“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7.
In this verse, we have a brief masterclass on how to view ourselves and the world around us. We should not only judge things based on what can be measured exteriorly but always keep in mind that there are unobservable forces at work.
For example, when I was at my lowest, drinking alcohol all day, every day, I was literally days away from giving my life to Jesus. Some might have looked at me with a measuring eye to misjudge that I was hopeless and not likely to discover the peace and joy of Jesus. I was drunk most of the day, not attending my college classes, and making bad decisions daily. But then, the heavens opened, and the grace poured down.
April 24, 2007, was my first day of fully sober living for Jesus. At lunchtime on April 23, I was drunk. Most people who saw me might assume that that would not change for years. It could’ve been perceived that I was wasting my life away, but I was several hours away from a new life. That night I would drop a 12-pack of bud light bottles out of the window of a speeding car onto a Dawsonville, GA, highway.
The purpose of this is not simply to remind you never to judge someone making unwise choices. It is to remind you never to judge yourself or the world around you simply by what you see and hear. While humans live in a tangible, physical world, there is a lot more going on here.
In the passage from 1 Samuel above, the prophet Samuel visited Jesse and his family to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel does not yet know which son God chooses but must have each one come before him and wait for God to show him the next king. Several of Jesse’s sons look like they would be amazing kings, but God has someone else in mind.
Eventually, Jesse brings his youngest, least kingly-looking son before Samuel. God makes it known to Samuel that David, out of all the sons of Jesse, who looked like much better kings, would be the newly anointed king. Why? God knew the hearts of each son, He saw what their physical features did not show and knew David’s heart was the best.
Sometimes we can fall into a trap of measuring ourselves and others by the wrong metrics. We allow poorly chosen standards to crush us because we cannot live up to them or incorrectly think poorly of others when they do not meet them. It is a hard life even without these false metrics, and we must learn to judge ourselves and others better.
We need to judge with Jesus. We need to have His help in viewing the world and ourselves so that we see things correctly and not make the wrong assumptions. Jesus
will guide our minds to discern both our hearts and our circumstances to ensure that we right where we are meant to be in life. My favorite example to make this point is when Peter is called out to walk on the water with Jesus.
Peter is standing on water with the God of the Universe before him, but the storm gets louder and steals his attention. Peter begins to focus on the storm, falls victim to his fear, and starts to sink into the water. He correctly calls out to the Lord, who saves him.
I won’t pretend that I am above this chosen Apostle of the Lord or that I would have handled this situation any better, but I will use the story to learn from for my own life. In this story, Peter misjudges what is going on. He put too much faith in His circumstance and not enough in His God, who had the power to save him.
Peter believed in the power of the storm more than he believed in the power of Jesus. He judged his situation by the metrics of the storm, forgetting that he was in the presence of a God who commanded the winds and the seas, and they obeyed Him.
How many times have I done this? I thought my life had no future, even on April 23, 2007. I, too, have looked at the day ahead of me in dread thinking that joy and peace were impossible for me. However, my eyes at these times were on the storms of my life and not on Jesus.
We do not always see or feel Jesus, but He is always with us in every circumstance. We must not look at the outward appearance of things to determine this. We must look at the heart of them, the invisible reality that is just as real as the observable aspects, and know that God is with us, always bringing about good out of all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
To help you cultivate a pattern of correctly judging your life and the lives of others here is a prayer for spiritual vision written by the Ancient Church Father, Origin, who lived from 185 AD to 254 AD.
May the Lord Jesus put his hands on our eyes also, for then we too shall begin to look not at what is seen but at what is not. May he open the eyes concerned not with the present but with what is yet to come. May he unseal the heart’s vision, that we may gaze on God in the Spirit, through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, whose glory and power will endure throughout the unending succession of ages. Amen.