Who has your children’s hearts? Norm Wakefield shared about the biblical understanding of the heart in part 1 of this article, which you can read here. Part 2 shares some key Scriptures that give insight into how the heart functions and what that means for the parent-child relationship.
All the issues of life flow out of the condition of the heart. The first scripture is Proverbs 4:23,“Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (NASB). The King James Version reads, “for from it flow the issues of life.” Quite often parents make a big deal over the issues of life instead of dealing with the issue of life — the heart condition and direction.
A couple of analogies make the point. A fireman trying to put out a fire fueled by a gas leak should first turn off the gas. A medical doctor trying to boost the immune system of a patient without removing the source of disease will eventually lose his patient. In the same way, a parent wishing to correct a child’s behavior must first deal with what God is doing in the child’s heart through that particular situation.
After almost 32 years of ministry to young people and families, I’ve observed that parents think the problems with their teens revolve around outward issues such as the music they listen to or the fact that their daughter wears too much makeup or their son is absorbed in computer games and movies. Although these things are concerns, they are merely symptoms of deeper issues of the heart.
Notice this truth taught in the gospels by the Lord Jesus Christ: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, and as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).
God has made the human heart to be the source of all our actions and words. This leads us to the second insight.
Whatever one treasures, the heart will be focused there. What we treasure in our hearts eventually bears fruit in our lives. In the Sermon on the Mount, regarding the human heart, Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). We bring forth out of our treasure either evil or good. If we treasure the eternal, then good springs forth. But if we treasure that which is temporal, evil follows.
Many people apparently treasure fun and temporal fulfillment. As I’ve mentioned in the message, “The Calling Out of Sons,” if fathers don’t call out their sons into manhood in God’s way, these young men will develop an attitude that life means being happy and comfortable. Daughters may also come to the same conclusion.
If that is true, we can expect our children to think that their greatest hope of fulfillment will be attached to something or someone giving them instant gratification. Unfortunately, those things offering immediate gratification are usually not the best for them.
What is it that attracts your child or teen to the world? I believe it is the immediate hope it offers for him or her to feel fulfilled or happy. This leads us to the third insight into the dynamics of the human heart.
God made the human heart to hope and be full. What all of us really treasure is hope fulfilled, a tree of life as Proverbs 13:12 states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” I believe this proverb refers to the heart of the natural man. It describes what our unregenerated children and teens experience.
If they have come to know Jesus Christ, then they can learn that He is the Tree of Life who fills our desires. The child of God learns that eternal hope is worth waiting for. Although that hope is deferred, his heart eagerly waits for it as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:25. One of the benefits of the new birth is that ability to wait and hope in God to fulfill His promises as we obey Him.
But children usually have difficulty holding onto hope for a long time. They don’t want hope deferred. It makes their selfish hearts uneasy.
Sickness (of hope deferred) is disease. Learning to endure disease while fixing our hope on a future blessing takes maturity. Adults who haven’t learned this lesson also struggle with the attraction of a worldly activity that offers immediate gratification. We all have desires, and we long to have those desires fulfilled.
When our hearts are empty, we feel pain, rejection, disappointment, and worthlessness; we are motivated to fill the heart with something to alleviate the empty feeling inside.
As long as the hope of fulfillment is deferred and we have to wait for it, we feel “heartsick.” Of course, only God Himself can fill that emptiness in a lasting way. The Lord Jesus is THE Tree of Life. But until the infilling of the Holy Spirit occurs, we humans tend to look to temporal things, activities, and relationships for fulfillment.
When hope is deferred and the heart feels empty, we search for something to fill the heart— something or someone that promises happiness, comfort, or relief from our pain. The natural heart’s inclination is to move toward a hope because that is the treasure of the heart. If we are not careful and if we don’t know the truth of the Gospel, we’ll take up a temporal hope that appears to offer the most immediate fulfillment.
Usually a temporal hope promises instant gratification, appeals to the condition of the heart, and blinds us to its consequences. This scheme is as old as man himself! Who hasn’t been burned by the same appeal that brought about the fall of Adam? “You can be like God! Now! Why wait?” Consider the men whose testimonies we have in the Bible who sinned because they wanted their desires fulfilled immediately: Abraham and Sarah, Esau, Saul, David, Judas Iscariot, and the woman at the well.
These people refused to wait on God, and their hearts sought a temporal hope. (Perhaps this would make a good discussion for family devotions for one week. Read each of their stories and see if you can discover the following: What temporal hope lured them into sin? What happened to them because they wouldn’t wait on God and hope in Him?)
The reason earthly treasures are so alluring is that they offer a temporal hope to the heart. In the absence of a greater hope, the heart will seek unconsciously whatever hope seems most available.
Who has the heart of your child? Who or what does your child think offers the most hope? What is it that your child treasures? Discover the treasure, and you will have discovered the direction of his heart. Then you’ll be able to help your child work through the experience with wisdom. You can teach about the heart, the need to guard it, and the vanity and consequences of chasing after a temporal hope.
This may open the door for sharing the hope of the Gospel. There is no question about it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers the greatest hope, but the problem with our children many times is that they don’t see this. They don’t understand how their hearts work, much less the effect of original sin on their hearts. It is our privilege and responsibility as parents to teach them the dynamics of their hearts so they can understand their experiences in life.
Join Norm Wakefield along with many other motivating speakers at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference, June 15-17, 2017.