Chapter OneTHE HEART
OF THE MATTER
It is a wonder what
God can do with a broken heart,
if He gets all the pieces.
If you were to meet Wayne and Gwyn Stanford
today, you would find a tenderhearted, warm,
compassionate, humble couple. If you conversed with them
for any length of time, they would undoubtedly tell
you something fresh that God was teaching them or
doing in their lives.
It wasn't always that way, When I first met this
couple more than twenty years ago, they were in
their early fifties. By the world's standards, they had
it made. Wayne was a successful businessman; he
and Gwyn had a lovely home in the Midwest and a
vacation home in Florida. They were respected
leaders in their community and were active in their local
church and their denomination. But, as they later
said publicly, they were both afflicted with a deadly
heart condition that they didn't realize they had-a
malady known as pride.
Today they are able to see what they were blind
to at the time. Gwyn admits,
I was proud of my reputation and my position. I was
known at the country club where I was an officer,
known among the elite of the community, and
known as a leader at my church. I was at the church
every time the doors were open. It was important to
me to have everyone notice me and what I was
doing. I was extremely self-righteous and thought I
was more spiritual than others. Others had needs,
but not Gwyn Stanford. Others needed revival, but
Though they both appeared to be spiritually
prosperous, the truth was that their hearts were
hollow, hard, and spiritually starved. "Right in the
middle of religion, I was so very far away from God,"
Gwyn says with regret.
Though Wayne was oblivious to his own spiritual
need, it was readily apparent to those around him.
His pastor at the time remembers the Wayne
Stanford of those days as "a cold, calculating, highly
opinionated man. He almost demanded that I follow
his ideas for leading the church. He was extremely
judgmental and critical. Our attempted fellowships
together generally ended in frustrated anger. There
was a deep chasm between us."
Gwyn's heart condition manifested itself in more
I was unteachable; although I was a leader, I wasn't
in the Word; I lived, acted, and operated based on
the world's way of thinking. I didn't know what it
meant to be honest, open, and transparent before
God and others. The one thing I did know was how
to play church-I knew how to pretend.
Wayne and Gwyn might well have lived the rest
of their lives in that condition-spiritually deceived,
hardened, and unusable-had not the Lord
graciously intervened to show them their need and
rescue them from their pride.
In 1982 I was part of a team that was invited to
minister in Wayne and Gwyn's church for a
concentrated two-week period of seeking the Lord. During
that time, church members were challenged to face
the reality of their spiritual condition. The Stanfords'
lives would never be the same again as a result of
that honest look.
The second Sunday morning of that series of
meetings is indelibly etched on Wayne's mind. The
message was based on the Old Testament story of Naaman
(2 Kings 5). As the respected, capable commander
in chief of the Syrian army, Naaman appeared to
have it all together-except for the fact that he had
leprosy. Naaman wanted to be healed, but not at the
expense of his pride. Wayne was stopped short as he
saw himself in this proud general:
He did what I probably would have done: he loaded
up six thousand shekels of gold and ten talents of
silver, and he went down to buy his way out of his
problem. Right in the middle of that message, God
said to me, You're just like Naaman! You've got spiritual
leprosy and you need to be healed. You can be restored,
but you're going to have to do it My way.
That morning, in the middle of the service,
Wayne made his way to a room that had been
designated for those who needed prayer-that in itself
was a big step of humility, as he had previously
determined he would not go to that room. As he
arrived at the prayer room, this respected leader fell
on his knees and cried out to God to have mercy on
him; he confessed his sin of pride and pretense, and
surrendered himself to do whatever God wanted
him to do.
That same week, Gwyn attended a special prayer
meeting for the women of the church. It was there
that she had a life-changing encounter with God.
That morning the leader spoke three words that
penetrated her heart: "God is alive!" That simple
phrase wakened her from her spiritual sleep and
transformed her life. She remembers thinking, Gwyn, you're living as if God is dead. For the first time,
she saw herself as God saw her-and it wasn't the
Gwyn who had it all put together. She saw herself as
sinful and desperately needy of His grace.
The conviction of God's Spirit was intense. For
the first time in her life, she responded to that
conviction in humility. In fact, she realized that, in spite
of her religious appearance and activity, she had
never been truly born again. She cried out to God to
save her and received assurance that He had given
her a new, clean heart.
Issues of the Heart
What took place in Wayne's and Gwyn's lives
more than two decades ago was nothing short of
major heart surgery. In Gwyn's case, she had been
deceived for years into believing that she was a
child of God, simply because she was a faithful, active
church member. She needed-and received-a heart
transplant. In Wayne's case, his spiritual arteries had
become hardened-clogged and crusted over with self,
pride, religious works, and "keeping up appearances."
