Can you live a whole life with a half heart?

When I see how much heart some people put into the things of the world, and see how little heart Christians put into the eternal things of God, I’m ashamed. It seems that an awful lot of people are obeying some warped command to love the world with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The world is full of buying, selling, striving, competing, bigger, better, faster – it’s an endless race with no lasting winners. And Christians? Well, they plod along behind their Master, trying to please Him, but constantly looking over their shoulder at the things they can’t have anymore – many even scheming about how to get the “best of both worlds”.

Then, to top it off, we’re surprised when God doesn’t use us and wonder if it’s all worth the effort. What so many Christians have lost sight of is the simple fact that God absolutely instructs us, over and over, that we must follow Him with all of our heart! Right now, can you say you’re doing that?

Cut By The Sword

When I was eighteen, I met a Christian at a conference who changed my life. I couldn’t understand what it was about this woman that made her so different. The Lord seemed to talk to her in very real ways, and He specifically guided her in her daily life. After seeing what God was doing in and through her, I realized she was holding a basket of fruit so full it was overflowing onto the floor. And me? I looked down at my basket, empty, except for a few dry leaves. Why was she so different? “I’m a Christian, too” I thought.  “I read my Bible. I believe in God. I’m not doing anything wrong.” I asked her if we could talk at lunch, and she kindly agreed.

As we sat down, it was clear that neither of us were interested in eating. After only a few sentences of conversa­tion, she handed me her Bible which was opened to a particular text. “Here, read this out loud,” she said. I began to read slowly, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jer. 29:13). Tears filled my eyes as I read, and I began to weep, then I began to howl. A sword had pierced through my heart in one thrust. For the first time in a long, long time I could hear the voice of the Lord clearly. “Martin, you have never sought Me with all of your heart. You will never know Me until I am worth everything to you.” It was true. I could hear the wail of my own voice echo through the hall, but I didn’t care – someone had told me the truth.

Does God Mean What He Says?

What the Lord commands is very simple, but very expen­sive. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Since we’ve probably heard that a lot of times, we sometimes want to skip on to some­thing that might appear a little more challenging – but look! We’re commanded to love God with all of our heart! Then he adds all our soul and all our mind as well!

To most of us God is worth loving. But when it comes to “all your heart” … well, that costs too much. The problem is that very few people even attempt being wholehearted in their devotion to the Lord. But the Lord isn’t working out some kind of “deal.” If you seek Him with 45% of your heart, you won’t find 45% of the Lord, you find nothing! “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”, Jeremiah 29:13.

God not only commands what we’re to do, but also how we’re to do it. Everything we do should be done with all of our heart. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). My problem wasn’t so much that I was doing wrong things, but that the “good” I did was halfhearted.

James says, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:8).  He’s unstable because he’s never really decided to do anything. He’s “kind of” decided to do one thing, or “pretty much” decided on another, or maybe “thinking seriously” about something else. I know this is true, because for years I drifted along going nowhere, double-minded and halfhearted. Oh, I had some good ideas and tried to do some things for God, but they were never blessed by the Lord. Up to that time when the Lord spoke to me, I had never fully devoted myself with all my heart to anyone or anything.

How Much Is All Your Heart?

To do something with your heart is to do it with your will. The word for “heart” in the Bible can mean purpose, intention, courage, reason, emotion, and will. So to do something with all of your heart is to make up your mind to go 100% forward in your decision without wavering, and to give all you’ve got to give.

Look at what some people live (and die) for, and how they do it – the football receiver running full-bore downfield, a flying dive for the ball, barely catching it he tumbles into the end zone, crushed by two tacklers … a businessman sells his large house to buy a smaller one, investing the money into a growing business, he gets up early, works relentlessly, goes to bed late … the rock star singing at the top of his lungs, straining for the notes with sweat pouring down his face and neck … These people may not be seeking the right things, but you must admit that they’re doing it with all their heart.

