Ya Gotta Have Heart!

Getting a big job done calls for heart.

Having a high IQ is not essential. Neither is being a certain age. Or possessing a particular temperament. You don’t even need the backing of the majority. History books are full of incredible stories of men and women who accomplished remarkable feats in the face of unbelievable odds.

The record books also include the opposite, of course: powerful possibilities that failed to reach full potential due to the loss of “heart.”

Napoleon comes to mind. By early 1812, he ruled most of Europe. Every army that opposed him had been defeated. Not only had he provoked the resignation of the last Holy Roman Emperor, he had married the man’s daughter. Except for three final “details”—Britain, Spain, and Russia—the French Caesar had everything he wanted. So that year, he decided to invade Russia.

Having mustered his army, Napoleon trounced Russia in a couple of major battles. Even though the Russian army made a gallant last stand, Moscow fell. And by October 1812 Napoleon sat in Moscow, surrounded by his undefeated troops. Nothing on the horizon seemed impossible.

But something happened that changed all that.

Though no one seems to know how it started, a fire broke out in Moscow. It burned much of the city, leaving Napoleon’s army without sufficient food, supplies, and protective winter quarters.

Napoleon was forced to abandon the city. He headed west amidst a bitter Russian winter, with the Czar’s troops at his heels. All of which proved too much for the once-valiant army of Napoleon.

Within two months of his greatest victory, Napoleon’s army had virtually ceased to exist. He struggled on for two more years, but after Moscow he was a beaten man. Interestingly, the reason was not a loss on the battlefield . . . it was a loss of heart. Brilliant and visionary though he was, he was unable to keep his troops alive.

When Moscow went up in flames, Waterloo was inevitable. Why? Because troops without heart can’t fight.

While reading through the exciting story of Nehemiah recently, I was reminded again of this principle. You remember Nehemiah, the Jewish leader whose passion for Jerusalem drove him to leave the security of his home and job in Persia to superintend the building of a protective wall around Zion. What a project! And what obstacles stood against him! But the job got done in record time. Why? Because everybody near and far thought the wall project was a neat idea? Because he had thousands of skilled craftsmen who loved masonry work? Get serious. Nehemiah stated the reason in his journal entry: “So we built the wall . . . for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).

Check the margin of your Bible. The term translated “mind” is the Hebrew word for heart. Another word for it might be courage. In fact, they are related.

In an early copy of Webster’s dictionary (1828), the author points out that courage comes from coeur, the French word for heart: “Courage is the quality that enables one to face difficulty and danger with firmness, without fear or depression.” And then, as Webster (a born-again Christian) often did in those days, he concluded his definition with a Scripture reference: Deuteronomy 31. That chapter includes Moses’s final speech to the children of Israel, shortly before his death and Joshua’s taking up the torch of leadership.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:68)

At 120 years of age, Moses tells ’em, “Ya gotta have heart!”

Not being people of great courage (they’d been slaves in Egypt for over four hundred years), Moses knew how easy it would be for Joshua and his troops to lose heart.

I’m not suggesting that all of us must be Nehemiahs or Joshuas. Sometimes that may be necessary. But I have observed over the years that some of the greatest demonstrations of courage occur in private places. At home when dealing with a child’s willful defiance or a teenager’s rebellion, or facing one’s own selfishness, or in a board meeting when you’re in the minority. Sometimes just staying with something over the long haul—maintaining the vision year after year—is magnificent proof of a courageous heart. I understand that Westminster Abbey took hundreds of years to complete, under the direction of numerous successive architects. Yet, because each architect stayed with the original design, the structure remained a true representation of the period of its inception. Faithfully, consistently, diligently, each architect showed quiet courage.

You may or may not be a leader. You may or may not be led to accomplish some major wall-building project. You may or may not manage an office of people. You may or may not be engaged in shaping the lives of several children at home. But chances are good that you are influencing others in some measure. Don’t just watch things happen. Get in there with both feet. Risk, for a change. Make some waves. Cut a new swath. Quit waiting for the other guy. You get the job done!

One reminder: Ya gotta have heart.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “Ya Gotta Have Heart!” in The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece (Dallas: Word, 1994), 416-418. Copyright © 1994, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.