Steve Macchia Blog

The Compassionate Heart

A compassionate heart comes from a transformed heart…one that’s been changed from the inside out. Upon receiving the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God, the overflow is compassion toward others. Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by an earnest desire to bring relief. It’s that feeling of pity and distress over the suffering or misfortune of another and the effort to help alleviate it.

Our family supports Compassion International, a child sponsorship relief and development agency that’s doing amazing work worldwide. This organization brings out the sympathetic consciousness of Christian men and women who share a common desire to bear the burdens of those much less fortunate than we are today. In supporting Compassion we in turn are coming alongside children and their families in impoverished nations around the globe. There are many other groups like Compassion, such as World Relief and World Vision, who share such a mission of compassionate mercy. Each ministry extends compassion to the lost and least of these who suffer physically, mentally, and spiritually, and do so with godly integrity.

This kind of co-suffering (the Latin root of compassion) comes from our emotional or passionate response to “do unto others what you would have them do to you” which is the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). When we are compelled to serve others compassionately, we do so with empathy for the pain, heartache, and disappointment caused by suffering of all forms and magnitudes. A compassionate heart is able to reach beyond one’s personal needs or interests and into the life of another, doing so in ways that we would appreciate receiving if ever in a similar situation.

Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) is an expression of true compassion shown indiscriminately to all in need, and is in keeping with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” In the parable it was “the one who had mercy on him” who shows us how to be a neighbor to another in need. The priest and Levite passed by the man who had been beaten by robbers, but the Samaritan took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, poured oil on him, put the man on his donkey, took him to the inn and cared for him out of his own financial resources. The Samaritan had a compassionate heart and his alleviation of suffering brings a smile to the face of God.

The Apostle Paul commends the Church in Corinth to live out the compassion of God toward one another. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God,” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4. The Scriptures are filled with references to the Father of compassion who continually shows mercy, love and compassion to his beloved children.

Identify those in your sphere of influence who are in need of compassion and comfort today. Who do you know who’s alone, in prison, hurting, hungry, and/or suffering in body, mind, or spirit? In what ways can you prayerfully, lovingly and tangibly express compassion today? May your compassionate heart overflow toward all who you know are in need, and may the God of all comfort envelop and sustain you in your acts of merciful service now and always. Amen.

The Prideful Heart

First and best and most important. That was the request of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, when they came to Jesus with the bold request, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” When Jesus asked them to clarify their appeal, they replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10: 35-45). When Jesus asked them a follow up question about being able to drink the cup or be baptized with what he was about to be baptized with (His pending cross and crucifixion), they foolishly replied “yes we can.” They obviously didn’t know what they were saying!

When the other ten disciples heard about their incredible desire for being considered first and best and most important in glory, they were indignant with James and John. Jesus calmed them down with a simple reminder, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be slave of all” (vs. 43, 44).

The prideful heart pursues being first, best and most important…rarely considering the position of second, least, or last. The pride of the sovereign self places your own interests paramount to all others. Pride is thinking of yourself as more important than others, better than others, or above others because of your name, achievements, gifts, looks, knowledge, possessions, or wealth. A prideful heart is self-exalted over others and becomes offended when people don’t give you the attention, respect, or honor you think you deserve. When a person considers self above others, then selfish ambition and vain conceit reign supreme. Pride and arrogance – an overly inflated sense of your own importance – ultimately breeds quarrels, dissension, and animosity.

The Bible speaks often of the self-righteous, self-sufficient, and self-indulgent, and is clear about God hating pride as one of seven abominations noted in Proverbs 6. In Proverbs 18:12 we are reminded of the fruit of pride, “Pride goes before a fall, but humility comes before honor.” And both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs 29:3-4, which says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Pride is continually contrasted in the Scriptures with humility and wisdom. A prideful heart is rarely teachable or hospitable, nor does one see the value of empathic listening or compassionate concern. However, these are the very words that break the bondage of pride: humility, wisdom, hospitality, listening, and compassion. If you think you’re immune to pride, think again. It resides in your heart and it shows its ugly head more times than you care to admit. Are you willing to acknowledge and address your own pride today? When does your pride emerge and what is God inviting you to consider in response?

When Jesus reminded James , John and the other disciples about how pride is conquered he called them to a life of servanthood. And, He offered them His humble self an example worthy of a following, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Mark 10: 45. The antidote to a prideful heart is a servant’s heart. May that be your choice today.

The Generous Heart

A generous hearted person understands that every resource we have in life comes from the gracious hand of Almighty God and is to be multiplied for Kingdom priorities and purposes. There is nothing that we own or steward that belongs fully to us, no matter how it was initially acquired. We enter this world with nothing in our hands but life itself, and we exit this world with nothing short of our final breath.

So why do we cling to the attachments of this world? An attachment to food can lead to gluttony. An attachment to passion can lead to lust. An attachment to winning can lead to bullying. An attachment to resources can lead to selfishness. An attachment to power can lead to manipulation. An attachment to our capabilities can lead to pride. An attachment to liberalities can lead to anarchy. An attachment to chemical substances can lead to addition.

The abundant life we’re invited into by Jesus requires a healthy detachment from the things of this world so that our hearts can fully attach to the heart of Christ. Only then will we know what inner contentment looks and feels like. Only then will we live a life of true joy, harmony, justice, continuity, effectiveness, faithfulness, obedience, sacrifice, mercy, and love. The abundant life of the Christ follower is experienced when we prayerfully make God’s priorities our daily priorities.