The problem that keeps so many Christians stuck in the mud today is the same problem King Amaziah had… “And he did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chron. 25:2). Even if you’re pointed in the right direction, this kind of attitude will keep you bogged down and continually ineffective.

The devil doesn’t worry about you serving God, as long as you don’t do it with your whole heart. Disobedience isn’t just doing the wrong thing; it can be doing the right thing, but the wrong way.

God’s Forgotten Instructions

I’ve seen that throughout the Bible the Lord directs us to act with all our heart in everything we do, and He continually blesses godly men and women for their wholehearted devo­tion. We’re instructed and often commanded to:

SEEK God with all our heart (Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13; 1 Chron. 22:19).

OBEY Him with all our heart (Deut. 26:16-19; 1 Kings 8:61).

SERVE Him with all our heart (Josh. 22:5; 1 Sam. 12:20; 2 Chron. 31:21).

REPENT with all our heart (1 Sam. 7:3; Joel 2:12).

LOVE God with all our heart (Deut. 6:4-5; 30:6; Matt. 22:37).

REJOICE with all our heart (Zeph. 3:14).

GIVE THANKS with all our heart (Psalm 9:1; 86:12).

Everything is to be done with all our heart to the Lord, but why? What’s wrong with “most of your heart” for the Lord? Let me put it this way. Has anyone ever apologized to you with somewhat less than a whole heart? “I’m really sorry I yelled at you and called you a fool in front of everyone, but my toast was burnt this morning and the car wouldn’t start and my right shoe is a little tight and…” How do you respond to that? If someone apologizes, they should do it with all their heart, take whatever blame is theirs – not try to mix a little repentance in with a swirl of excuses. We reject that kind of apology, and so does the Lord.

How about marriage? You’re sitting outside on a warm summer night with your beloved, both of you looking deeply into each other’s eyes, and you hear a whisper, “I love you with most of my heart.” How would you feel? You’d be crushed! And rightly so. You’d wonder where the rest of their heart was. The Lord isn’t asking too much by insisting on our wholehearted devotion. If God isn’t worth your whole heart, who is? If serving Jesus isn’t worth your whole heart, how will you ever convince someone else He’s worth theirs?

If Jesus is the living God, the Lord of lords, then treat Him that way with your whole heart. But if He’s some religious guy in history, forget the whole thing! Don’t bother with some halfhearted, lame service to God. When Jesus came and walked the earth, He gave His whole heart to us. He never complained or dragged His feet, all the while putting up with misery and discomfort, letting people beat Him and spit in His face, all for us. Can we give Him any less than our whole heart and still look Him in the eye with a clear conscience?

I don’t mean we’re to be wholehearted in just spiritual things, either. We must give Him our wholehearted devotion on our job, when we study the Bible, when we sing, when we eat, in our recreation, it must be with all our heart. Not only will it be pleasing to the Lord, but we’ll end up doing a far better job, and we’ll even enjoy what we’re doing. 

The Race

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24). We’re all to run “in such a way” that we may win. What way is that? With all our heart!

A gifted student may receive high grades while only halfheartedly attending to his studies. But getting a good grade doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve pleased God. Jesus said that the widow who gave only two small coins gave more than the others, because she gave all she had (Mark 12:41-44). God isn’t looking at the outer man. He’s looking straight at the heart.

Run in a such a way that you may win – serve others, work, pray, rest, witness, worship – do it with all your heart to God. Make use of the opportunities and resources He’s given you. The one who runs the race halfhearted is a loser, no matter what place he comes in!

Are you waiting for God to use you? Are you waiting for Him to reach out and lead you into all the wonderful plans He has for your life as a servant of the King? Maybe God is waiting for you to give Him the balance of your heart – the part that you’ve been holding back for yourself. Either He’s Lord of all, or not at all. May He be able to fulfill this word in your life.

by Martin Bennett

Recommended Resources:

Commitment: Who Do You Liken Yourself To? (Bible study)

(#132) Commitment (audio)

The Feelings Fallacy

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