God Looks at the Heart

09/24/13

As a child in elementary school I don’t recall ever being chosen first for the daily kickball games that took place on the playground. My less-than-amazing running and kicking skills led to my demise, so it made sense why I was usually chosen last. I guess I just kept holding out hope that someday maybe someone would do the unimaginable and choose me first. 

 
Isn’t it interesting that at a very early age we’re taught to put so much stock and worth into being chosen first? 
 
Recently, my family and I led a team of twenty-two people to the Dominican Republic to minister to the children, youth, and staff in Children of the Nations' (COTN) programs there. And although our trip involved multiple projects, our real purpose was to minister to the boys of COTN's I Love Baseball (ILB) program.  
 
Jeff and his family with their sponsored child, Fines.
         Jeff and his family got to visit their sponsored child, Fines, while they were in the Dominican Republic.
 
During our time with the ILB team, we studied 1 Samuel chapters 15 and 16. We shared the story of how the throne of King Saul would be taken from him due to his disobedience to the Lord. As we read together with the ILB team, we learned that God’s plan for a new leader completely went against the way we would normally choose someone. God would choose differently.  
 
As Jesse and seven of his sons were approaching Samuel, who would anoint the next person to be king, Samuel said “surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” Having never met them before, he was basing his assumptions on their appearance, height, and build. Sounds familiar, right? Isn’t this how we choose teams on the school playground? 
 
Yet God quickly made sure Samuel understood His way of choosing. “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things that man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
 
The I Love Baseball team with Jeff's Venture Team
Jeff and his team taught the boys that "the Lord does not look at the things that man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
 
How shocking it must have been to Jesse and his seven sons, when Samuel was instructed to pass over the oldest and strongest sons only to hear Samuel ask, “Are these all of your sons?” (I bet they were thinking to themselves, “You’re joking, right?”) 
 
Cue the slow-motion camera and dim the lights ...
 
David, the humble shepherd boy, enters after a long day in the fields. As soon as he walks in, all eyes are on him and God whispers in Samuel’s ear, “Choose him!” (My paraphrase). 
 
God always chooses based on our heart.
 
This concept, that God looks at the heart, was a new idea for the ILB team. In a world that places so much weight on the outward appearance of people—skills, social status, wealth, power, possessions, and the like—they had never really considered that there was another option. 
 
For the first time, young men heard something different. God is more interested in your heart than your baseball skills. He cares more about your character, integrity, humility, and compassion for others. 
 
One young man, Carlos, approached me that night at dinner. His eyes welled up with tears as he told me his sister had died just months ago. Her rings hung on a necklace around his neck as a reminder of her, a painful burden to bear. Until now, he had to show toughness in a culture that says “real men don’t cry.” But after learning about David, God allowed him to finally let go, be humble, and be real.
 
Carlos with his medal that says "God looks at the heart"
       Carlos and the other boys received medals with the inscription "Dios mira el corazon" (God looks at the heart).
 
On our last day with the ILB boys, we handed out awards—something they had never received. Medals engraved with their names and the words “Dios mira el corazon” (God looks at the heart) were placed over each head. As Carlos approached I could see a changed boy—a boy who believed that his heart mattered. How fitting to place the medal around his neck, right over his sister’s rings, like a symbol of acceptance and love. God chose Carlos and loves him deeply from the heart. 
 
In a world where “the strongest survive,” God chooses the humble to thrive.