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What Kind of Heart Does God Desire?

In crisis moments we are challenged as people of God not simply to just survive, but to actually thrive.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Global Preaching Voices ". See series.


David is often described as "a man after God's own heart." That is how Samuel described him at the point that he was going to be anointed king over Israel. As I reflected on David's life on the story before us, I thought that description may have something to do with David's heart. I would like to draw our hearts to see that David had a heart after God's own heart.

We live in challenging times, don't we? I was here a month ago when the financial system was collapsing; it was simply unbelievable. For many of you, it has reshaped the way you live. A friend of mine said that about forty percent of his savings were completely decimated. Many of you who are looking forward to retirement may be frightened because your benefits or pensions are at risk. So, for some, this may be a moment of crisis. This sense of crisis and unpredictability of the times we live in, however, can present an opportunity.

Did you know that the word crisis is also the same word for opportunity? The Greek word is kairos—crisis/opportunity. In crisis moments we are challenged as people of God not simply to just survive, but to actually thrive. Isn't it true, however, that in these moments of crisis or moments of glory, our faith can be especially distant? In the story of David we learn what it was that made him the man after God's own heart. Of those of us in leadership, whether in charge of church or society, what kind of heart does God desire? The Bible speaks clearly that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. There is a sense in which we look at the words David spoke where we can have a glimpse as to what is really in his heart, particularly at this moment in his own life, at this particular season. For David, it is a season of glory.

The moment of glory

In verse 1: "Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies … " Wow, a moment of glory, maybe a moment that David could never have predicted. David had been a fugitive. He had run. In many of our countries in Africa, we know about guerilla fighters, people who are in the bush fleeing from the established governments. In this instance, a man had been anointed king and yet was running away from a king that had been rejected. It was a very difficult time, and yet, here came a time when David could rest from all his enemies—a moment of glory, a moment he may not have conceived. Have you gone through those glorious moments when you have had a glimpse of glory in your life? A great paycheck, a promotion, marriage? How did you respond? David looks around, in verse 2 and says: "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." He's living in a cedar home, a very expensive wood. It's all glorious.

What have you done when thinking about the glory moments? Often, isn't it true, you and I will strategize to get to a higher moment? Isn't it true that when you got your first car, you immediately began thinking about the next car and the next one? Not so with David. Immediately he turns his heart to God and asks why the ark of God remains in a tent. "Here I am, resident in a palace. It's beautiful, and yet I see the residence of God is simply a tent."

This is really significant. Instead of thinking about further glory for himself, his heart turns back to God. We see this all the time. David constantly is focusing his heart and his attention to God. Now, he may get it wrong some of the time, because he determines that what he needs to do is build a place for God—a great place for God like the place where he lives. Nathan encourages him, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you." Now, the message that God gives to Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:4-6 and 12-17, is actually surprising to me.

The message from God

Read 2 Samuel 7:4-6 and 2 Samuel 7:12-17

You would have thought God would say, "Yes, that's a great thought. You are thinking strategically, David." But God says, "Who told you I wanted a palace like yours? Who told you? Look, David, I have been a pilgrim with you." In fact, he says, "You have carried my abode." Well, actually, it is the other side that is true. It is God himself who has carried Israel to this point. And he says, "Look, I didn't ask you." Moreover, "David, you think you are ahead of the game? No. I have thought about this long before you did. In my plan, it's your son. I'll raise up a son for you. He is the one who will build it."

Brothers and sisters, we often must repent because we think we know it all. We build these strategic plans. When I became a bishop, I thought I needed to emerge with a strategy to change the church. I got a shock; it actually wasn't my job to change the church! It's so much work just to change me! But the joyful thing is that this is God's work, not mine. The church does not depend on you or on me. In fact, the good news is this (for some this may be bad news): the world does not depend on your strategies.

What is significant, though, is that David still desired God and a dwelling place for God. Therefore, although David may have got it wrong, his heart was in the right place. God is not surprised when we get it wrong. In fact, he is aware that more often than not, we will get it wrong. What God is concerned about is, where is your heart? We get a sense of David's heart even more when he responds to the promise of God to his life. It is simply amazing. God says to David, "And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. … And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever." God has in mind not only the reign of David, not even of his son Solomon. God is looking much farther ahead—to our times, and to the revelation of the Messiah through the house of David, that David's house would provide indeed the eternal answer. That was God's plan. How would you respond?

The humbled heart

In Africa, in this day and age, the way we learn about news from this country is to check the internet and CNN. I wonder whether you would immediately put together a press release and announce this is what God is planning for me. You know, a moment of glory! That's not what David does. Verses 18-20, "Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, 'Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD!'"

He went to a solitary place. He wanted to drink this in. He wanted to listen to God. He was awed by this promise. In fact, he said to God: "Who am I, Sovereign Lord? Who am I"? And later, "Lord, is this the way you usually deal with people? This is simply out of this world! I don't get it, Lord. What are you doing? Look, I am simply an insignificant human being." He humbles himself before God. A heart after God is a humble heart.

Today, we have leaders in our nations and our churches, who, very sadly, you would not immediately say the character in their lives is about humility. We have a leadership crisis. Part of it is the arrogance, and of course, that works out into greed. You have seen it in your country and we know about it in our own land. Brothers and sisters, ministers of the gospel, could we be known as people who humble themselves daily before the Lord? That is what greatness is about.

