Heartburn isn’t really the kind of thing you’d wish on anyone. I certainly don’t like it, but I do like pizza, and so I’ve just learned what pills are required to keep the heartburn away.
In Luke’s Gospel we hear of a very different way in which our hearts might “burn.” You are probably familiar with what happened to two of Jesus’ disciples as they were walking to Emmaus on the very day Jesus rose from the dead. In Chapter 24 Luke tells us that “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” (v.15*) However, deeply despondent over the death of their good friend and teacher, and confused by the news of his missing body, they somehow failed to recognize him. Entering into conversation with them, Jesus “explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures.” (v.27 GNT) Only at dinner with him that evening did they finally see him for who he was, and suddenly he vanished from their sight. Astonished, they remarked to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (v.32 NIV)
Even before they fully understood it, the words of Scripture had already been at work in their hearts creating the faith by which they would know and trust their Savior Jesus for all their lives. They had been discouraged and aimless, but now they were “on fire!” They immediately raced back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they now knew about Jesus.
And so it should be with us! This is the kind of heartburn we can embrace! Life with Jesus is much more than a heartwarming experience. God knows that he must do a fiery work within us, setting aflame within us his purifying truth, enlightening us to our Savior, and branding us forever as his children, with lives redeemed and hopes restored. The God-given and life-changing realization of who Jesus is, and what he has done for us then burns within us, setting our hearts ablaze with the best Good News ever heard, and sending us out to proclaim the same.
My friends, we share this Good News with others because we understand that the whole world needs this “holy heartburn!” They need to know and trust the Savior of all nations. And that happens for them when we do for them what Jesus did for the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. The very first thing Jesus did was “draw near,” walk with them, and listen to them. Like Jesus, we, too, must gently and compassionately come alongside others, befriend them, and listen to their struggles and heartaches.
When we send workers in the global harvest fields, we want them to be capable of doing this in an authentic and meaningful way, using the language of people’s hearts, and embracing, where possible, their culture. Our workers must be well prepared to befriend those who don’t yet know Jesus, and to listen to their lost hopes and crushing burdens. This alone, however, is not enough. Bringing “holy heartburn” to lives frozen in hopelessness requires more. God’s Word is required.
God is pretty clear about this. There is no mission, really, where there is no message. Nothing of our mission actually works without our finding a way to share God’s Word with those who do not yet know the truth that will set them free. (see John 8:31-32) “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” declared the Apostle Paul, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) By his Word God created all that is, and still by his Word, translated into whatever human language is required, he transforms the hearts of men and women today. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:29)
A deep commitment to the necessity, truth, and heart-changing “fire-power” of God’s Word has been from the beginning a foundational “stone” for the World Mission Prayer League, and will continue to be so for the “sequel” to the WMPL story we believe God is beginning to write. As God does this, we need prayer partners, curious inquirers, and sent workers whose hearts are already ablaze, and who are wanting to grow in their knowledge of the Word, their love for the Word, their fidelity to the Word, and their competence with the Word. This is what’s required. Will you pray for it? Nothing else will get the job done. Nothing else will create the “holy heartburn” the world needs. That’s what we learn from Jesus.