Some of you young people probably won’t appreciate the name “Christian Barnard.” And perhaps some of you adults might have forgotten the name as well. Christian Barnard was the son of a Christian minister in the country of South Africa about a century ago. But he didn’t follow his father into the ministry or as a missionary, or as a writer of Christian books. For a while Barnard was the world’s most famous cardiologist – heart surgeon. Fifty-five-year-old Louis Washkansky was dying of heart disease. And then Denise Ann Darval was killed in an auto accident. On December 3, 1967, Dr. Barnard took the heart of Denise and put it into the chest of Mr. Washkansky. It was the world’s first heart transplant – over fifty years ago. It came in a day when open heart surgery and by-passes were experimental and highly dangerous. Following that surgery, for nearly three weeks the eyes of the world were on Louis Washkansky, before he finally died of pneumonia. But those 18 days were a medical miracle and entered the annals of history.
Today, probably all of us know people who have had open heart surgery or had an artery by-pass. It is so common today that a few months later we hardly talk about it. We have heard about stints – little gizmos used to keep arteries open and blood flowing. And then there is the pace-maker, a technological marvel planted in people’s chests with wires to the heart. This machine is designed to make sure that the heart beats at the rate prescribed by the doctors. At any time, technicians can run a transmitter across the recipient’s body to program the pace-maker to quicken or slow the number of heart-beats. And then in addition to the standard pace-maker, they now come with a built in defibrillator, designed to shock the heart back to attention if it decides to get lazy or start fooling around.
I suppose that when someone has had open heart surgery, replacing a valve and having a pacemaker installed, he might say, “My heart is fixed.” But that isn’t the same thing that David was saying in verse 7 of his Psalm. He wasn’t declaring that his physical heart had been repaired – they didn’t do that in his day. And he wasn’t speaking spiritually either, testifying that God had given him a new spiritual heart. I would hope that all of us might be able to say that, but that isn’t purpose of this short message.
What was it that David meant when he used those words – “My heart is fixed”? Fortunately for us the Book of Psalms was written in Hebrew. The word that David originally used had a very specific meaning. He said, “My heart is steadfast, it is resolute, it is determined.” David was resolved to serve and praise the Lord, even when doing so would be difficult or dangerous.
This has always been an important part of the Christian heart – the saint’s heart. But in this day of religious minimalism, spiritual laxity – it is necessary to stress it as if it was some sort of ground-breaking surgery. It is easy to serve the Lord and praise Him when all is going well. Even doubting Thomas and John Mark could praise the Lord, when they were filled with God’s blessings. When all is hunky-dory, even Saul and the nation of Israel could worship Jehovah. In fact, just put enough oil on the worship machinery we can get it to appear to do anything. It is easy to praise the Lord in the days of prosperity.
But when David uttered these words, things were far from smooth in his life. These words were written when Saul’s army was scouring sea and land searching for the young prince. David felt like bug with a can Raid after him. He was sleeping in damp caves; begging for food; yearning for his family; thirsting for a sip of water from the well at Bethlehem. Obviously from the context, those were days of extreme difficulty and oppression. In the midst of this, however, David not only spoke the words of our scripture, but he meant them too.
But if I might add: not only is it hard to say, “My heart is fixed” when life is filled with heartache and misery, but it is difficult when the road is smooth – but boring. Today is a day when Christians’ lives are filled with general blessings, good doctors and government checks, and yet there are so many earthly distractions it becomes hard to be resolute, committed or even focused. It is hard to have a fixed heart, when that heart is running from point to point, object to object, love to love. Those objects might be things creating fear in us, or they might cause us great early joy. In either case we need to say to our hearts – “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”
Consider David’s fixed heart.
Obviously, when the Bible uses the word “heart,” it means far more than just the machine pumping our blood. The surgeon necessary to fix David’s kind of heart was God’s Holy Spirit – not a high-paid cardiologist. And the necessary surgical nurse must, in fact, have been David himself – the owner of that heart. Proverbs 4:23 – “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. (You must) keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Our THOUGHTS, whether righteous or wicked, proceed out of heart. – Proverbs 23:6-7: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.” The heart is the source of GOOD and EVIL actions from men. Matthew 15:17-18 – “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” The heart provides the SEED of all that we SAY – Luke 6:43-45: “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” And the heart is the HOME OF OUR FAITH – Romans 10:8-10: “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
So not only is the heart the SEAT of LOVE, but the seat of PURPOSE and ACTION too. Therefore a “fixed heart” means a personal steadfastness in determination. Or to put it more succinctly; the heart is the place of consecration to Lord. It comes down to familiar, hackneyed, trite subject of dedication to God. David was dedicated to the task of praising God, worshiping God, loving God. And it didn’t matter to him what the circumstances of his life happened to be, he was going to be faithful to his responsibilities as a saint of the Lord.
