“We need to make sure you’re not having a heart attack.” No one wants to hear those words, but that is what I found myself hearing after going to my doctor with chest pains. Thankfully, I did not have a heart attack, but the experience made me grateful there are tests one can perform to be sure.
Yet, this experience made me think of the need Christians have for another kind of heart test. The Bible talks about our hearts as our spiritual center or the core of who we are and how we relate to our Creator. Jeremiah 17:9 instructs that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” thus showing that we are born with a need for a new heart. Thus, as Acts 15:8–9 shows, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sick hearts can be washed clean.
In 1 Samuel 15–16, we are given descriptions of these two hearts, lived out in the examples of King Saul and David. Saul, with a sick heart, is led to disobey God’s commands, focus on himself, and to show greater concern for what others thought about him, all while looking impressive to the world. By contrast, David is shown as one with an upright heart who sought God’s will, pursued a relationship with God, treasured the Word of God, and relied not on himself but on God.
Further, we know that even those of us with redeemed, cleansed, and new hearts can still sin and manifest the fruit of sick hearts from time to time. Perhaps we are persuaded not by God’s Word but by the counsel of the world to “follow our hearts” when facing a trial or temptation. This counsel always fails, for a sick heart gives only bad advice. The truth is that our hearts will express affection for that which it worships and adores and, as much as we think we know ourselves, our hearts can confound and confuse us, for we cannot separate ourselves from our hearts.
Given that, I have found that I need a spiritual heart test. This check of the health of my heart allows me to see whether I am walking in the Spirit, following a heart redeemed by Christ, or if I am walking in the flesh, following the patterns of my old, sick, deceitful heart. In fact, sometimes I have been so confused about the state of my own heart that I have needed to take more than one test, so I have developed three.
The first heart test is the Speech Test. This is a simple question to diagnose what the focus of your heart is. Jesus explains in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The Speech Test asks: What is your mouth saying? Under normal circumstances? Under pressure or in emergencies, what comes out of your mouth at the most intense moment? The truth of this test is that our long-term speech patterns do not lie. Therefore, the Speech Tests asks us, What do you spend most of your time talking about?