Having an Undivided Heart
Psalm 86:11 says “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” The phrase that stands out to me is David’s request for an “undivided heart.” If you know David, you may know that he was a godly man yet one who struggled with his flesh. When we think of David, we may think of him as a shepherd, a king, a man of great courage who had a special relationship with the Lord. But we also may think of his illicit relationship with Bathsheba, his deception of Uriah, and his love of war. On the one hand, he was a man after God’s own heart. But on the other, he was an adulterer, murderer, warmonger. David struggled with a divided heart.
Our brains may rule our head but our hearts rule our emotions. So unless we keep our emotions and desires in check, we too may struggle with a divided heart. In Hosea 10:1-2, the prophet Hosea says “Israel empties his vine; he brings forth fruit for himself. According to the multitude of his fruit, he has increased the altars; according to the bounty of his land they have embellished his sacred pillars. Their heart is divided; now they are held guilty.” Hosea is saying that God blessed Israel with material abundance, but they spent it on themselves and built pagan altars. We have the tendency to do the same thing at times. We receive a blessing from the Lord (be it money, success, a promotion, a relationship, etc) and then we turn it into an idol, something more important than God himself.
Living with a divided heart means we live with inconsistency and duplicity. We say that Jesus is Lord but remain beholden to the things of the world. It’s like being a citizen in a kingdom with two kings. Your allegiance cannot be with both. Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Jesus is saying we cannot serve both God and the culture around us. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the idols in our lives because they’re not necessarily bad things. However, Pastor Tim Keller says in his book Counterfeit Gods, “If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, your meaning in life, your identity, then it is an idol.” Our hearts get taken by such things. Another way to look at it is, apart from God, whatever controls your emotions and dictates how you feel about life is probably an idol.
To have an undivided heart, God must be above it all. Back in Psalm 86, David says we must fear the Lord. This doesn’t mean we are to be afraid of God. But we are to revere and honor Him above everything else. The heart is often slow to change, slower than the mind. So we need to put ourselves in places where our hearts can be shaped by God (in His Word, in worship, in prayer, in service, in fellowship). In Matthew 12:25, Jesus says “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Like Israel in the Old Testament, it is futile to live with a divided heart. Therefore, as individuals and as a church, let us learn to live each day with consistency and integrity in our devotion to God.