Year A Proper 25, October 25, 2020

“God Tests Our Hearts”

“God tests our hearts.”

Last week we thought about how we are not completely unlike the Pharisees. We also test God from time to time wondering why bad things would happen if we have a good God and last week in our text, Jesus encouraged us to take a giant step back and seek God’s perspective. Jesus did not tell us to look at others who are less fortunate to get some perspective nor did he tell us to find a reason for everything. Jesus told us to get God’s perspective, to remember that everything belongs to God. When we face those big life questions, those why questions, Jesus encouraged us to remember that we belong to God and we are in God’s hands.

Like the Pharisees, we do test God. We do question God, but we must remember in those moments that God is holding us and all things. 

We heard last week that we test God. 

Today, we hear from Paul that God, in fact, tests us…

He writes, “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.” 

“We speak,” Paul says, “to please God who tests our hearts.”

God tests our hearts. In fact throughout scripture, we hear that God searches us, he examines us.

David sings in psalm 139, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.” Another translation puts it “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” Later in this same Psalm, David exclaims that God created his “inmost being” and that God knit him together in his mother’s womb. God knows him better than he knows himself. God has known him since the moment he was created. 

In our Gospels, Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid or worry because, Jesus says, God knows and cares for them so much that “even the hairs on your head are numbered.”

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul notes that God searches our hearts to see how the Holy Spirit has been moving in us. 

Like the Pharisees, we test God, but God also tests us.

God searches our hearts, our souls, and minds.

So where should our hearts, souls, and minds be when God examines us?

What do we want God to find deep within us?

Jesus is clear. He tells the Pharisees in our scripture today, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”

When God searches us, examines us, tests us, he is looking for our love.

So if God were to approach you today, if he were to search your heart right now, what might he find?

So many of us can be too hard on ourselves here. We live by the verse in Amazing Grace. I have no less days to sing God’s praise then when we’d first begun… we feel we are not doing enough… never doing enough to serve God.

But look carefully at what Jesus is saying here. He did not say “You shall do enough for the Lord your God.” When God comes to test our hearts, our souls, and minds it is not to take an account of all the things we have done, the tasks we have accomplished for God. When God comes to test our hearts, souls, and minds it is to examine our love for God. 

So what does Jesus mean exactly when he says we must love the Lord your God? 

The Hebrew word for love in this verse suggests a “a desire to be in the presence of the object of love.” The Greek word for love here also means “to long for.”

So then the question becomes: Do you find yourself longing to be in the presence of God?

In the time of COVID, I think many of us find ourselves longing for the good old days of 2019. I know I find myself longing for the gym. In September I found myself longing for time away from screens, zoom, and remote learning, so my husband and I moved heaven and earth to get time away as a family. We moved many schedules around and drove 6 hours, took a full day to pack and unpack to get to the beautiful mountains in Acadia National Park. Thank you again to Mark and Paige and John who helped us make that happen. It was just what we needed.

We will go to great lengths to do what we long for. And none it feels like a burden or a task because it comes from a deep longing. 

When we long for God, we go out of our way to worship… in church or via zoom or online. When we long for God, we go out of our way to pray, to think about God, to be in conversation with God. And none of these things feel like tasks on a list because they spring out of our love for God, our desire to be in the presence of God. 

I remember saying to a volunteer one time at church, “I’m so sorry to make you go out of your way to be here today. I hope it wasn’t a bother.” And the response was, “it’s no bother. I want to be here.” 

When God searches your heart, what will he find?

We know God is with us all the time, but the question here is do you long to be actively participating in God’s presence?

Do you find yourself going out of your way to be in God’s presence, to pray, to read scripture, to worship? 

For those of you who say yes to this question, the invitation for you today is to know that that is enough. Jesus is not testing your schedule, he is testing your heart. Jesus is not taking account of your tasks, he is looking at what your heat, mind, and soul long for. Know that this love that you have for God is enough and it is exactly where God wants you to be.

But perhaps when you think on this question, you might find yourself wondering if you do in fact long to be in the presence of God. I would argue that just by virtue of being here,  you do. But perhaps the invitation today for you is to cultivate this love of God, perhaps the invitation is to cultivate a longing to be in the presence of God. If you find yourself in this place I invite you to say the prayer we said this morning at the start of our service. God help me to love what you command. Or perhaps a simpler prayer even, God help me to love you more deeply. God help me to love you more fully. God help me to love you with my whole heart, soul and mind. 

We do test God and God in turn does test and examine us, but not to take an account of all our tasks and our schedule, but rather to draw us closer, deeper into his love, grace, and mercy for us. 

God help us all to love you. Help us to step ever more deeper into your love. Amen.