A dear friend of mine and I were talking about this. He said to me, "You know what? The Bible says 'humble yourself before God, and in due time he will exalt you.' You know what, if you do not humble yourself, if somebody else humbles you, you will be humiliated." So, humble yourself before God.

He humbled himself, and as he did in verses 18 to 29, David constantly referred to God: "O Lord God … ." In the NIV, it is "Sovereign Lord." How many times does that combination appear? Nine times.

Not only does David say, "Who am I?" but he lifts up his eyes and he says, "O Lord God," "Almighty," "King of Kings," "Lord of Lords," "God who reigns." Once is not enough; twice is not enough; three times is not enough. He proclaims the greatness of God who reigns. He worships him. He says, "How great you are" (verse 22). "There is none like you. There is no God but you. Incomprehensible, beyond our complete understanding." This is our God. In verse 23: "And who is like your people Israel … " He looks at the tiny, insignificant nation of Israel and says, "O God, your works among your people are awesome." He sees the works of God and simply says, "O Lord God," because of what God had done with the people of Israel. Isn't it true that we see the greatness of God as we look at his work, as we consider the works? But isn't it also true that unlike David, in the moment of our glory, often we are blinded to God's glory and focus on our glory?

As I have traveled to this country I have wondered whether this deception has come upon you concerning your greatness. Instead of focusing on the greatness of God, and therefore, really, being more aware of the sinfulness that is around you, is it possible that you have lost the eye of God? Your hearts have been preoccupied. This is a temptation for all of us, that in a moment of glory, we think it is about us.

I think these vestments we put on sometimes makes us think the glory is round about us. No, that's not what it is: May God lift our eyes to see the glory of God, the greatness of God. Hallelujah!

I think of a man who was going through a crisis in his own life—debt, a kind of financial crisis that many of you know and we know in our world. He was downcast. Isn't it true that in the tough moments we can't see God? This man was looking down as he took a long walk. As he walked, he lifted his eyes and saw a mason working on a building. He noticed the man working on a stone—chiseling, shaping, measuring it, working very hard. He thought, "This world is funny. Here I am with all my troubles and trials, and there is a man who is spending all his time working on a stone." He looked at him and said, "What are you doing wasting your time working on a stone? Don't you have any other troubles to deal with?" And the man looked down and smiled at him and said, "Look up beyond me. What do you see?" He saw a triangular shape. Then he looked again at the stone he was working on, and this man was shaping the stone into a triangle. He said, "Do you notice I am working on this stone so that it can fit exactly into that triangular shape?" The man then realized that even in times of trial and hardship, the Lord was at work, shaping him to fit exactly God's purposes.

I hope you can lift your eyes and see God who is sovereign, who doesn't check Wall Street to understand what is happening on the market, who knows even before it happens. God did not wait for the elections to learn the results; he knew it before it happened. He is the sovereign God. Church people, we need to get this.

Advising God?

David prays now, after worshiping, and he says, "O Lord, keep your promise please." Verse 25: "And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken."

Please keep your promise. The temptation, again, is when God has promised you a great thing, you think that it sounds so good—please keep it for me, you know? It's amazing why David will pray that God will keep his promise. Notice with me. It is there, tucked away in verse 26: "So that your name will be magnified forever." Again, David's passion is the name of the Lord, the glory of God, the will of God. I think there we are rebuked, aren't we?

Friends, it is true that often here or in my own nation the glory we seek is the American glory, the Ugandan glory, the African glory. No! David knew it. He turned to the sovereign Lord and said, "Not for my name but for your name O Lord, our God."

As Jesus told us, "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done." We begin with his name, then his will, and his kingdom. How contrasting this is from our actual prayers. Sometimes I sit in prayer with a whole list of prayer requests. It's, "Lord, cancer; Lord, money; Lord, school; Lord, children; Lord; Lord; Lord; Lord. It's all about me, Lord, don't you realize?"

In fact, somebody put it beautifully: Christians, even when unemployed, the one job they really love to do is to advise God! "You know, God, if you don't do this, if somebody is not elected, if this happens, do you realize the world could be in trouble if you don't do this, Lord?" It's not about us. God knows. God is in charge.

I hope we can take the counsel of Jesus, that when we pray, what we preoccupy should ourselves with "your name, your kingdom, your power, your will." And, therefore, the most significant question is this: "Lord, what is your will?"

David is also a truly authentic man because he also says lastly, "Please Lord, bless me." Again, in keeping with what Jesus told us. Just in case you missed it, it is there in verses 27-29: "Now, please Lord, bless the house of your servant because these things you have promised." True to what Jesus said to us, "When you pray, hallowed be your Name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

You know, sometimes I have wondered why some people do not like or want to come to church. Sometimes I think it is because church is all about us. Forgive us! Could your concerns and your needs be the last? Because let me tell you, God will handle it his way. May God have mercy on us.

We repent, we come before you, often we are preoccupied with our glory, our kingdoms. Draw us, like David, to be passionate about your will, your kingdom, your glory in our lives, in our church, in our countries, in your world.

Change us, O God. Amen.

The Anglican Assistant Bishop David Zac Niringiye retired from the pulpit seven years ago in order to fight for social justice in Uganda.

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Sermon Outline:


I. The moment of glory

II. The message from God

III. The humbled heart

IV. Advising God?