Listen to this devotional
Since I was a young kid, playing college football had always been my dream.
After experiencing success at the college level, I soon realized that playing professional football wasn’t a fantasy but an attainable goal. I had the opportunity to play for the San Francisco 49ers, one of the best football organizations in the world.
I had what I thought I’d always wanted: success, status, and money. Nevertheless, even with all of that, I struggled to excel in one key area of my life: relationships.
I was never able to deeply attach in romantic relationships. Instead, I kept bouncing around from one relationship to another, always thinking that the issue stemmed from the other person’s problems. I soon came to realize that I kept changing relationships because I had never learned to change my heart.
Maybe, like me, you think that a change of job, location, or relationship is what you need. While all these can be great, lasting and transformative change starts in the heart.
 So repent [change your inner self-your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God-seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day];Acts 3:19 AMP
I saw this kind of heart change happen in my brother after he started studying the Bible with some friends. He sought to develop a relationship with God, and God changed his heart. His transformation inspired me and gave me hope that I could also change.
I learned something through this time. We can change our appearance; we can change our relationships; we can change our locations. We can even change our socioeconomic status.
But these changes will only be short-term solutions if we don’t learn to experience a deep inner change of heart. This is the kind of change learning to walk with God provides – one that starts within the heart.
 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. 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 NIV
One of the things that the Bible teaches us here is how much God values and wants our heart.
In this Bible study, we will learn through the life of King David how real heart change starts with developing a heart for God.
Who is King David in the Bible?
David was one of the first kings of Israel (ruling from about 1010–970 BCE), and is one of the main characters we follow in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. Though David started out as just a young shepherd from Bethlehem, God used his talents in music, fighting, and relationships to shape him into an incredible leader.
David had a relationship with God like no other. Even when King Saul was jealous of David and chased him around the country out of fear that he would take his kingship, David still chose to turn to God in the midst of his pain and hardship. Once David became king, he still prayed to God whether he was celebrating victories, expressing anger about relationship hurt and betrayal, or even humbly admitting his own mistakes. Many of the Psalms come from these prayers, where David personally and passionately cried out to God.
Do I have a heart for God?
In order for us to have a heart change, let’s first begin by identifying what a heart for God is. It’s the thing that matters most to God.
 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’Acts 13:22 NIV
We can learn two valuable lessons from this passage. The first one is that what made David unique in God’s eyes wasn’t his talent, intelligence, or status; it was his heart – one that was willing to do everything God wanted.
The second lesson is that what God wants and is after is not perfection, but rather a heart that’s always willing to fight to turn back to him. Indeed, David was far from perfect. Throughout his life, he struggled with many sins, including deceit, violence, and unfaithfulness.
His family was also pretty dysfunctional, and he made parenting mistakes that led to tragic outcomes. Nevertheless, David’s heart was special because he was always willing to repent by choosing to turn back to God (Matthew 3:2 AMP).
What motivated David to turn back to God was the trust he had in him. He saw God as a relationship, as a friend he longed for (Psalm 63:1), cried out to (Psalm 34:4), and wanted to reconcile with after having hurt him by his sin (Psalm 51:9-12). David knew that this was the pathway for him to accomplish God’s purpose for his life (Psalm 51:13). He also deeply believed in and trusted in God’s love.
 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.Psalm 25:8-10 NIV
Because David understood, believed in, and focused on God’s love, he was able to face and learn from his pain, errors, and sins. David saw his moments of great fear, failure, and need as an opportunity to connect with God in a greater way by learning from God how he could better obey his ways.
- What needs to change about my view of God, so I can develop more of a heart for him?
- What pains, mistakes, and sins have I been ignoring that I will be willing to face once I change my view of God?
- How could facing these truths help me to change for the better?
What causes us to lose our heart for God?
Oftentimes, fear is at the root of what makes us lose our heart for God.
 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.  Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.  David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”1 Samuel 17:23-24,32 NIV
In this passage, David arrives at the battle scene between the Israelites and the Philistines where he sees Goliath, a champion Philistine warrior, come to their ranks to challenge the entire Israelite army. Goliath caused a great deal of fear in all the Israelites, which made them run away and lose heart.
