When God Searches Our Hearts and Minds

Scriptures emphasize that our thoughts are of great concern to God. He has the ability to read our minds and to discern our motives.

King David understood how important our thoughts, motivations and the intents of our minds are to God. He wrote:

“You understand my thought afar off. … Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:2, 23-24, emphasis added throughout).

Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains that David is “asking for God to discern his motives and actions. … The psalmist desires nothing less than conformity to God’s will; therefore he prays for God’s examination of his spiritual condition” (revised edition, p. 964).

Evil people had accused David, causing him anxieties. He wanted to be sure that it was not the result of his own doing and that his heart was right before God. He asked God to show him if he was possibly in the wrong.

King Solomon’s heart not right with God

David passed on this vital knowledge of how God looks on our hearts and minds to his son Solomon:

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Sadly, Solomon did not follow his father’s advice toward the end of his life: “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. … So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:4, 9).

A lesson from the life of King Hezekiah

In 2 Chronicles 32 we are given an insight into how God at certain times may deal with us. For example, when King Hezekiah received envoys from Babylon, God withdrew from Hezekiah, to see what he would say and do. This incident afforded God an opportunity to find out more about the true character of the king.

“However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (verse 31).

From this example, we can learn that there are times God does not intervene immediately, but allows us to persevere through difficult and testing circumstances. This gives Him an opportunity over time to see our minds at work. How we individually deal with various issues tells God a lot about us and how much we are learning to think like He does. How much are we preparing for the responsibilities He has in mind for us in His Kingdom?

Unfortunately, what God witnessed in the heart of Hezekiah in this case did not please Him, as evidenced by the rebuke of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 39:1-7). The king did not pass this test! The thoughts of his mind were not pleasing to God, though in general Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:2).

What about us?

When we find ourselves in situations where our minds are challenged—for example, employment difficulties, financial distresses, relationships with others, health concerns and so on—God may step back for a while to see how desirous we are to deal with these issues according to His will. Does the outcome of our actions reflect the mind of Christ or our own selfish, carnal responses?

It is clear from the Scriptures that God searches our minds in order to determine the intents and purposes behind our thoughts and actions (see Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 17:10).

We recognize that at times our hearts are not as godly and spiritual as we would like them to be. Physically, we understand that a diseased heart may result in severe physical health issues. So, too, a spiritually diseased heart can cause spiritual problems!

So what steps should we take to make sure our hearts are spiritually healthy in the sight of God?

We need an attitude of repentance

David was aware of how absolutely vital the thoughts and intents of his heart were to God. He had grievously sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba. He changed his thoughts and took action in order to renew his relationship with God.

What was required? God wanted him to have “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6).

David beseeched God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast [constant] spirit within me” (verse 10).

One of the most difficult steps for us to take is to admit our hearts are not always right in God’s sight.Psalm 51 is a psalm of David’s repentance—a central teaching in the Bible. Jesus Christ consistently placed a great deal of emphasis on the subject of repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; learn more in our article “How to Repent”).

It was only after David repented (Psalm 51:1-4) that God forgave him of his sins (2 Samuel 12:13).

Not easy to admit the sins in our hearts

One of the most difficult steps for us to take is to admit our hearts are not always right in God’s sight. At times we refuse to acknowledge our transgressions and the sins that lurk in our hearts—“the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Notice what the apostle John wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [like David did], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

We do ourselves a great disservice by hiding our sins or allowing our egos to convince us that our hearts are clean and pure. Notice how King David rejoiced when he declared his sins before God:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. … I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:3, 5). The joy of his life returned to him: “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (verse 11).

A spiritual examination for all Christians

Take careful note of the following scriptures. How do we measure up to these teachings?

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). An excellent question! Can we truthfully answer and acknowledge that wickedness does from time to time reside in our hearts?
  • “Examine yourselves [not others] as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Unless we do, we are in danger of finding ourselves “disqualified” or rejected by God (same verse).
  • The apostle John toward the end of the first century gave a definition of what sin is: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). He later stated that if we love God, we will keep His commandments, which are not burdensome as some claim (1 John 5:3). Are we sure we are observing all of God’s laws, and not nonbiblical traditions taught by humans in the name of religion?
  • Jesus Christ stated: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Unless we do the will of the Father, Christ will declare, “I never knew you” (verse 23). Are we convinced that we are living according to the will of our Heavenly Father?
  • King David understood that secret sins—sins he was unaware of—possibly existed in his life. If so, he wanted God to show him what those sins were: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13). David’s desire was: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” (verse 14). Each of us should consider that, like David, we may have secret sins in our lives that we need God to reveal to us so we can repent and change.

God’s offer to each person

Acknowledging and admitting our sins, followed by genuinely repenting, are foundational tenets of true Christianity. It is the way to forgiveness of sins leading to eternal life, as opposed to eternal death (Romans 6:23).

God sets before us choices:

  • Life or death.
  • Blessing or cursing.

He speaks to each person: “Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Take God at His word, and give yourself a spiritual heart examination. It will not only lead to a sense of joy and happiness in your life, but will open the door to a future beyond your wildest dreams.

In the book of Revelation we read: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). God is preparing us for a future of service and accomplishment (read more in our article “Born to Be a King”)!

What transpires in our minds and hearts will largely determine if we will be one of those claiming this promise.

Learn more about the vitally important steps God lays out for transforming our hearts and minds in the free booklet Change Your Life!

About the Author

André van Belkum

Andre van Belkum

Andre van Belkum currently serves as the pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Previously he pastored congregations in southern Africa, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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