‘Serving God is a heart thing first...’

Based on the life of Caleb, Duncan Clark’s new book, Wholehearted, encourages us to to live with passion.

Duncan, tell us about Wholehearted.
Wholehearted is built around some of the things I’ve been teaching at Coventry Elim over a number of years. It’s based on the life of Caleb because he is known as the guy who wholeheartedly gave himself to God.

Primarily, I wrote it as an invitation to people to go deeper with God; to allow their serving to be at a higher level, and from a heart that’s been shaped in God’s presence.

We often think about serving God with our strength or knowing him with our minds, but serving and knowing God is a heart thing first, rather than being about our gifts, talents or strengths.

Why did you decide to put pen to paper, and why now?

I think that’s really important in this season because we’re coming out of a global pandemic.

The Bible says the heart is the wellspring of life. Thinking about everything that’s been going on over the past 18 months, and how that’s changed or influenced our hearts is really important.

What’s going on in our hearts shapes how we live our lives, and there’s a whole variety of stresses, anxieties and fears that can make their way in. This is definitely a time to open our hearts to the presence of God, and experience his love and grace so that what flows out of our lives isn’t influenced by fear and anxiety but by his presence.

What would you like people to take from Wholehearted?
The book contains an element of biblical teaching, but it’s also quite practical. The idea is you come to the end of each chapter, pause, and think about how you can practise what you’ve read.

At the end of each chapter there’s a ‘heart habit’, connected to an aspect of Caleb’s life. They’re very practical, like encouraging people to journal, to sit in stillness or to meditate on Scripture.

It’s not just reading information but opening our hearts to God and asking, 'Would you shake me and form me?' And then taking on one or two of those habits for the long term.

You become what you repeat, whether it’s going to McDonald’s or to the gym. If you keep spending time in God’s presence, or in stillness with fasting, journaling or prayer, that will shape you.

Wholehearted is also a good book for small groups to work through. It’s only eight, short chapters and I’ve included questions for group discussion at the end. 

Your invitation to live wholeheartedly like Caleb. An extract from Duncan Clark’s new book...

Not all people are born equal. At least, that’s how it appears. Some are born for the spotlight; others are more comfortable in the shadows.

Even some of the Bible’s most well-known characters seemed to be content to live their lives in the shadow of those whose achievements appeared greater than their own. Their names are on the Bible’s B-list rather than the A-list. Jonathan’s story of loyalty is overshadowed by David’s giant-killing. Joseph’s story of integrity is eclipsed by Mary’s selection to give birth to the Messiah.

Caleb joins Jonathan and Joseph on the Bible’s B-list.

Caleb lived his life in the shadow of Joshua, Israel’s impressive warrior-leader. Joshua learned leadership as Moses’ personal assistant. Joshua fought great battles, captured cities, devised strategy, conquered land. Joshua finds himself on the A-list.

Caleb found himself in Joshua’s shadow, but it didn’t bother him one bit. His goal was never power, popularity or fame. He set his sights on something greater than those temporary earth-bound achievements. Caleb aimed for full devotion. Total commitment to the pursuit of God and his purposes.

Caleb emerges from the shadows, stands out from all his peers and boldly declares, 'I’m going after wholehearted living.' He resists any drift towards a lukewarm life. He rejects the allure of comfort. Caleb determines to give every part of himself to one goal: the wholehearted quest of knowing God deeply and serving him fully.

At the age of 85, at a time in life when some of us could be looking back on a decade or two of golfing and garden centres, Caleb is still full of the fight. He’s still got courage to take on the giants. He’s still got passion for the cause.

For 45 of those years he’s been surrounded by a community of people who doubt, criticise and complain; but Caleb maintains his full devotion to God. For four decades he has dug thousands of graves for his friends and family as they have died in the desert; but Caleb continues to pursue God’s purposes passionately. Even when the battles are intense, the losses are great and resources are running low, Caleb stands to his feet and declares, 'I... followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'

Wholehearted is an invitation to live like Caleb.

It is an invitation to give the whole of your life to a cause that is greater than yourself.

It is an invitation to see what others can’t see; to live how others don’t live; to stand out rather than blend in.

It is an invitation to live from the inside out, with a full and healthy heart. It is an invitation to live with passion, to stay the course and to finish well.

It is an invitation to wholehearted living for the long term.

As you read Wholehearted, your goal is not to reach the back page in record time. The goal is the transformation of your heart. There comes a time in most of our lives when making small adjustments is not enough. We wake up one day and realise that we must rearrange our lives for the reordering of our hearts. The aim of Wholehearted is to provoke you to do just that.

So slow down... resist the temptation to rush. Pause at the end of each chapter... take a few deep breaths... become aware of God’s presence. Ask him what he wants to say to you.

You can watch Duncan's talk about Wholehearted at ELS 2021 below.

Duncan Clark is senior minister at Coventry Elim. Wholehearted is available via Duncan’s website: duncanjclark.co.uk, online through Amazon, and in bookshops.

This article first appeared in September's Direction Magazine, copies of which are available here: Direction Magazine.

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