“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:10–14

There are certain English phrases which are very hard to describe to a newcomer. How do you explain what you mean when you describe someone as “all heart”? It must be a strange image that is conjured up in the mind of the uninitiated! The very thought that a person could have every other organ in their body squeezed out and be only occupied by one big pumping muscle, how absurd!

When we use the word heart in a compound or in a phrase we are always seeking to communicate something critically central to us. The Bible uses the word to refer to the center of our total personality; the heart is a vital part of our core. At Valentine’s Day we think of the heart as symbolic of our all-exclusive love. To be heart-felt corresponds to our capacity for sympathy. Heart also is representative of spirit, courage, and enthusiasm. Naturally, it also can be used to define someone’s object, aim, and desire—as our Lord says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

There are many wonderful expressions that include the word heart. As the fall and winter come around we all enjoy hearty meals that satiate and energize. To set your heart on something means to focus your mind intently upon. A Scottish word is heartsome, meaning cheerful and spirited. To take to heart means to think seriously about, concern oneself with, to be deeply affected by, and to grieve over. When we give something our heart and soul we give ourselves enthusiastically, fervently and completely.

On the other hand, to lack heart reflects a flagging spirit. We use the word dishearten to describe the depressing of hope, courage, or spirit. Losing heart indicates lacking courage or enthusiasm. To be heartless means to have no compassion or sympathy.

The Bible speaks of the human heart from many different aspects. Proverbs underscores the significance of the heart of your soul. Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 15:14 reads, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.” Proverbs 23:7 reads, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” Proverbs 23:17 reads, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.”

The “unsaved heart” is a spiritually insensible heart. Proverbs 17:20 says, “He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil.” Our Lord speaks of hardness of heart in Mark 3:5, 6:52, and 10:5. Jeremiah 17:9f details the condition of the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (2 Corinthians 5:12).

The “saved heart” is a spiritually enlivened heart. Romans 10:9f reads, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The spiritually alive heart is one which will hide God’s Word within (Psalm 119:11) and will be fired up with God’s truth found in the Word (Luke 24:32). Because the saved heart has been regenerated there is a whole new world which opens up to the newborn saint (Ephesians 3:17ff).

The “weak heart” is a saved heart that needs to grow and strengthen. A saint’s heart may be weak because of a lack of confidence, an inward focus, paying undue attention to slights and hurts, or fearing discouragement. Our passage in Philippians 3:10ff is directed to the weak of heart reminding you to take your cues from your Lord and pursue Christlikeness. 1 Peter 3:4 challenges the believer to “let it be the hidden person of the heart,” and Philippians 3:15 tells you to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”

The “disheartened heart” is a saved heart that needs to heal. Disheartening comes from many sources (Proverbs 12:25, 15:13, 17:22) including harboring sin within (James 3:14). The disheartened heart is characterized by setbacks, unmet desires, disappointment by people and things, failure to trust God, and especially setting your heart on the wrong things. God’s healing of the heart comes through practicing “singleness of heart” (Colossians 3:22) and “the Lord directing your heart into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

The “great and stout heart” is the healthy heart of the warrior saint (Ephesians 5:19, 6:6ff). A great heart is often identified as a servant’s heart (2 Corinthians 12:15). This big-hearted soul has his eyes firmly fixed on Christ and His Word and will quickly rebound from weariness, is filled with confidence in God, will freely shepherd the weak-hearted saints around him and will “draw near to God with a true heart” (Hebrews 10:22). Bunyan used the name Great-Heart to describe a well-armed Christian soldier who is instantly ready to defeat evil and defend good.

Are you a hearty Christian? What steps can you take to grow stout-hearted in the faith? Trust and obey.