Prepare Your Hearts
By Lois J. Stucky (1928 – 2014)
In a world that is increasingly rejecting God’s authority and wandering farther from His ways, He, in His divine, undying love yet yearns to save great multitudes of wayward mankind from going recklessly on to utter and eternal destruction. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Surely He is a God of grace and mercy beyond our comprehension. Let us give Him great praise and thanks for being the wonderful God that He is! And let us grasp the opportunity to participate with Him through intercession, in what His mercy and grace will bestow on this generation if there is repentance.
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
An important question to ask ourselves is: “Am I prepared to be an effective intercessor?”
We read in Psalm 24:3-4: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
Think of Moses who was called up into the mountain to meet with God and to stand before Him on behalf of the sinning people. God told Moses, “Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai and present thyself there to Me in the top of the mount.” Moses obeyed and in the mount he interceded for the people. God’s gracious response was, “Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible [awesome] thing that I will do with thee” (Ex. 34:2, 10). If we make ourselves ready to effectively intercede for the church and the world, who knows what God will do through worldwide prayer?
In First Samuel 7:3 we read of a time of spiritual declension among the people of Israel, and the godly Prophet Samuel urged them to put away their sin of idolatry. He said to them, and we can believe it was with authority and earnestness: “Return unto the Lord with all your hearts, put away the strange gods…and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only....” When the people repented and forsook their idolatry, Samuel cried to the Lord on their behalf, and God heard Samuel’s prayer and worked deliverance for His people.
Idolatry is a sin that even Christians must guard against. You may find those words offensive. But consider that an idol in our life can take many forms. An idol is something we put ahead of God. We need to be ever watchful. We can put our own selves ahead of God. We can choose our own pleasure or ease or indulgence rather than denying ourselves to serve the Lord.
I read these searching statements in an issue of Herald of His Coming printed some years ago: “So long as professed Christians chafe at the restraints of holy living, so long as America’s church life persists in costly and sensuous indulgences, so long as we leave the offense of the Cross out of our religion and seek the ways of selfish pleasure – just so long will millions of human souls languish and suffer in spiritual darkness and direst of physical anguish.
“May we not pray for a revival which will bring us to hear again the call of Christ to the standard of His own living: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’ (Matt. 16:24).”
Yes, might we judge ourselves by the Bible standards, by Christ’s standards, and not by what we see around us, even in the church. God is very gracious and does not give us impossible standards. Christ sets before us the perfect example. He does not demand it, but He asks us to follow Him. The choice is ours. He is worthy of a sincere and a willing, “Yes, Lord.” He asks much, but He gives much to His followers who endeavor wholeheartedly to follow Him. Is it time for some of us to make a new consecration of ourselves and our all to our Lord to follow Him more closely?
We all have choices to make regularly – will I indulge myself or deny myself? Here I personally feel the need for the mighty help of God. I think of a pastor who denied himself opportunities that came to him for enjoyable fellowship on Saturday evenings, because he wanted to be meditative in those hours, and to get a good night of rest before engaging in responsibilities in God’s house the next morning. I know of a missionary who regularly denied himself of fellowship and food with his family on Sunday morning to give himself to fasting and prayer before his ministry to the congregation.
“Prepare your hearts.” We ought to live in preparedness all the time. Be prepared to pray at any time. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). The intercessor’s prayer for himself could be: “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Psa. 119:133).
Prepared for the Master’s Use
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we have his words of wisdom and challenge to his beloved younger co-worker: “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:20-21).
Oh, to be a vessel fit for the Master’s use and prepared unto every good work! This is an honorable aspiration, considering that our Master is the exalted One who now sits on heaven’s throne, at the right hand of God. It is an aspiration that is costly also. As the throne cost our Savior the painful crucifixion of the Cross, so it costs His followers the crucifixion of the old man with its self-centeredness. “Not I, but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
Let us not spare ourselves, but prepare our hearts; let’s participate in God’s work through earnest prayers from a heart cleansed by Jesus’ blood. And let’s remember that in doing so we are preparing ourselves for the day of Christ’s coming as well! “Be...ready,” Jesus said (Matt. 24:44). His words ought never to be taken lightly. Yes, let us prepare our hearts!