A Prepared Heart, A Heart With Purpose
  Great men and women of the Bible were people of purpose, and Christians must compare themselves with these heroes of the faith and the commands of our Lord to see if we are as well. Ezra left the captivity of Babylon for Jerusalem eager to teach his people. It was said of him, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity to be conformed to their ways where it was said; "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank" (Dan. 1:8). Just prior to fleeing the seductive advances of his master's wife; Joseph states, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God" (Gen. 39:9)? Ezra, Daniel, and Joseph are just three examples of godly people who had prepared and purposed their hearts to serve the Lord regardless of the cost.
It's vitally important that Christians prepare and purpose their hearts to serve God early on in their walk of faith. The sooner we learn of the dangers, temptations, and challenges a Christian may face; we can prepare ourselves for handling them when they come. It reminds me of the saying: "Don't wait until you are thirsty to start digging a well!" If we can educate ourselves of the possible challenges ahead, and then decide what our disciplined responses will be when they arrive, we will be prepared to defeat the obstacle with a heart that's purpose is to serve God. Let's consider a few ways we must prepare for the challenges to come, and examine our hearts for the purpose that is needed to stand by our decisions.
1. We must study God's word to learn from the examples of those who endured the hardships, trials, and temptations we may face. Paul spoke of the sins and failures of the Israelites in the wilderness and warned the Christians at Corinth to learn from their example. Paul said, "Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted" (1 Cor. 10:6). The actions of the Israelites serve as examples for us to learn from today as well. He later stated, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:11). We must use their successes and failures to help us prepare for when we find ourselves in similar situations.
2. We must make the decision early in our walk of faith to stand by the convictions we learn from God's word so when the situations do arise our hearts will be purposed to serve God. Making these decisions for how we will react to future incidents will help us prevent making the wrong decision when the temptation arises. It produces discipline that will grow stronger over time. Joshua expected this from the Israelites when he gave them his farewell address. He challenged them by saying, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Josh. 24:15). Making the decisions before the challenges arise will lead us to develop discipline, preparedness, and purpose of heart.
3. We must trust in what we have learned from God's word, and rely on our purposed decisions to do God's will when our faith is challenged. We know "the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). As we grow in the faith with a prepared heart that is purposed to serve the will of God, we will be better prepared to ward off the fiery darts of the devil and the wiles of a sin sick world.
We cannot afford to wait until we thirst to start digging a well, and we shouldn't wait until we are face to face with temptation to decide it's time to spiritually grow up. When we fail to invest the time to prepare ourselves, we prepare ourselves for failure. We need to learn to emulate men like Ezra, Daniel, and Joseph who had prepared their hearts ahead of time for the spiritual challenges they would encounter in their service to God. -Ed