord God placed his prophet, Jeremiah. The prophet had the difficult task of proclaiming God’s message to a city and nation who rebelled against God and would soon face the consequences of rebellion. Jeremiah proclaimed God’s message of surrender. He told the king and leaders to surrender to the Babylonian king. They did not appreciate the prophet. They wanted only to hear what they wanted to hear. They did not want to hear from God.
Into this situation Jeremiah wrote this message from the Lord God: “’For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11-14). In the face of disaster, God spoke a message of hope. Did they believe the Lord? No, the leaders were in a panic and turned to their own counsel. They did not listen to God, nor did they believe he spoke through Jeremiah.
Through Jeremiah the prophet, God said these striking words: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…” This is a promise the people of Israel could have found great comfort in if they had the will to believe God. It is a promise we can have great comfort in if we have the will to believe God. Search for him and you will find him. If you seek him with all your heart, he will reveal himself to you.
I have a copy of an interesting book written by the philosopher, Bertrand Russell. He was a well known British philosopher. The book is entitled, “Why I am not a Christian.” When I read it I thought I’d learn more about philosophical arguments against God. However, it contains the same old stale arguments that really don’t hold water. In one chapter, he wrote that if he would one day stand before God and God asked him why he never put his faith in him, he would say that he had not been given enough evidence to believe. Dr. Russell was an atheist who will one day stand before the Lord. He lived 97 years and saw no evidence on earth of God. He was unconvinced.
Why do some people go through life as Dr. Russell and see no evidence of God while others see abundant evidence all around them? As a believer, I am often taken back by the unbelief in the world and the church. People can be in similar situations and one can see and acknowledge the Lord’s presence while others don’t see anything. It grieves my heart when I hear some church people speak about fortune and luck. They get into situations where others clearly see the Lord’s actions but they attribute it to something other than God. Someone might say, “It was fortunate that the doctor found the tumor when he did.” Others might say, “I was lucky,” when they were blessed by God or protected from harm. When I was in the Philippines and came within inches of a head-on collision with a truck, we could have said we were lucky. We could have praised the skill of the truck driver. We could have analyzed the situation, measured the distances and the velocity of the vehicles and concluded scientifically that we were lucky. However, we gave thanks to God for his powerful presence. It’s sad when some church people don’t recognize the hand of God in their lives and attribute their successes to fortune or luck.
Jesus commented: “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear (Matthew 13:16).” We will see if our eyes are opened to see and hear if our ears are opened to hearing. However, if our eyes or ears are tuned to the world, to our dying culture, and to folk understandings rather than the Bible, we will not hear or see God. For many, their ears are deafened by the noise around them, and they miss the blessing. At one point in Jesus’ ministry, a voice came from heaven: ”The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him (John 12:29).” The same is true today. Given the same situation, some will hear the voice of God or see God’s hand while others will hear thunder and see no evidence of the Lord’s power and presence.
Why is it so difficult for some to believe in God? Over the years the big discussion has centered on Evolution versus Creation. Some believe the earth and everything on earth, including you and me, came about because of accident, chance and time. Some believe that millions of years ago out of a soup of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen came material which would develop into primitive life forms. They believe that eventually by accident and chance life forms developed into plants and animals. So they would say I stand before you as an accident of nature. I am a carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen unit speaking before other carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen units. That scenario seems more than absurd. We hardly are here by chance, by an accident of nature. It’s not hard to see the hand of the Intelligent Designer, the Lord God, in the universe and in our lives. There are no accidents and there is no such thing as fortune and luck.
Given the evidence for the presence and power of God, the Intelligent Designer of the universe and all that is within it, why does unbelief persist? In answer to this a professor of ethics and philosophy once said, “God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he’s there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do that. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.” (Dr. JP Mooreland) This hiddenness permits us free will and choice. If we had no choice we would be nothing but robots living out the program of our Creator. God has valued us so much he placed us in a world where we have choice and freedom. He does not impose himself on us but invites us to believe, to trust, to have faith. In this way someone can say there is not enough evidence of God while another is overwhelmed with the evidence for God. One can hear God’s voice while another only hears thunder. Yet the Bible tells us that the choice of unbelief has certain negative consequences.
What makes the difference between those who come to belief and those who choose not to believe? Jeremiah tells us that God will reveal himself to those who seek him with their whole heart. He spoke God’s truth when he said, “Then when you call upon me [God] and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13).” A philosophy professor who once taught at the University of Southern California writes, “The issue is, what do we want? The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart, then you will surely find him. Surely find him. It’s the person who wants to know God that God reveals himself to. And if a person does not want to know God—well, God has created the world and the human mind in such a way that he doesn’t have to.” (Dr. Dallas Willard) The difference between those who hear God and those who hear thunder is a matter of will. Those who hear God are those who are seeking him with their whole heart. Those who do not hear God are those who are indifferent to him, have no desire to seek him, or are involved in a half-hearted search.
These are disturbing thoughts. If we do not seek God with our whole heart, we will not find him. If we seek God in a half-hearted manner, we also will not be able to find God. When we sit on the fence with one leg in the world and the other in the kingdom of God, we are seeking God in a half-hearted manner? When church people live worldly lives, is this not a half-hearted attempt? Did you ever do something half-heartedly? We all have. When I do something half-heartedly, I usually do a poor job at it. Did you ever wash a car or clean a house half-heartedly? I’ve been there. You cannot do anything well, including seeking God if you do it in a half-hearted manner. Did you ever see a basketball game where one team played a half-hearted game? To do anything well, we must do it wholeheartedly.
There is plenty of evidence for faith in God. We won’t see or hear God unless we have the will to see and hear him. Belief is a matter of will. We can will to believe or will to be blind to God’s power and presence. God invites us to believe in him. He does not force himself on us. Faith is about a choice, a step of will, a decision to want to know God personally. You can come to church Sunday after Sunday and not experience the presence of God if your seeking is half-hearted. However, if you want to experience the presence and power of God, you will have this experience if you seek him with your whole heart. The search for God is actually easy. He has revealed himself in Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord. To see Jesus is to see God. To hear Jesus is to hear God. However, we still need to pursue him with our whole hearts. The writer of Proverbs (2:3-5) tells us the truth: “If you scream for insight and call loudly for understanding, if you pursue it like you would money, and search it out as you would hidden treasure, then the Lord will be awesome to you, and you will come into possession of the knowledge of God.”
Rev. Michael W. Malone