Week of May 5

The Cure for the Hole in Our Hearts

Read: 1 Chronicles 16; Psalm 106; Matthew 19

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’”
Matthew 19:16, ESV


Accessing many of the most beautiful and meaningful places on earth requires getting into a boat and riding there. I liken the chapters that include and follow Matthew 16 to a boat ride on increasingly stormy seas. The aim is to reach the place of ultimate meaning, which is eternal life. I view this section as metaphorical “stormy seas,” filled with the choppy waves of increased challenges and questionings of Jesus (19:1-12). We also see the consistency with which He communicates “who” may be brought to safety (19:13-15, childlike welcoming of the Father; vv. 16-30, salvation not merited, but by grace). Christ shows us a laser-focus on completing the Gospel requirements at the Cross and nothing will deter Him from fulfilling that purpose. He informs our witness today by the example He set.

The Meaning of the Text

Questions that hold eternal implications
We need to place Matthew 19 into proper perspective. This chapter presents us with a clear view of the situation Christ often faced (cf. Matthew 10:34-39, esp. v. 39). There was the moral issue of divorce (19:1-12), a passage on children during an emphasis on little ones at church (19:13-15), and the rich young ruler (19:16-30). We will consider our focal passage through the lens of the kingdom of God (19:28-30).

The religious leaders asked adversarial questions of the Lord, but the rich young man approached Jesus sincerely. He realized that all he had done to bring satisfaction in life had not brought fulfillment with it! Think for a moment about how we define the pinnacle of success. This man was young, wealthy, and held a prominent position—perhaps a synagogue ruler (cf. NAC). He had achieved it all, but found that “all” was not enough. He truly wanted to know how he might close the hole that was left in his heart (19:16). His search was for ultimate meaning, and Matthew shows us that it is wrapped up in “eternal life.” He, like all humanity, longed for the transcendent because he had been made that way by his Creator!
The benefit of a soul crisis
The hole in our hearts. We also have been made that way by our Heavenly Father. Our generation calls this moment an “existential crisis.” Have you ever been in such a position to finally achieve your dreams, only then to realize that something else was lacking? Or, have you sought mightily to fill the aching void in your soul with things that only enslaved you and left you still empty? Zygmunt Baumen writes about the lost-ness of our current age. He states, “it is now left to individuals to seek, find and practise [sic] individual solutions to socially produced troubles, and to try all that through individual, solitary actions, while being equipped with tools and resources that are blatantly inadequate to the task” (Bauman, Liquid Times, 14).

The One who fills the hole. This situation should never be the case! Jesus has an entire kingdom awaiting those who yield their lives to Him in full trust (19:25-26; “with God [i.e. the transcendent] all things are possible”). Jesus tells each of us that God can and does “regenerate” hearts and makes it possible to find meaning in this life and to have complete assurance that life with the Father lies ahead.

The Message for Your Heart

I’ll never forget the warm summer afternoons in my childhood neighborhood. There were no fences between the yards and my friends and I would spend hours moving from yard to yard to play. I recall the first time something seriously beyond our control took place in that idyllic world. One of my young friends was a girl who shared some earthshaking news to us while we were swinging on a swing set in her back yard. The setting was poetic because she has been diagnosed with a hole in her heart that would require serious surgery. In the 1960s this sort of condition was terrifying. Her life swung between carefree to worry-filled in that moment. She soon had heart surgery to insert a patch over the hole. Her life was saved.

Zygmunt Baumen, the social theorist mentioned earlier in this devotional, believes that part of the problem with humanity is “fragmented lives.” He writes that this fragmentation, in our minds, stimulates “lateral” rather than “vertical” orientations. This perspective means that we are looking from side-to-side for peace in every way possible—e.g. possessions, status, relationships—but never look up for the transcendent. Why? Because, for many, God is dead, or at least He is unconcerned. This represents, in my view, the hole in human hearts. The role of Christ’s disciples, like us, is to help people make the moral connection between the liquidity of this life and the solid foundation of eternal life. It is not as challenging as it may seem—to fill the hole with Christ’s gift of a new heart.

For Thought and Action

1. Ready for a climb? I believe that people who are experiencing “lost-ness” are actually vertically challenged. They have lost their view of the transcendent. Ask the Lord to help you to be seen as one who points up to Christ, their Deliverer.

2. For Families: Parents, we can help our children to develop habits of “looking to God,” or “looking up” (vertically) as a life-pattern. Even though their world pulls them to distraction by things around them (horizontal), each day their hearts can be lifted to Him. They can pray when troubled. They can praise when thankful. They can ask for guidance when undecided. They can be glad in His presence all day long.

To help them in this habit-forming, make paper signs of encouraging and tape them to the ceilings of your home: above their beds, the kitchen table, the game and living rooms, above the front door, and even the garage. Let these signs be encouragements from God to your kids. They can look up, see God’s Word to them, and live in His promises as they study and play and share Jesus with their friends.
Here are some verses to help with the ceiling-signs:
  • “Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
  • “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (1 Chronicles. 16:11)
  • “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  • “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)
  • Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)
  • “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)
  • “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:3)
  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock