Developing a Heart for God (1 Samuel)

Developing a Heart for God

David before he was king — 1 Samuel

What would it look like if everyone in your family could actually see your heart? Some of you are thinking, “No problem–my heart is strong. I’m in the Corona-Olympics. I’ve been working out every day. My cholesterol is 6 and my body fat 3%. I have a six-pack.” Others of you have images of surgery and the doctor holding your beating heart in his hand. No, I’m not talking about your physical heart–I am talking about your spiritual heart.

The word heart (kardia) in the Bible refers to the authentic you, who you really are–where you desire, deliberate and where you decide. It’s the place of spiritual activity–the seat of your inner spiritual life. The heart is the place where God meets you, the place of our fellowship with Him, the place God reveals Himself to us. Like Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Or Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” For what matters most for every single Christian, from 8 years old to the 80-year-old is the condition of your heart!

Christianity is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Joel 2:13, “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” Second Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro … that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” To focus on your heart before God is the pathway to a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus. But to ignore your heart and merely worry about your external behavior is the pathway to a superficial relationship with God. God’s Word promises that people with pure hearts before God are happy, but those who look good on the outside but have hollow hearts are those who are unhappy.

What’s the condition of your heart this morning? You are so caught up in externals today–it’s easy for your faith to drift from internals to externals. What is it you want to know about people–what they look like, what clothes they wear, what make-up they use, what job they have? How many kids they have, what school they go to, what college they graduated from? But what Jesus wants to know is what kind of heart do you have on the inside?

Then how do you develop the right heart? How can you learn to maintain a godly heart? How can you make sure your inner person is pleasing to God? How can you become a man or woman after God’s own heart? The answer is to model the second king of Israel, one of everyone’s favorite men in the Scriptures, a man after God’s own heart—David, meaning beloved one.

When I first became a Christian and several times since then (including this week), I’ve prayed for the Lord to give me the heart of a David for Him. Through the study of 1 Samuel, I’ve come to realize being a man after God’s own heart is not a mystical gift, nor an emotional feeling, nor a simple prayer away–but a costly lifestyle made up of daily choices, and a consistent battle against all that wars against the soul. Yet to have God’s heart results in a blessed, intimate, content, joyful life, and overflowing with God’s love.

But to be a man or woman after God’s own heart is going to require some radical changes, secret commitments, lengthy time, menial tasks, constant maintenance, and will only come after suffering. How many of you this morning, right now, want to be a man or woman after God’s own heart–raise your hand? Pray with me right now.

I have my Bible open to I Samuel 16, where we’re introduced to David, so he can answer for us how to develop a heart for God. Let me set the scene for you–through the beginning pages of our Bibles, we find the Lord God seeking a people whose hearts would purpose to be a testimony to His character, were unified and would be uniquely set apart for God’s service alone. (He still wants that from His bride here today.) But by the time we get to the book of Judges, the people’s hearts had drifted so far from God, that everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.

So as 1 Samuel opens, God’s people had replaced a heart relationship with God with an external religious routine. After God uses the Philistines to take the ark, conquer the land, kill the high priest, and burn the tabernacle to the ground in Shiloh, the prophet Samuel calls the people to repentance. But when Samuel grows old, the people again reject God as their king and ask for a king like the other nations. So God gives them Saul–an impressive man, but with no heart for God. Then after establishing a pattern of disobedience and demonstrating his fallen character under pressure, God rejects Saul as king in 15:23, which brings us to chapter 16.

Look at verse 1, “Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.’ ” Samuel is still struggling with the rejection of Saul as king. After all, Saul looked like a king–he was head and shoulders bigger than everyone in Israel. He was a powerful, good-looking man. But Saul didn’t have a heart for God.

Samuel was also afraid of what Saul might do if he found out he was about to anoint another king. So in verses 2 and 3, God tells Samuel how to get to Bethlehem without causing problems. And when he arrives, Samuel calls the people to set themselves apart for God alone and gather for a time of sacrifice to God. Samuel invites Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. And as he does, you will discover what it means to have a heart for God, and how you can grow that same heart. How do we develop a heart for God?

#1  Cultivate a HIGH view of God

Look at verses 6 to 7, “Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’ 7But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ”

You and I are so corrupted by externals. Even God’s prophet Samuel can’t help but be impressed by Eliab’s appearance. Samuel thought, “This has got to be the guy!” Eliab must have been impressive–a massive man, good looking, formidable soldier. But that was on the outside. God looked right into the heart of a youth and saw a passion for Him–a heart that was directed at God, a heart impressed by God, who saw God for who He is. A heart for God includes a high view of God.

Because David had a high view of God, he had a heart that longed for God. Like the psalmist prayed in Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, oh God.” Like Moses who cried out, “Show me thy glory,” in Exodus 33:18. David had a relationship with God, and an understanding of who God is, that affected everything about him. It changed his heart, not merely his head. It altered his thoughts, not just his tasks. It adjusted his behavior, not merely his beliefs.

Listen to David’s view of God in Psalm 145:3 and 6, “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. 6Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness.” Through long hours of solitude with God, focusing his mind on the character of God, forsaking many pleasures, relationships and distractions, David developed a high view of God. For without a high view of God, you can’t be a man or woman after God’s own heart.

Do you have a high view of God? Is your god the God of Ephesians 3:20? “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us.” Is your view of God like Paul’s in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways”?

If you’re not sure, then submit to this simple test. You know whether you have a high view of God or not by who or what you brag about. When you have a high view of God, He tops your opinion poll, He’s your number one priority. Therefore, He’s the one you brag about. Listen to David in Psalm 20:7, “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.”

You can hear them talk about their chariot, can’t you? “Well, I got a bucket platform, spiked wheels, rack and pinion reins, and a leather wipe on the dash. Under the hood, a four-footed, oat-fed mustang. But David shows us the person with God’s heart brags not about clothes, money, jobs, sports or devices, but brags about the Lord. There’s awe, wow, and wonder in his heart. For God is the hero of the man whose heart is His.

“But,” you ask, “how do I get that kind of heart?” A high view of God and a heart for God comes through the study of the character of God, both in the Scripture and in creation–through God’s special and general revelation. Like in Psalm 19, as David looked at creation–he said in verse 1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” And as David studied the Scriptures he said in verse 8, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart . . . 11moreover by them Thy servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.”

A high view of God comes through looking at all of life through the lens of the character of God.  Learn God’s attributes practically–God knows it, He can do it, He is here, He is unique, He is fair, He is dependable, He is good, He is patient, He is consistent, He is in control, He is sacrificial, He is pure, He is joyful and more. To develop a heart for God, boast about Him above all. Secondly, we see David’s heart came from developing . . .

#2  Develop the HIDDEN person

Read verses 8 to 11, “Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 9Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ l0Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ 11And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the children?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ “

David wasn’t even considered to be a candidate for being king by his own dad. Outwardly, he did not look all that impressive–but inwardly, in his hidden person, he was something really special. David was not out front–he was merely doing his job and loving God behind the scenes. God was developing his inner person. So while his brothers were becoming great warriors, David was first a prayer warrior.

David wrote most of the psalms while he was hiding away with God in the fields. He communed with God and wrote these poems and songs about his God. He was not preparing for a sermon, or trying to write Scripture. But out of his solitude with God came songs and prayers from his heart to God that he memorized, then later wrote down. David was willing to be different and a loner, if it meant he could have intimacy with his God. Picture his family situation. His brothers despised him as the youngest. His father thought him insignificant. Samuel was looking for another like Saul. But David was strong in his inner, hidden man.

I had a friend at Hume Lake who, when I first met him, was very different and aloof. He had no girlfriend, didn’t want one, spent most of his time alone and went out the woods to pray a lot. Yet over the next year, he turned into a real man of God–to the point that everyone wanted to be his friend. The man or women with a heart for God is the one who makes time to be with God alone. Like our Lord Jesus who repeatedly, like in Mark 1:35, “rose early while it was still dark and went to lonely places to pray there.”

Every man or woman of God must find some solitude. As David prayed in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning O Lord Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” But in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to stop channel surfing, binge watching, YouTube viewing, turn off the radio in the car, and get alone with God.

No one has better modern poetry words than Stephen Curtis Chapman–listen to his words to Be Still and Know.

Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know that He is holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine

Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done

Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change

Be still, Be still and know that He is God

Be still, Be speechless

Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know He is our Father

Come rest your head upon His breast

Listen to the rhythm of His unfailing heart of love

Beating for his little ones

Calling each of us to come

Be still, Be still

There is a problem with solitude, though. It will be painful at first, because once you turn off the noise and start listening, God will expose the condition of your heart–and that will hurt at first. But for the believer to develop a David “heart for God”, it will take time with you and God alone. It takes a hiding place to develop the hidden person. Jesus highly recommends your closet–and He will occasionally send you into a desert place to help you (like now). And thirdly, developing a heart for God came from David’s . . .

#3  Deepen in HUMILITY

Read 1 Samuel 16:11 to 12, “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the children?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12So he sent and brought him in.  Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. [Girls, he was hot.] And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is he.’

David was tending sheep–dirty, stinky, dumb sheep. Samuel, the great prophet, the man of God has come to our little town of Bethlehem to make a sacrifice–everyone is going to be there and David’s family has been specially invited. But David is out doing what he always did–tending those lambs. How does that show David’s humility? And how can we develop humility, which is a part of God’s heart?

First  David was faithful in LITTLE

One of the surest indicators of humility is the willingness to be faithful in little things. As Jesus says in Luke 16:10, “ ‘He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” The person who does the little job well can be trusted with the big job. But the person who doesn’t do a little job well can’t be trusted with a big job. Are you one who is on time, doesn’t forget details, and does small things well?

How do you know if you’re faithful in little? Simple–can others count on you without supervision? Once you say yes, does the job get done and done well? The heart of God is found in those who are faithful in little. David showed his humility by being faithful with his family’s sheep–so faithful, in fact, that God decided to entrust him with the entire nation.

Second  David was committed to his task with EXCELLENCE

David didn’t just watch the family’s sheep, he was committed to protecting them, even if he was putting his life on the line.  You ask, how do you put your life on the line for sheep? When man-killers come to eat the sheep and you take on a lion and a bear to protect the sheep—in chapter 17:34 to 37, we learn David was tending the dirty, stinky, dumb, sheep and a lion came and stole a lamb, then a bear did the same. And what did David do? He said, “Save some chops for me!” No, he went out after them and attacked them. And when it rose up against him, he grabbed it by the beard and killed it.

Wow! David is anywhere from 13 to 17, yet he’s willing to take on a bear and a lion to protect the sheep. David was no wimp–this is a man of courage, a man committed to the flock. Listen, I have chased a bear with a hatchet when I was mad at it for taking my backpack. But when it turned to face me, I stopped and said, “You can have it.” A bear is a scary creature. But David is committed to doing a small task with excellence, with loyalty and with courage. True humility is seen as we do the small tasks as if we were doing them personally for Jesus.

Third  David was submissive to AUTHORITY

Samuel, the man of God, has come to town–but David has to remain with the flock. Sounds kind of unfair, yet David submits to the authority God has placed in his life, his parents. True humility is seen in the one who submits to authority, because God is the one who establishes authority. First Peter 2:13 to 15, “Submit yourselves for the Lords sake to every human institution . . . for such is the will of God.” No one can have the heart of God unless they are submissive to God and His appointed leaders.

David was willing to stay with the menial tasks when everyone else was a part of the big shindig. And he was willing to do those menial tasks with seriousness, diligence and endurance. Like he prayed in Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage, yes wait for the Lord.” Small services done faithfully with excellence and conviction produce a humble heart for God. The best lessons are learned in faithful commitment. True greatness is grown by being faithful in little.

The greatest among us are the servants, and those who are most like Christ are those who are faithful–those who can be counted on to serve week in and week out. Are you more of a consumer or more of a contributor? To develop a heart for God, it will come through long-term, faithful, humble service. And fourth, David developed a heart for God because he was . . .

#4  Live HOLY SPIRIT filled

Read verse 13, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” And Samuel arose and went to Ramah. David sought after intimacy with God like a gold-miner pursuing the mother lode. His great heart for God came from being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is why his greatest dread was losing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Do you recall what David feared after he confessed to his sin with Bathsheba? In Psalm 51, David prays that God wouldn’t take His Holy Spirit away from him. That’s something that could happen to David in the Old Testament, but can’t happen to a genuine believer in Christ in the New Testament. Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30, all true believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Like official documents which were sealed with wax, then pressed with the signet ring of the king to show it was official and unbreakable, so born again believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a sign of security and authenticity.

In Christ, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer. Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to God.” There is no second blessing–if you have Jesus, then you are indwelt with the person of the Holy Spirit. But that was not the case in Old Testament times. Before Acts 2, the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers. Therefore, David cried out not to lose the Spirit. Why? Because if you had a heart for God, it was because you walked in the Spirit, you were led by the Spirit, you were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 commands believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with Spirit.” Don’t be controlled by alcohol, but be controlled by the Spirit. How does that happen? Like the wearing of a glove, where the glove does what the hand wants it to in every way. So like a glove, Christians are to live like they are depending on His hand.

But how do you know what the Spirit wants? When you choose, as an act of your will, to walk in obedience to the Word of God. In every act you say, “God, I want to do what you want.” In every conversation you think, “Lord, I want to honor you with what I say.” The person who has a heart for God is the one who walks in the Spirit. He or she seeks what God wants. You all know what a groupie is, right? It’s a radical fan who follows an artist wherever they go–not only cheering them on, but willing to do anything for them at any time. To be filled with the Spirit means you walk through life as God’s groupie. You are his biggest fan and you can’t wait to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants it.

To become a man or woman after God’s own heart, you must develop the habit of continual intimacy. You must develop some maintenance habits, such as continual confession and praying throughout the day, without ceasing. That requires hard decisions and difficult follow-through. But that is what it will take to be a man or woman after God’s own heart. And finally, to be mighty in heart, be prepared to be . . .

#5  HARASSED (which is found in the rest of 1 Samuel)

As soon as he was anointed as king, David had conflict–why? Because it is impossible for a man of God to be at peace with the children of the devil. It’s impossible for a man after God’s own heart to be overlooked by the enemy, because this kind of Christian is a real threat to the kingdom of darkness. All men and women after God’s own heart will be attacked. David was chased all over the desert and was so depressed at times, he thought he would die. But he was a man after God’s own heart.

Much like David, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12, that we will have thorns in the flesh, which are weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties–why? So the power of Christ may dwell in us and show through us. To have a heart for God, God will give you thorns–thorns that constantly remind you how weak you are and how much you need Jesus every moment of every day. Now don’t despair, for you won’t have to develop God’s heart completely on your own.

The mighty men surrounded David and Jonathon became David’s supporter and friend. And God has given us to each other at FBC to help each other and love each other toward God’s heart. But that comfort will not replace being harassed. To gain a heart for God, you will be harassed. The New Testament makes a similar promise to every Christian who wants God’s heart. Second Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Do you still want to have a heart for God? Then be like David–develop a high view of God, grow strong in the hidden person of the heart, become faithful in little, a humble person, seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and be willing to be harassed–all H’s.

Take this home by going after three isolation challenges.

A  Choose to have your MINISTRY come from the heart

God designed your heart to be the well from which all service, lifestyle, giving and outreach are drawn. The heart relationship with Christ is to be your resource out of which comes all kinds of godly actions. Grow to become a Mary–avoid being a Martha. Don’t get that reversed. The heart is the resource. Choose to have life, service and giving come from your heart–not a feeling, but from your intimacy, delight, and walk in Christ.

B  God grows your heart in the CLOSET and the desert

To grow to become a man or woman after God’s own heart, it will require time alone, along with trials and thorns from a loving God who is all-wise and in sovereign control. Great impact on people comes from intimacy in prayer. Each family member make time to be with Christ alone in prayer.

C  From your HEART, depend in faith and turn to Christ

Romans 10:9 and 10, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.


  1. Ibukunoluwa on August 27, 2021 at 6:12 am

    I am indeed blessed with this article. Thank you sir!

    • Mariah Shepherd on October 4, 2021 at 8:11 pm

      This article really blessed me
      Thank you for putting it together and being led by the spirit. May God continue to bless you and shine His light down upon you.

      • Nkechi Ibisi Oti on February 18, 2022 at 8:08 am

        Great teaching, with deep revelation of how to have a heart God.

  2. Amaka on March 8, 2022 at 3:03 am

    Thank you very much sir
    I’m really blessed by your teaching

  3. BORNFACE on April 5, 2023 at 5:03 am


  4. Robert on August 5, 2023 at 10:25 pm

    I want to have a heart after God. after reading this I realize my heart ❤️ wasn’t right with God.

  5. LAZAROUS on September 16, 2023 at 12:07 am

    This is deep insight about the heart of man and how I can develop a right attitude towards God and His work. Thank you for the teaching.

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