At a celebration honoring the hundredth birthday of his aunt, a not-so-young-himself fellow presented each of the guests at the party with a small bag of marbles, proclaiming to each as he gave them their present, that his beloved aunt, even at the age of 100, “still had all her marbles!”
As if to prove the truthfulness of that statement, her nephew reported that at the celebration, when she was asked to what she attributed her long life and her advanced age, this delightful lady quickly remarked, “Two things: genes … and Jesus!”
When I heard that true story, I, like you, thought it was quite amusing. And also, like you, I wondered if it was really true.
According to her nephew, this delightful centenarian has for all her life brought sunshine to those whose paths have intersected with hers. She has outlived two husbands, reared nine children, and currently resides in a senior care facility near Staples, Minnesota.
So what has caused this long and fruitful life? Is it really a matter of “genes…and Jesus”? And how has she remained so very positive for over a hundred years (She just celebrate birthday number 101!)?
While I dare not speak to the “genes” issue, the “Jesus” claim is one that is significant to address.
The great puritan preacher Richard Baxter gives us a hint to that when he said, “And I found that the transcript of the heart hath the greatest force on the hearts of others.”
What on earth is “the transcript of the heart”? In Proverbs, the wisest man o ever live (other than Jesus!) commanded us to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to watch over my heart. One of the most difficult tasks we all face is guarding our hearts. It is so easy, in the midst of a world and culture that celebrates celebrity and good fortune and mocks the routine day-to-day living, to become discouraged and “lose heart”.
In Psalm 57, David is facing enemies he cannot on his own conquer. He has been anointed (informally) as the successor to King Saul. But King Saul is still on the throne and is still chasing after David, attempting to do him in.
David is literally hiding from Saul in a cave. His very life is on the line. While he is tempted to despair in the face of the seemingly relentless pursuit of Saul and his army,
David finds room for hope. In verse 7 of this lament psalm, he writes one simple phrase: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” The term “steadfast” here has been translated in several ways: “fixed”, “confident”, “steadfast”, and “ready”.
A steadfast heart is one that is fixed on the Lord’s promises and not wavering between doubt and faith (Check out Psalm 112:7). The same word is used to describe the constancy of the heavenly bodies (Psalm 8:3).
In short, the transcript of my heart, in order to be steadfast, will be fixed on God, totally and diligently focused on Him and his Word in my life, and therefore giving me the “confidence,” and preparing me to be “ready” for whatever God has for me today.
Pro baseball player R.A. Dickey was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, the highest honor for a pitcher. But Dickey’s career almost ended before it started.
In 1996, the Texas Rangers made him their #1 draft pick and offered him an $810,000 contract. All he had to do was pass a routine team physical. But unknown to Dickey, the physical revealed that his right elbow was missing its ulnar collateral ligament.
As Dickey, a committed follower of Christ, entered training camp he uttered a prayer of gratitude: “Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings and for helping me get this far.” But shortly after that prayer, his agent pulled him into a meeting with Doug Melvin, the Rangers general manager.
Melvin flatly said, “We are going to retract our offer. We think there’s something wrong with your elbow.”
In that moment, Dickey proclaimed that he felt anger and rage taking over his body and emotions much as a tsunami overwhelms everything in its path. But his heart was ready. And in the midst of that anger, Dickey heard the Lord saying to him, “”Relax, I’ve got you. Relax, R.A. It’s OK … I’ve got you.”
But don’t you know that the only reason for anyone to have a steadfast heart is because the love of God is steadfast and his character and conduct is steadfast in our lives as well? He is a faithful God; His mercies and His grace are never-ending and we can have confidence in Him.
The prophet Jeremiah, as he watched the world he knew collapse around him demonstrated a “ready heart” when he proclaimed with confidence that “The Lord’s mercies indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Sandra McCracken says it well in her song entitled “Steadfast”.
She writes: “I will build my house whether storm or drought on the rock that does not move. I will set my hope in your love, O Lord and your faithfulness will prove You are steadfast, steadfast. … In the moment of emptiness all was fulfilled. In the hour of darkness Your light was revealed. In the presence of death Your life was affirmed. In the absence of holiness, You are still God. You are steadfast, steadfast.”
As you face whatever trials that this day will bring, may the transcript of your heart be “ready” for whatever God has for you.
That can be assured as you focus on God’s steadfast character. Can you say, with the psalmist, “My heart is ready, O God”?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.