December 17, 2004
Encouragement for Today

"Heartworm"
 Susanne Scheppmann
 Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member

Key verse:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Devotion

"Heartworm kills!"  This sign prominently displayed in the veterinarian's office warns dog owners of a potentially deadly parasite. The infiltration of the heartworm parasite begins when an infected mosquito bites the animal. The larvae grow to full-size worms that clog the dog's heart and arteries. The dog becomes lethargic, weak, and listless.  Untreated heartworm has the potential to kill the beloved pet.  The vet hopes by posting the sign that the pet owners will take the precautionary measures to prevent the dog from being infected, or if the dog is already infected, the vet will prescribe a much-needed medical treatment to insure the pet's survival.

Scripture warns that we can have a heartworm, too. The worm that infects our hearts is not a living parasite, but a worm of bitterness. It takes root and slowly eats away at the joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:15 says, Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time (The Message). 

Personally, what I find most frightening is that by allowing bitterness to remain in our hearts, we can grieve the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul writes plainly, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:30-31 NIV). When bitterness fills our hearts, it squeezes out the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. We become spiritually weak and lethargic. Our lives lose the luster of Christ's love. 

In addition, we often fool ourselves about the condition of hearts.  We pretend to forgive and love others, yet the worm of bitterness grows.  Again, the Bible alerts us to this problem when it states, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) 

But don't be discouraged.  God holds the prescription and cure for the heartworm of bitterness. 1 John 3:19-20 tell us, This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  (NIV)  We just need to take a strong dose of confession and repentance.  We must acknowledge, to God and to ourselves, any parasite of bitterness that attempts to take hold of our hearts.

Today, let us ask God to remove any type of spiritual heartworm we might carry. Let's begin with the prayer of David the Psalmist, Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NIV).

Have a healthy heart day!
 

My prayer for today

Oh God, search my heart for any root of bitterness. Reveal to me any type of spiritual heartworm in my life that might grieve your precious Spirit.  Help me to acknowledge and repent of any sin that keeps me from the abundant life I can have in you.


Application steps:

Take a few moments to take your spiritual pulse. Think back over your life from early childhood until today.  As you think of events or certain people, do you feel a sense of anger, hurt, or bitterness?  If yes, visualize placing the hurtful incident in your hand and offering it up to God.  Release it to Him and ask him to heal your heart.


Reflection points

How often do I examine my spiritual heart?

Do I allow God access to the most private places in my heart?

Is there someone I need to forgive, so I can live a vibrant, healthy Christian life?

Am I willing to forgive others who have hurt me deeply?


Power verses

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (NIV) 

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20 (NIV) 

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30 (NIV)

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32 (NIV)
 

Additional resources

A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life, by Sharon Jaynes & Lysa Terkeurst
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/secretbalanced.html

Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed, by Lysa Terkeurst
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/radical.html