Many men have heart problems of a spiritual nature. In some cases, it’s slow-progressing disease, while for others, the need for heart surgery is urgent. In my 20s, I was one of these men who desperately needed the core affections of his heart changed.
By Patrick Morley
Founder & Executive Chairman
Winter Park, Florida
There are many men around you—in your neighborhood, workplace, family, and church—who have heart problems that need treated. I’m not referring to physical ailments; rather, I’m referring to heart problems of a spiritual nature. In some cases, it’s slow-progressing heart disease that feels chronic, while for other men, the pain is acute and the need for heart surgery is urgent.
In my 20s, I was one of these men.
I loved my parents. And I honestly believe they loved my three younger brothers and me. That said, they were never trained or discipled in how to parent us. I always felt like I was on my own. I don’t remember being hugged, and I have no recollection of anyone telling me they believed in me, loved me, or were proud of me. I don’t remember hearing that life had meaning, or that I was created for a purpose. We didn’t discuss God, going to college, or career options.
My parents did the best they could, but all four of us boys went off the rails in high school. We each experienced the brutal consequences in our own ways. Once I left home, I washed my hands of it all and didn’t look back (until later in life through the influence of my wife). My heart was just so wounded, and unable to recognize or articulate that, I had so much anger.
My wife began and kept praying for me, and one morning, we ended up walking into a small Methodist church. It was a turning point—not because I’d walked through the doors, but because inside were some men who understood that when a young man walks in, he has a heart problem. That when a young man suddenly shows up at a spiritual house of worship, he’s looking for some relief, even if he can’t put that into words.When a young man suddenly shows up at a spiritual house of worship, he’s looking for some relief, even if he can’t put that into words.Click To Tweet
These men took me under their wings. One man in particular, Jim, became like a spiritual father to me. He saw something in me that frankly I’d never seen in myself. He believed things for me that I didn’t have enough self-confidence to believe.
And the encouragement and the words that he spoke into my life unchained something deep inside of me. The Spirit of God began to change the core affections of my heart.
The Core Affections of the Heart
In the Bible, the word often translated as heart is a Hebrew word that means everything that’s going on inside of you—your intellect, will, and emotions.
This concept of affections is similarly layered. More than just what you like, affections are your beliefs, inclinations, desires, and dispositions. The core affections, then, would be those that are the most important to you—those that inform your decisions and determine what you say, think, and do.
In Luke, Jesus says:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (6:43-46, emphasis added)
Everything we do, say, and produce ultimately reflects what is going on in our hearts.Everything we do, say, and produce ultimately reflects what is going on in our hearts.Click To Tweet
In discipleship relationships, we can fall into the trap of focusing on helping men correct their behavior, but never actually get at the heart.
Yes, sometimes we must talk about behavior, and adjustments need to be made. But if we only focus on the behavior instead of the core motivations and affections of the heart, it results in someone behaving out of the strength of their will and desire at that moment.
The truth is none of us can white-knuckle our way to transformation. Eventually, out of the abundance of the heart, we will act and speak. Without spiritual cardiology, men revert to sinful behavior because the core heart issues haven’t been diagnosed and healed.
That’s why the greatest gift we can offer is to help each other, first, reflect honestly on what is going on in our hearts, and then, second, consider how the heart can be treated—whether it needs recalibration, surgery, or a full transplant.
THE BIG IDEA: The greatest contribution we can offer a man is to help him change the core affections of his heart.
The Heart of Jesus
If we want to live vibrant lives in Christ with healthy hearts that produce good fruit, we need to first identify the core affections of His heart.
When I read the Scriptures, I see these core affections in the heart of Jesus:
- Prayer and intimacy with the Father. Jesus prioritized spending time talking with God, often going off alone to a quiet place without distractions.
- Compassion and love for people. We read about how He looked out at the crowd and had compassion on them because He saw that they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (see Matthew 9). The way Jesus interacted with people demonstrated His deep love and compassion for them.
- A desire to see people reconciled to God. Jesus’ words and actions were marked by a gracious spirit of forgiveness. When He saw some religious people getting ready to stone a woman who had been caught in adultery, He told them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Gradually, these men one by one dropped their stones and walked away. Once everyone had left, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (see John 8)
- A lifestyle of worship. Jesus was constantly glorifying His Father in heaven. A core affection of His heart was to worship God in all the big and small moments of His life.
- Service. Although He was fully God, what did Jesus choose to do as fully man? He washed feet. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. Serving and meeting the real needs of others was also a core affection of His heart.
So when we look at the heart of Jesus as our model, it begs the question—how do we change the core affections of our hearts, and help others do the same? How do we engage in spiritual cardiology?
The truth is good heart health isn’t something we will into existence or micromanage. Only one thing is needed: we must regularly bring ourselves into the real presence of Jesus and allow Him to change everything about us.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (11:29-30).
With a humble and gentle heart, Jesus invites us to stay connected to Him and learn from Him. He wants to give us an instructed heart—a heart at rest that knows what to do.With a humble and gentle heart, Jesus invites us to stay connected to Him and learn from Him.Click To Tweet
But He’s not the only one on the scene. In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Do you have a heart problem? Do the men around you? Go to the master cardiologist, Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28). Teach men to each day come humbly to the foot of the cross and surrender to the lordship of Jesus.
A Prescription for Heart Health
In addition to bringing ourselves into His presence, there are ways in which we can cooperate with God’s sanctifying work in our hearts.
After meeting with men for decades and listening to their stories, I am convinced that the prescription for maintaining good heart health is a Bible, a small group, and serving someone else.
First, Jesus wants us to have instructed hearts, but He instructs our hearts through the Scriptures. As we read the Bible for ourselves—the living and active word of God—the core affections of our hearts are changed.I am convinced that the prescription for maintaining good heart health is a Bible, a small group, and serving someone else.Click To Tweet
Second, growing alongside other Christians in meaningful relationships through a small group also changes us. Not only does it allow us to see our own hearts more clearly, but we see God more clearly as we witness Him working in the lives of one another.
Third, service is its own reward in the Christian journey, bringing us joy and perspective. It acts as an antidote to discontentment and to our propensity for self-absorption. As you help and serve others, you will sense the core affections of your heart changing.
A New Heart and a New Spirit
We all want to be the good tree that bears good fruit. We want hearts that are so full of Him that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).
Our lives won’t be marked by the absence of problems. No, there will be plenty of problems, but we’ll be able to face them with love, joy, and peace—and help other men face their problems with love, joy, and peace—because we’ve allowed the core affections of our hearts to be changed by bringing ourselves and others regularly into the real presence of Jesus. This is the greatest contribution we can offer ourselves, other men, and the world.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 26:36)