Ft. Worth, Texas
Few things are more critical or dramatic than physical heart problems. One can been seemingly hale and hearty one moment only to be laid low the next. A heart condition can change one's entire outlook toward life.
No less critical and dramatic is that condition of heart that is spiritual. We stand amazed at times to see faithful members (we thought) suddenly turn away from the Lord, the church and faithful service. How is it possible that someone can be faithful for years and then suddenly drop away from the Lord? I suggest that it only happened over a period of time while a spiritual heart problem lay hidden and suddenly manifested itself when the heart condition became critical. Then when the problem can no longer be concealed, an entire change in life style is seen. A Christian who used to be faithful is faithful no more; a father who used to set a good example before his children becomes a poor example - a teacher who used to love to stand before a class will no longer even attend. Yes, heart problems can change one's entire outlook toward life.
But a bad spiritual heart takes a period of time to develop. One does not cease being a faithful Christian in a single moment. There are some subtle things that take place in the life of a Christian that may be difficult to spot that lead up to a "heart attack." When we see a Christian fall away from the Lord, we have seen only the openly critical stage; much has already taken place in the heart that is not so readily visible, although extremely critical. Let us notice some background things that lead up to "heart attacks" of the spirit.
Losing the joy of salvation. David, the sweet singer of Israel, said. "Restore to me the joy of thy salvation" (Psa. 51:12). When David considered the forgiveness that he received from his sins, he rejoiced. Many of us have forgotten the feeling of cleansing that comes with salvation and the joy of knowing forgiveness. We take for granted the worship services and the fact that I have a right to participate. We forget the bittersweet joy of meeting around the Lord's table. We fail to humble ourselves in prayer. We do not lose ourselves in the refreshing period of singing. Worship services become a tiresome bore, with a feeling of obligation rather than happiness. If this describes you, brother or sister, you have a heart problem. Unless it is corrected, it will get worse until you have a "heart attack" and die spiritually.
No interest in the lost. One of the things that indicates a spiritual heart problem is when you lose interest in the lost, either yourself or others. Each of us should dread sin and the terrible effects of it in our lives. Not only that, but we should be touched by the sins of others. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The apostles moved out through their world with a sense of purpose, mission, and evangelism. Early Christians, when persecuted (Acts 8). went "everywhere preaching the word." If it does not bother you to sit across the table from a member of your family who is lost, you have a heart problem. If you can sit in crowds at the stadium with never a thought of the thousands that are lost, you do not have the mind of Christ. If you can live by neighbors for years and never invite them to worship, gospel meetings, etc., there is something wrong. Indifference can be a deadly killer that leads to fatal heart attacks.
Discouragement. I know some Christians that are battle weary. It seems that life goes from one crisis to another. It matters little whether each crisis is financial, moral or of the family. After a while some people seem to experience battle fatigue. They just sort of wear out and give up. Suddenly one Sunday morning, such a person will decide to stay home rather than get up and go to an assembly of the saints. Wednesday night will be more of a bother than a help. It will suddenly no longer matter whether the children have the proper example before them. This Christian, smitten with one crisis too many, has a spiritual "heart attack" and tosses in the towel. How can we avoid this sort of thing? First of all, we need to be like Paul and affirm, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I must ream that I cannot fight life alone and unaided. Jesus has told us to cast all of our cares upon Him for He cares for us (Matt. 11:28ff). We need to have enough faith to know that Jesus is our Friend. He will help us bear up under the burdens of life. Don't try to get to heaven on your own strength; it is an impossible task. Jesus will help you if you will let Him.
Are you having heart trouble? Do you find your love, zeal and faithfulness becoming more and more difficult to find? Friend, there is an answer. You need to find the Great Physician who can heal your heart disease. You need to drink deep of the waters of life (John 4), eat of the bread of life (John 4) and be led by the good Shepherd (John 10) to the pastures of eternal life. Don't let a heart condition go untreated until you join that number (too large already) who have, like Demas, turned aside to the world. Go to the Lord and find the help that you need. Don't pit it off; do it now! Don't wait until you have a fatal heart attack that puts you beyond the reach of God's grace. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 10, pp. 289, 311