Oasis Church

A New Year Message

SETTING OUR HEARTS TO SEEK GOD IN 2018

As we come to the end of 2017 and prepare to enter into 2018, we do not have to be anxious about what the new year holds as we know the One who holds time in His hands.

The aim of this write up is to encourage us to set our hearts to seek God more diligently this new year.

Romans 12.3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

According to the above passage, we all have been given a measure of faith. What we do with it depends on us. 2018 Hebrews 11.6 speaks of the importance of faith in pleasing God. It also speaks of the reward of diligence or earnestness in seeking God through this faith. It is diligence in seeking God and exercising our faith that allows the measure of faith we have been given to grow.

2 Peter 1:5-11
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is near-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In the passage above, Peter, by the Holy Spirit, tells us what to do with our measure of faith. We are encouraged to make every effort to add to our faith goodness and to goodness knowledge etc. If we abound in these attributes, we become more effective and productive in our walk with Jesus. Moreover, there is a promise of living in constant victory with a rich welcome into heaven at the end of our earthly ministry. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t just want to settle for a welcome into heaven when there is a possibility of a rich welcome!

The phrase ‘make every effort’ appears twice in this passage and it simply means to be diligent about adding the listed attributes to our faith. Diligence in seeking God is something we all struggle with, some more than others. However, if we are to be the kind of Christians described in this passage, we need to be diligent.

The reason we as Christians struggle with diligence is that our hearts and minds lose focus quickly through being distracted by other things.

Let’s look at how setting our hearts on seeking God can help us be more focussed.

Colossians 3.1-3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

The passage above encourages us to set our hearts and minds on things above. Also, in Psalm 57, David mentions the word 'steadfast' twice for emphasis. The Jewish people repeated words as a way of underlining or writing things in bold to show emphasis. David said 'my heart is set (or steadfast)'. This psalm was written when David was running from Saul as a fugitive and can help explain why David did not kill Saul when he had the opportunity to do so and take over the kingship twice. On one occasion, he was encouraged by his friends who saw it as God giving David's enemy over to him. David, however, refused to do it even when they pleaded for permission to take Saul out themselves. David's heart smote him for even cutting a piece of Saul's garment as proof of how close he was able to get to Saul.

I believe that the reason David did not kill Saul had to do with his heart being set on two things:

  1. Allowing God to be the one that puts him on the throne.
  2. His fear of the Lord and reverence for God's anointing on Saul.

The lesson here is that when we set our hearts on doing certain things and are intentional about it, there is a stronger chance that we get to do them. However, when our hearts are not set or prepared, we are easily distracted.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah identifies the problem Israel has as a lack of their hearts being set on serving God. He challenges them to stop halting between two opinions but rather to make up their minds to serve either God or Baal. This is the problem many Christians have - there is still the halting between two opinions and a tendency to mix things up - love for God and love for the world and other things.

In 2 Timothy 4.10, Paul cries out 'Demas has forsaken me having loved the world and has gone to Thessalonica'. There was something or someone in Thessalonica that must have been competing with the Lord in the heart of Demas. The bible does not tell us what or who however, because Demas' heart was not set on serving the Lord, it was a matter of time before the love of the world won.

1 Chronicles 12.14
He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.

If we read the above passage in context, we see that Rehoboam did evil because his heart was not set on seeking God. When our hearts are not set, we are open to other options. I strongly believe that God is calling us to a new level of diligence in seeking after him. For us to get there, there is a fresh call for us to set our hearts as follows:

  1. On seeking God diligently and consistently.
  2. On intimacy with Him through His word, Spirit and prayer.
  3. On things above (Colossians 3.1)
  4. On pleasing God no matter what.
  5. On serving God by serving his purposes, his people and his kingdom.
  6. On loving people and building relationships.

I believe the above issues to be important as we live at a time when ancient landmarks upon which society is built are being eroded and we are increasingly coming into times when more persecution will arise because of what we believe. If we don't make up our minds now like Daniel and his friends did in Daniel 1.6 about not defiling themselves with the King's delicacies, we are going to be thrown off course.

HOW DO WE SET OUR HEARTS?

1. The Exercise of Our Wills
One of the greatest gifts we have been given is our free will. In setting our hearts, our will is involved, however the setting of our hearts is not sustained by will power. To set or prepare your heart to do anything, you first need to be willing. 2018-2 Philippians 2.12-18 says ‘Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.’

This passage is a good example of how God has his part to play and we have our part to play. We play our part by being willing to set our hearts and God works out the rest.

2. Trusting in God's Ability
As stated above, our will is involved but we cannot sustain diligence or the setting of our hearts by will power. We need to put our trust in God's power and ability to sustain us and to keep us - see Jude 1.24.

We do not trust in our will power or ability but rather in God's ability and power. God's ability is released to us on a daily basis as we fellowship with him and his people.

3. Humility and Dependence
Humility is another essential ingredient for diligence and consistency in our hearts and minds being set. Humility is complete and total dependence on God and not on our prayers, devotion, skills, education, money, knowledge, friendships etc. This is one amazing quality of children - dependence. When we trust and depend on God on a daily basis, we develop a relationship where it is Him or nothing.

4. Being in a Place of Constant Supply
This is a place of intimacy with God where there is a constant supply of oil - see Zechariah 4.1-6. I will speak more on this in 2018.

It is my prayer that this year, God will grant us discernment to know what 'time' it is so that we can buy oil and allow our lamps to burn as bright as ever. This will not happen automatically. We need to set our hearts on seeking God like never before and be the wise ones described in Daniel 12.3 - Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

A downloadable version below.

Attachment