Jesus makes this profoundly clear in John 12: 23-26, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” The amazing paradox of this passage is contained in three insights: only by death comes life; only by spending life do we retain it; and only by service comes greatness.

In other words, it is only as we give that we genuinely receive. It is when we have sacrificed that we truly understand the fruitful blessing of the cross. It is when we die to ourselves, our own selfish ambitions, and our personal possessions, that we recover the true meaning of joy. When we fully understand the importance of sacrifice, we live generously for God’s glory and another’s good.

A generous heart knows with certainty that God prospers us not to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. Therefore, detach from your kernels of possession (your time, talent and treasure) with an open hand of generosity toward Kingdom priorities and purposes, and then watch them reap a multiplied harvest more than you could ever ask, dream or imagine. It is in giving that we receive…so what do you have in your hand that needs to fall to the ground and die today?

The Angry Heart

In the Old Testament, we read of instances when the Lord shows forth his anger toward his disobedient followers. When Moses was up on Mount Sinai listening to the Lord’s instructions about The Sabbath, and receiving the two tablets of the Testimony, Aaron and the people grew impatient in their waiting. Instead, they took matters into their own hands and made a god for themselves in the form of a golden calf. Their stiff-necked action angered the Lord greatly, but Moses pleaded for them so they would not be destroyed, and the Lord relented (Exodus 32). Elsewhere, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years and did not see the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – except for Caleb and Joshua who followed the Lord wholeheartedly – because the Lord’s anger burned against their disobedience (Numbers 32).

However, the biblical text emphatically suggests that even God bridles his anger and is instead slow to anger and abounding in love, compassion, grace, faithfulness, mercy, and forgiveness. In Exodus 34, Moses proclaims this contrast, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” In Nehemiah 9:17, Nehemiah reiterates this same truth about God. Jonah, when he disobeyed God’s instructions, and lands in the belly of a fish, comes forth with the testimony, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.” David the psalmist joins the glad refrain in Psalms 86 and 103, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever.”

In the New Testament Jesus instructs his followers, “that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). Paul the apostle reminds the people of God that “love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13: 5) and “in your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26).

Anger is something that swells from a heart that’s desirous of punishing another by expressing words, attitudes, and actions that ultimately hurt and potentially destroy. The Bible instructs us that anger is usually combined with hostility, strife and dissension. It’s generally unleashed, aroused, burning, fierce, consumed, and harsh. It’s rarely affirmed as productive toward any relationship. In fact, quite the opposite. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control,” Proverbs 29:11. And in clear analogies, “As churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife,” Proverbs 30:33.

How then do we curb our anger and not let it consume our heart? If we don’t want to let the sun go down on our anger or give the devil a foothold on our hearts and relationships with others, then how do we keep from sinning in the midst of our anger? The God-honoring, relationship-building answer: “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires,” James 1:19.

Quick to listen + Slow to speak = Slow to become angry. A simple equation to offer, but incredibly difficult to execute. Since most of our anger spews like lava from the hotbed of our troubled souls, it often feels impossible to contain. But, does it always have to come pouring out to burn and consume another? The passage in James suggests otherwise. Quick to listen…stop yourself, cease quarreling, restrain judgment, ask questions, empathetically listen. Slow to speak…hold your tongue, pause reflectively, ponder deeply, consider carefully, love graciously. Slow to become anger…hold back, reconsider, measure your words, monitor your tone of voice, watch your body language. An angry heart is an ugly heart. How will you monitor your anger today?

The Hopeful Heart

Do you get to spend much time with a hopeful person? Someone who lives wisely, listens intently, and continuously pours life, courage, perspective, encouragement and confident expectancy into your soul? Contrast that with the person who seems to be constantly burdened by life, and regularly appears pessimistic, deflated, cynical, and ultimately quite hopeless. Most likely you prefer spending time with a hopeful heart…and long for that attitude yourself.

As we peruse the Scriptures for insights into the hopeful heart we soon discover that the majority of biblical references focus on pinning our hope on the God of hope. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13.

God is the primary source of our hope. When we put our hope in God, we see Him at work with growing clarity and conviction no matter the circumstances of our lives, “though he slay me, yet will I hope” (Job 13:15). “Put your hope in God” cries the psalmist (Psalm 42:5), for “my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5). When we put our trust completely in God’s hands His plan is to “give us a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Hope is an anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:19) and our foundation of hope is found in God’s Word, for “in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 119: 74; 130: 5).

So what happens when hope is stolen from us? When rocks, weeds and thorns infiltrate the soil of our faith, and hope is robbed and replaced with counterfeit gods that seek to satisfy but always leave us hollow? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12), so when hope is held at a distance the heart grows cold, hard, crushed, and devastated. Hope is easily swept away when hardship or disappointment disheartens and discourages the heart. Such hope “deferrals” come upon us suddenly while others creep in over time, and often unaware.

Hope isn’t unbridled buoyancy or glassy-eyed optimism. Christian hope comes from the deep-seated conviction that God reigns supreme in every aspect of our lives. Despite the suffering and adversity of this world, we have every reason to cling to hope. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is what fills our hearts with hope, both for the present and the future. With eternity in our hearts, we are filled to overflowing with hope.

Having witnessed God at work in your own heart, and observing Him at work in the hearts of others, what are the reasons for your hope today? Count the many blessings that have come your way and notice how God is alive and at work in, through, and around you. By attending to God you are fixing your eyes on Him. That’s how hope is birthed and kept alive within your heart. Choose today to show your world the transformation that emerges from the hopeful heart of God.