“Well, that’s fine for him; he had the special blessing of God. What’s the point for me?” The point is, if our Christianity isn’t continuous and uniform, it isn’t worth more a dime with 3 pennies change. God wants us in a fixed, determined state – without vacillation. That is the way HE is, and that is the way He wants US to be. Even if the body grows weak, the heart can and must remain strong; it is key to everything personal. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Wait a minute preacher – that is speaking about something future. So what? Shouldn’t we be like our Saviour in all the things that we see in Him today?
But how jack-rabbit-like is Christianity in this final decade before the Lord’s return. On Sunday our Christianity is working “A-OK,” but by Tuesday it’s sputtering. We have stopped praising God, and we stopped humming the hymns that we heard on Sunday. By Thursday, we are hardly praying at all. And on Saturday we prove ourselves to be hypocrites. This week we’re borrowing tapes of gospel preaching, and the next we can’t read our own Bible. One day we are Bible-loving Baptists, two weeks later we’re Methodists, and a year after that we’ve joined the Unitarians or the Seventh Day Adventists.
If we are spasmodic in our spiritual lives, we become vulnerable to occasional spiritual seizures. Some people praise Roger Williams as a man who helped to bring religious liberty to America. Others condemn him because he claimed to be a Baptist, then cast that claim away. Roger Williams was “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Until many of us have no respect for the man whatsoever. Unless we are grounded on the Rock who is Christ, we are liable to swept off our feet. This lady was one day taught the name of God; she went from there to become a Jehovah’s Witness. That man was blessed by what he thought was a miracle of God, and now the only thing that he can talk about is speaking in tongues. And that young person, who refused to memorize scripture, is plagued with a sin-caused disease.
You and I are so much better off than King David, because we have the whole Book of God. But very few modern saints have fixed hearts and can get the best out of that perfect Book. Something is wrong.
One reason for this is the distraction are the difficulties and hindrances of our lives.
Of course, it is completely natural for the carnal man to draw away from spiritual excitement. For the natural man, whose heart is not in tune with the things of the Lord; he doesn’t care. Unbelievers are carnal – they have not the mind of the Lord. “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” This is the natural condition of the natural man.
But Paul went on there in Romans 8 talking to professing Christians like us: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Christians have a spiritual nature which the unbeliever cannot possess or even understand. But that doesn’t mean that Christians can’t live just as carnally as the lost man. Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians for exactly that: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” When we let that carnality into our hearts, we can no longer can say with David, “My heart is fixed.”
Oh, how real is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Life naturally drains away our energy; like the Holy Spirit, it is never lost, but it can move away. There is always less and less available for our use; both physically and spiritually. Unless we are constantly replenishing the spiritual power in our lives, we will suffer a spiritual of exhaustion. This is why most saints of God are up, then down, up, down, up, down. The very exercising of our emotions tends extinguish those emotions. It’s like money; the use of our money, robs us of that money. Our old sinful natures hinder us from having fixed hearts.
But then as I say, our religious duties rob us as well. In other words, it’s easy to become hypnotized by our Christian experience until we find ourselves in a rut. When our spiritual input is suffering, pretty soon everything else suffers. You will get out of serving the Lord only as much as you prime pump for that service. And in the flesh it is hard to stay excited about serving God. But wasn’t it harder for David? God had said that he’d be king of Israel, but when he wrote this Psalm he was living in coyote dens. “Yes God, I know what You promised, but that was six years ago and look at me now!” Did the slowness of God’s promise disturb David? Yes, it may have, but only when he permitted it. “My heart is fixed on the Lord, my heart is fixed on you!” Distractions are distractions only when they are indulged. Sorrows and trials can either disturb our faith or build our faith depending on the fixedness of our hearts. The disposition of the heart determines which way our lives will go.
So then, lets think about that determination.
David’s heart was FIXED BY TRUSTING in the Lord. Turn to Psalm 112: – “Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious,and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.”
To fix a crumbling heart we must first locate a rock upon which to anchor it. Then we must bore holes into that rock, getting to knowing its core and its substance. We must study the person of our Saviour and our Heavenly Father. We must gaze into the face of God by knowing the Word of God. Third, we need to sink anchors into the core of that rock – making the Lord a vital part of ourselves. And then we must build on that foundation – so that nothing can sweep us away. Jesus said, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” The wise man built his house upon the rock.
We all need to admit it: – in order have fixed hearts, it takes effort. It is dependent on constant PRAYER – which is what this Psalm is – a prayer. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” James asked, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” A fixed heart depends on prayer.
And real prayer depends on genuine FAITH – our firm trust. It is the defensive weapon for the fiery darts of the wicked. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” “According to your faith, be it unto you.” God keeps those in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him – fixed upon Him. In this case, the Lord will bless as we meet the conditions of those blessings. That fixed heart depends on faith, prayer and knowledge of the promises of Lord.
And then a fixed heart exercises itself PRAISE. – Psalm 57:7-11 – “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.”
When Barnabas visited Antioch, he exhorted all the saints there that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Let me do the same: “Therefore my beloved brethren be ye steadfast unmoveable, always abounding ….”