The title of this post comes from Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world's largest church: what you have in your heart becomes your experience. As I came across those words in my reading this past weekend I had to stop and consider how true this is in every area of our lives. The righteous person focuses this or her thoughts upon God. The heart of the unrighteous focuses upon the evil. What is in our hearts comes out through our words. Jesus said in Matthew 12: 34, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." It comes out through our actions. If greed or lust or pride or anger or hatred or prejudice fills out hearts those things will direct our actions. If one focuses upon his or her failures in life it can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such a person may soon find it difficult to succeed in anything. However, if we have a healthy image of our abilities and our personal worth before God we often find that positive things continue to happen in our lives. It is critically important that we filter what we allow to enter our minds and hearts.
No doubt this is true of ministry as well. The parishioner who is filled with negativity towards life will seldom be excited about any new ministry opportunity that may be presented to the church. He or she will have a long list of reasons why nothing will ever work, and as long as the church listens to and believes that list the church will continue to be held back from moving forward. Those in our churches who get excited about following a fresh vision from God will embrace that vision and often see amazing things happen through the ministry of their church.
As pastors and church leaders we must be careful about what enters the heart and what we allow to remain there. At this point I'm not even talking about the evil thoughts that want our attention. Instead, I'm referring to our focus on ministry. What concrete goals have you set for your life and ministry? Where do you want to be in five years as a minister? As a spouse? As a parent? As an employee or employer? Where do you want your church in five years? What goals have you set that will enable you to achieve that five-year vision? How much do these goals consume your thoughts and direct your steps? You will be five years from now what you decide today you are going to be.
As I paused in my reading I had another thought as well. As ministers who speak to our people each week we have the opportunity to impact what goes into their hearts as well. I know pastors whose messages are filled with so much negativity one has to wonder if they've ever heard of the gospel as being good news. Some good friends of mine told me they had to leave the church they had attended for over two decades because their new pastor beat them up every week. I visited that church a few weeks later and had to fight the urge to walk out. I honestly think that pastor believes that he is called to beat the flock into submission. I believe that as ministers we must challenge our people with the truth and preach the whole counsel of God, but I learned that I can approach any topic in the Bible from a positive perspective or a negative one. I've also learned that most people respond better to the positive approach. If that positive message enters their hearts that will be the message that will become a reality in their lives.
Friends, guard your hearts and focus on those things that will bring life and joy to your life and ministry, and help those who depend upon you for spiritual nourishment to fill their hearts with the life-giving water that comes only through Jesus Christ. As we focus upon who we are in Christ and His call upon our lives we will see Him do wonderful things in and through us.