“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” II Tim 2:22
I remember reading a book about a guy who was someone going through grueling training to be a part of an elite military force. He said that as soon as someone even entertained the thought that he might quit, it was all over for them. Sooner or later they were going to throw in the towel. The very act of entertaining a doubt that they could make it, or dwelling on how it was too hard, set them up to lose.
We can’t set ourselves up to lose. We can’t entertain doubts about God. We can’t grumble. When we do these things it gives the devil a foothold. It creates a losing mindset in us, not a winning mindset.
I decided this week that I wanted to work on having a pure heart. I realized as I made my schedule out that I will think of all of these things that are good to do, but I am not as vigilant on thinking of what is good for my heart. I am looking without, not looking within. I am seeking accomplishment, but not seeking peace before God.
I read once about a couple who talked before they were married and decided to set some parameters so their marriage would be successful. One that stuck in my mind is that they committed to never doubt their partner’s love. They would never look at the other person doing something and allow themselves to think, “That must mean they don’t love me.” They said they wouldn’t ever go there.
So in working on having a pure heart, we need to say, “I’m not even going to go there.” That is what the passage in II Tim 2:22 means to me. We flee evil desires — those things we want instead of what is best spiritually — and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. To focus on these things means we will not entertain their opposites:
1. Inconsistent obedience. We need to hold to the teachings. I tell people that I made up my mind that I will always attend church services unless I am throwing up or running a fever. (It’s kind of like the rule I made for my kids about going to school!) I need to be that way with obedience in every area of my life.
2. Negative thinking. How often is my mind filled with worry about people or about a situation? These things have got to be put in God’s hands. I can’t do worry! It gums up my head and keeps my heart from being pure.
With God, failure is not an option! I might fail sometimes, but He does not. If I keep praying and serving Him, He will make a way. I can’t allow myself to be fatalistic. There can’t be self pity. I can’t dwell on my weaknesses.
3. Selfishness. I am not the center of the universe! How much of my energy is taken up with trying to take care of myself? The first thing we are supposed to pray is, “YOUR kingdom come. Your will be done.” Jesus promised us that if we seek the kingdom first, God will take care of us. He asks, “And why take ye thought for raiment?” We need to STOP thinking of self.
4. Restlessness. Any time my mind is not at peace, purity of heart is not present. I can be restless because I am focused on my performance and what I should be doing. Even though I am doing this for God, this is not peace. I can be concerned for others and how they are doing spiritually. This seems godly, but I need to give these needs to God and trust he will work them out, or I do not have purity of heart.
What is the evil desire I am fleeing? Well, it’s not of youth, but of age. The older I get, the more I long for ease and comfort. I find that if I am in the routine of sitting down at the end of a long day with a nice book to read and snacks to eat, that becomes the focus in the back of my mind all day. I am looking forward to the comfort I will have at the end of the day. But if I am traveling, my routine is off and I know there may not be an end to the serving. I am happy all day without thinking about how I am longing for relaxation and self indulgence.
Rest cannot become an end in itself. Rest must always be governed by self discipline. Which brings me back to the picture of the military training at the beginning of this post. A pure heart is the product of self discipline. We must be intentional to achieve it. We must take time to reflect on what is important.
Keeping the halls of our heart clean is one of the biggest challenges there is. But I believe it will be one of the most rewarding as well, for when we get rid of some of the gunk that resides internally — the worries, doubts, selfishness — we can see God better, His blessings, His will, his love for us. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8)