I have some Christian friends who are really being put through some tough times. I mean they are going through not just a storm in life but full all-out hurricanes that have spawned tornadoes to blow through their homes and families! I pray for them and listen when they need to unload and try my best to be encouraging but let’s face it, when you are in the midst of a hurricane of emotions and problems and situations you are living every day in crisis-mode. As I think about the problems my friends are facing I am reminded of one common thread in their stories and that is that they encountered a deceitful person who seems bent on destroying them. At the very basic core of these situations is that person who hid their real heart from my friends and as a result the hurricane came with no warning and is leaving a path of destruction behind. For my friend’s life will never be the same again but they know that God is in the midst of the storm with them and are leaning heavily upon the strength that only God can provide to endure and persevere through this storm. What I wonder from all of this is how can we really know the heart of another, what signs can we look for when making the judgement call of whether to let this person into our life or to keep them away from us. How do we judge another’s heart? As always I turn to the Bible for advice.
Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. “For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. Jeremiah 17: 5-10, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
So what are we learning from this passage? We are to trust in God for everything and not in people because people have sick hearts and do sick things. So does that mean that we are to never be around people again? No! What this passage teaches us is that no matter what our hopes and dreams are we are to be sure that our motives are in line with God’s hope for us. So what is God’s hope for us? God’s hope is that we trust Him for everything, every desire, every need, every hope, because God knows what we truly need. A person that seeks after their own desires is not a person that seeks after God. So when we are making friends with others we need to look for signs in them that they love God and want to live a righteous life before we allow them to get close to us in friendship. Let’s face facts, in today’s society and culture there are way more people living with no thought of what God may think of their life and far too few who are living with God’s moral compass as their guide. This first part of the passage describes the cursed person as a bush in the desert and as someone who won’t prosper. I think we can look past the obvious here and realize that the prosperity may not be economical but spiritual and emotional. The bush in the desert is showing no signs of life, spiritual life, that is.
The second part of this passage is contrasting the cursed person with the blessed person and what is the first thing we are to look for, what will be obvious? We are to see that the blessed person is a seeker after the things of God and of God. This person will have many good deeds blossoming from their tree of life and they will be bearing much good fruit. They will be spiritually alive and active in the things of God. What a difference from the dry parched bush in the desert that is really choking without spiritual waters to depend upon. This person won’t fear the times of difficulty because they will be well grounded in the Lord and will have deep roots to sustain life during times of drought. This person will be stable and trustworthy and kind and good. There are many who may look good in life but when you see them go through the seasons of life you will see what kind of fruit they bear, do they bear good fruit or bitter fruit or no fruit at all? This brings to me a really good point which is that it takes time for fruit to bear. When a tree is first planted it doesn’t bear fruit right away. In fact many fruit trees take several years to grow and develop a sustainable root system before they produce any fruit. I believe that we can learn from this analogy and what we learn is to slow down in making a new relationship. If the person you are dating or getting to know is willing to wait for you then you can just about bet that they will be stable. But far too often we fall in love and we get in a great hurry to get married and we don’t really take the time to observe several seasons pass to see if the person we love is really a person of quality and stability and a gift from God. Why is it important to slow down a relationship and take time to really get to know one another before marriage? The third part of this passage gives us the answer.
The heart of people can’t be trusted. Many people deceive themselves and others into thinking that they are really good and full of integrity but God sees the truth. To be honest I don’t understand how we lie to ourselves and then believe our own lies or how we lie to others and they believe our lies. But it happens to all of us. We tell ourselves that we deserve the very best and so we look for the right person to make that belief come true. Or we think we don’t deserve a good relationship at all so we look for someone as broken as we are to either rescue or to make us feel better about ourselves. Many people just want someone who they can dominate and control so that they fulfil their own belief that they are not powerless in this world. Others want to create chaos in people’s lives because they feel so out of control themselves and think anyone good can’t be better than they are so they have to knock them down. In other words, the motive that is hidden in the heart is often not apparent to any of us as to why another person is attracted to us and that is why we need to look to God for guidance in our relationships with others. Perhaps that is why I don’t allow many into my inner circle of friends. I always seem to be an observer in life before jumping into getting to know others. Perhaps I am just plain weird. Yet this passage is not speaking about marriage and to understand it more fully we need to finish reading.
A glorious throne on high from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary. O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise. Look, they keep saying to me, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come now!” But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You, Nor have I longed for the woeful day; You Yourself know that the utterance of my lips Was in Your presence. Do not be a terror to me; You are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let those who persecute me be put to shame, but as for me, let me not be put to shame; Let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed. Bring on them a day of disaster, And crush them with twofold destruction! Jeremiah 17: 12-18, (NASB).
Jeremiah was chosen by God to be a prophet and to warn the nation of Israel that they were on the verge of being destroyed because they were unfaithful to God by disobeying the commands and Law given to them. You can imagine how popular he was among the people of Israel, and as you might imagine they persecuted him severely. No wonder Jeremiah was cautious as to whom he allowed into his inner circle as friend. We need to be as cautious as Jeremiah because the same liar in the hearts of people during Jeremiah’s time is in the hearts of people today, and that is Satan. Only God can reveal the heart of a person and understand whether the person is a child of His or a child of Satan. We don’t have that power but we do have guidance in many places in the Bible as to what to look for when allowing people into our lives as friends or potential spouses. For my friends who are in the midst of hurricanes that are spawning tornadoes I encourage you to spend time reading the book of Proverbs and the book of Psalms and to read the New Testament to learn to have a discerning heart, one that looks deeper than the personality of others and to be a searcher of truth and run when you don’t see good fruit in a person. There are many scriptures telling us not to judge others, (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37 & 41, John 8:7, Romans 2:1, 1 Corinthians 4:5) and there are many scriptures teaching us to love one another, (John 15:12 & 17, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 3:11). We need to also remember that while we don’t judge others and we are to love people we are also to stay away from false teachers who are decisive and argumentative people. I believe that anyone who is decisive or argumentative is probably a false teacher!
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:16-20, (NASB).
Do you see that while we are not to judge others and we are to be loving to everyone we are also to have some discernment and wisdom in taking the time to observe someone, to get to know them and to see what their core beliefs really are as people and as Christians. I think the operative idea here is “time” because it takes time for someone’s motives to surface and when we see that their motive isn’t in our best interest we need to have nothing more to do with them. It is a hard teaching but it is also a necessary one today. We can trust God for everything in our lives. Perhaps that is why I am not dating not because I am too old, although I probably am too old, but because I am waiting upon God to provide that man and if that man never comes to get to know me then I will live as well as I can as a single woman. I know that God is watching over me and I trust He knows best! You can trust God too.