Nearly 76 million Americans regularly avoid attending church every week. The alarming fact is that among these disassociated adults, many have a wide range of beliefs.
While patterns for declining church seem to be growing, Pastor Andy Stanly doesn’t seem to be affected. With over 20,000 in attendance in his three churches, Andy uses state-of-the-art multi-media to draw the unchurched on a regular basis. He is considered one of the top influential leaders for pastors. He is the son of pastor and author Charles Stanley and is known as a man who carries on the tradition of excellence in ministry.
Before Andy was senior pastor over his churches, he served as youth minister in his father’s church. For the past 12 years, he has mentored a young group of future leaders and Christian ministers. He has also hosted conferences for leaders under 40.
FOUR INVADERS OF THE HEART
Andy says there are four “invaders” or enemies of the heart. He says that left on their own these enemies will grow in power and influence. Each of these enemies numbs your soul, steals your life and threatens your relationships.
Guilt says “I owe you.” Andy says it is the result of having done something we perceive as wrong. The only way to make things right is to pay up.
“Nothing less than paying the debt will relieve a guilty heart,” says Andy. “And it must be paid or canceled for a guilty heart to experience relief.”
Anger says “You owe me.” Anger is the result of not getting something we want.
The root of anger is the perception that something has been taken,” explains Andy. “Something is owed you. And now a debt-to-debtor relationship has been established.” It is the most obvious and perhaps most dangerous. Anger leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.
Greed says “I owe me.” Greedy people believe they deserve every good thing that comes their way. Unlike anger or guilt, greed hides behind several virtues. Andy says while greed is easy to hide, it isn’t difficult to see in people around us. Greedy people talk and worry about money. They are not cheerful givers and are reluctant to share. They are poor losers and quibble over insignificant sums of money.
“Greed is not a financial issue,” says Andy. “It’s a heart issue.”
Jealousy says “God owes me.” Of all four invaders, Andy says jealousy betrays the true condition of our heart more than any other. Envy is a powerful force that can wreak damage on any relationship or organization. The remedy cannot be found by balancing the scales or tipping them in the other person’s favor. “The fact is, somebody’s upset with God and in most cases, they don’t even know it,” says Andy.
Like physical exercise, there are four spiritual exercises we can do that will effectively neutralize the enemies of the heart. Confession, forgiveness, giving and celebration. Confession allows us to come out of hiding. Forgiveness allows others to come out from under cover. Generosity allows us to partner with God. Celebration makes us a vehicle through which God communicates His pleasure.
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
When Andy was growing up, he wasn’t allowed to say “darn,” or “gosh” or “gee.” One day, he was playing with friends outside and said, “Get that darn bike out of my way!” Andy’s mom called him home and proceeded to brush his teeth with soap. To this day, Andy says, he doesn’t say “darn.” Andy reminds us that God is not nearly as concerned with what goes in our mouths as He is with what comes out of our mouths.
“Somehow, what’s in our hearts, good or bad,” says Andy, “is eventually translated into words and deeds.” He says this is an important subject because heart issues always take a toll on relationships. “People with shrapnel lodged in their hearts from something in their past don’t really want to be known. Being known is tantamount to being found out or discovered,” says Andy. Consequently, Andy believes people build walls around their lives and the things that pour out from their mouths are connected to a wounded heart.
When one of Andy’s sons, Andrew, was eight, Andy was sitting on the edge of his son’s bed, having a talk about the events of the day. Without thinking, Andy put his hand on his Andrew’s chest and asked him, “Is everything okay in your heart?” As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Andy thought he was asking too much from an eight year old. But he paused and said, “Yes, sir, Daddy.” That began a weekly and sometimes biweekly habit that Andy continued for five years.
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