July 17, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 29:13 (NRSV)
The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote . . .
Being a Christian isn’t mainly a matter of doing and saying the right things. Rather, it’s having an intimate relationship with God through Christ. As you work today, let the Holy Spirit draw your heart near to God.
In Isaiah 29, the Lord indicts the Israelites for saying the right things while their hearts are far away. They profess faithfulness to God, but their desires are selfish and idolatrous. Rather than seeking God’s glory, they live for themselves. Their worship is “by the book,” but not “by heart.” They do the right things but don’t do them as a genuine act of self-offering to God.
It’s easy for us to fall into this same pit of hypocrisy, isn’t it? On the outside, we look like “good Christians.” We attend worship services. We sing the songs. We teach Sunday School. We have Bible studies. We say things like “I’ll pray for you” and “Praise the Lord.” But on the inside our hearts can be miles and miles away from the Lord, especially when we’re back at work during the week. We allow sin to dominate our consciousness. We dream about our own advancement rather than the progress of God’s kingdom. We honor God with our lips, but our hearts are far away from God.
The good news is that, through Christ, God is seeking us. God wants, not just our words and deeds, but our hearts. The Lord desires a relationship with us so that we might be transformed from the inside out. If our hearts are far away from the Lord, we can turn back in repentance so that we might be forgiven and restored into divine fellowship. Even when we have drifted away from God, God is near to us, beckoning us to come home.
It may be easy to accept God’s invitation when we’re at church or at home with our families or serving people in our community. It’s harder to have our hearts near to the Lord when we’re busy at work, poring over spreadsheets, trying to close a deal, managing our staff, building kitchen cabinets, composing a score for a commercial, teaching a class of recalcitrant teenagers, or leading a whole organization. Yet, even in such distracting settings, the Lord invites us to remain close by, enjoying God’s company and working by God’s grace.
Where is your heart today, really? How close are you to God?
Are you seeking the Lord each day? Are you living for God’s purposes?
Are you willing to be found by God as God seeks you today?
How might your work life be different if your heart remained close to the Lord?
Set a reminder for yourself during the workday ahead (or tomorrow), so that you might choose to let your heart be close to God.
Gracious God, you know me through and through. You know that in some ways my heart does belong to you. But in other ways I withhold my heart, focusing on myself. And, yes, there are times when I harden my heart against you because, in truth, I want to do that which dishonors you.
Forgive me, Lord, for my wandering heart. Cleanse me from all that draws me away from you. May I turn to you this day, so that I might be found by you and restored into intimate fellowship with you.
“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.” Amen.*
*Verse 3 of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” by Robert Robinson. Public domain.
Banner image by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How Christians Can Experience Deeper Rest.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.