What was true for the Israelites then can be true for us today. When we choose not to deal with our fears, we lose heart. We can end up enslaved to whatever fears we refuse to face and choose to ignore. We will either choose to conquer fear and grow or let fear conquer us and lose heart.
In one of the scenes of my favorite movie Braveheart, Isaac the Bruce is clearly distraught while talking to his dad. He had just betrayed William Wallace for fear of losing his title and lands.
Isaac’s dad tries to console him by letting him know that “all men betray and all men lose heart.” Isaac responds by saying “I don’t want to lose heart. I want to believe as he did.” He then declares to his dad he will never be on the wrong side again and goes on to lead Scotland’s efforts to be freed from English rule.
Our moments of great fear and consequent failures can also be an opportunity to gain a greater trust in God if we are willing to face and fight against the things that are causing us to lose heart.
In contrast to David, King Saul did not deal with the fears in his life that exposed or caused him to lose his heart for God (I Samuel 15:10-11). This led Saul to also lose his ability to fulfill God’s purpose and destiny for his life.
Where is unconquered fear leading you today? Below are a few places Saul’s unconquered fear led him:
- Complacency (1 Samuel 15:24-25) – Wanting to please people over God.
- Comfort (1 Samuel 16:14-16) – Using people or things to make us feel better over or in place of our relationship with God.
- Credit (1 Samuel 18:6-9) – Seeking to be better or more respected than others.
- Compromise (1 Samuel 28:5-7) – Abandoning our convictions and seeking success apart from God.
I’ve also begun to recognize the following signs that I am losing heart due to not facing and fighting against the things above:
- I become a victim and blame others for my shortcomings and sin.
- I use people to make myself feel better and avoid conflict.
- I am jealous and threatened by others’ success.
- I make excuses and go back to old sins I once believed were wrong.
- How is unconquered fear leading me to lose my heart for God?
- What signs of losing heart do I most relate to?
- How can I choose to face and conquer my fears today?
How can I develop a heart for God?
Like anything that’s worth having, developing a heart for God will take effort on our part. David worked on his heart for God himself, but he also allowed relationships to both influence him and strengthen him spiritually.
 Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.  Then I will teach your ways to other sinners, and they-guilty like me-will repent and return to you.Psalm 51:11-13 TLB
David wrote Psalm 51 after having been confronted by his friend Nathan on how his sinful decisions had affected God and those around him. Instead of choosing apathy or discouragement, David chose to fight in his walk with God.
David’s heart for God was developed and sustained by the relationships in his life that he allowed to influence him. These relationships empowered him to fulfill God’s vision and purpose for his life, which was to show others around him how great God is.
Like David, we will need to choose to devote ourselves to spending personal and consistent time with God to develop this heart. In addition, we will also need to develop the right kind of spiritual relationships. David demonstrates this by his personal example.
Indeed, David had a great deal of help developing his heart for God. He had various relationships throughout his life that reminded him of God’s vision and challenged him when he was losing his heart for God.
Jonathan: a peer
 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”1 Samuel 23:17 NIV
Jonathan was one of David’s peers. He helped David find strength in God when God’s vision seemed to have failed. Jonathan reminded David of God’s destiny for his life, at a time when Jonathan’s father Saul was trying to kill David — a time it would have seemed that God’s vision for David couldn’t possibly be fulfilled.
Abigail: a partner
 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,  my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”1 Samuel 25:30-31 NIV
Abigail helped David deal with his conscience and heart. David was on his way to kill her husband, Nabal. Nabal had refused to help David after David had helped him. In addition to helping David keep his conscience clear, Abigail also reminded David of God’s vision for his life and that one day he would be king of Israel. Again, this was a time in David’s life when fulfilling God’s vision of becoming king didn’t seem probable.
Nathan: a mentor
 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.-2 Samuel 12:7-9 NIV
Nathan was a spiritual mentor who challenged and confronted David when he strayed far from God’s vision for him. He engaged David on his specific sin, helping David take responsibility for that sin against God and repent.
As you can see from the scriptures above, David had a team of relationships that helped him by reminding him of God’s vision and purpose for his life. These relationships were a vital part of David developing and sustaining his heart for God.
Like David, each of us needs to develop a circle of relationships that helps us develop or sustain our heart for God.
- Do I believe God has called me to a special purpose?
- How can I surround myself with relationships that share God’s vision for my life and help me fulfill it?