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah understood
that the heart was what mattered to God, and that if
the heart were sick, the whole body would be in
trouble. Relentlessly, persistently, he addressed the
matter of the heart. There are more than seventy
references to the heart in his writings. God gave him
discernment to see beyond the impressive, external
religious life of His people. Jeremiah penetrated and
probed and held the people's hearts up to the light;
he pleaded with them to see what God saw.
From all appearances, the Jews-God's chosen
people-were deeply religious; but Jeremiah
proclaimed that their hearts had turned away from the
God who had redeemed them: "This people has a
defiant and rebellious heart" (5:23, italics added,
and so with all references in this chapter).
The Old Testament Jews dutifully performed
countless rituals of ceremonial cleansing. But
Jeremiah understood that all those physical
washings were merely intended to be a picture of purity
of heart, so he urged: "O Jerusalem, wash your heart
from wickedness" (4:14).
Though God had revealed Himself and His law to
the His people, their hearts were stubborn and they
had become desensitized to His Word: "Each one
follows the dictates [walks after the stubbornness;
marginal reading NKJV] of his own evil heart, so that
no one listens to Me" (16:12).
When we open the New Testament, we encounter
the Lord Jesus, God's final Prophet, picking up the
same theme that reverberates throughout the pages
of the Old Testament. During His earthly ministry,
He upset the whole religious system of His day because He refused
to be impressed with the things
that men esteem most highly and
insisted on exposing the hearts of
people as what really mattered.
He looked the most religious
men of His day in the face and confronted them
with the fact that they were obsessed with putting
on a good appearance and a good performance,
while their hearts were empty and corrupt:
Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
"These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me."
When the disciples asked Jesus to explain why
He had been so hard on the Pharisees, He pointed
out that they were fastidious about washing their
hands before eating, so as not to become
ceremonially defiled, but were oblivious to the corruption of
their hearts: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
blasphemies. These are the things which defile a
man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not
defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20).
Over and over again, He kept coming back to the
issue of the heart. It didn't matter if they circumcised
their bodies and tithed everything they owned,
down to their herbs; it didn't matter if they washed
their hands every time they ate and could quote the
Law from beginning to end; it didn't matter if they
scrupulously observed every feast day, every fast day,
and every Sabbath day; it didn't matter if everyone
else respected them as devout believers-if their
hearts weren't right, they weren't right.
The medical profession stresses the importance
of regular physical checkups. Anyone with a family
history of heart disease is encouraged to get his
cholesterol tested. We don't assume that because we
look fine outwardly, we have nothing to worry
about. If our heart is not functioning properly or
there is blockage in our arteries, we want to know
about the problem so we can do whatever is
necessary to deal with the situation. We know that
neglecting our physical heart condition could be
Should we be any less concerned about our
spiritual heart condition? The fact is, when it comes to
spiritual matters, we all have a family history of
"heart disease." We must be willing to let Him
examine our hearts and diagnose that which we may be
unable to see for ourselves.
The good news of the gospel is that the Great
Physician has made available a cure for our
deceived, diseased hearts. Jesus came to do radical
heart surgery-to cleanse and transform us from the
inside out, by the power of His death and
resurrection. "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and
from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and
put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of
stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you" (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
A Complete Takeover
The transformation that took place in Wayne and
Gwyn Stanfords' lives when God gave them new,
clean hearts was dramatic. As another friend said
after having a similar encounter with God, "Revival
is not just an emotional touch; it's a complete
Gwyn remembers some of the first evidences that
her heart had been changed: "Immediately I became
so hungry for His Word that I could hardly wait to
get up in the morning to see what He was going to
reveal to me. I wanted to spend time with Him. I
found myself loving people I'd never loved before."
In Wayne's case, when God changed his heart, his
whole demeanor changed. The same pastor who
had felt the brunt of Wayne's controlling, critical
spirit later wrote: "It is difficult to believe that the
Wayne Stanford I first met is the same Spirit-filled,
gentle, long-suffering, compassionate, prayer warrior
we know today."
God began to deal with Wayne about his
business and financial affairs, resulting in a radical
change of values. He began to lead his family
spiritually-by his example and by his words. As they
began to see the reality of Christ in their parents,
Wayne and Gwyn's three grown daughters-already
professing believers-all came to genuine faith in
Rather than living for themselves and
accumulating things for their own pleasure, Wayne and Gwyn
began to look for ways to invest their time and
resources to further the kingdom of Christ. A
self-centered lifestyle was replaced with a sacrificial
The personal revival Wayne and Gwyn
experienced in 1982 was not short-lived. For more than
twenty years, they have continued to walk humbly
with God and to love and serve Him and others.
That initial "breaking point" has become an ongoing
process of daily brokenness. Gwyn acknowledges
that there have been ups and downs in that process:
I'm not going to tell you that I have it all together. I
will tell you that I have needs and struggles. But I'm
learning to acknowledge my need to God and others,
and to be open, honest, and transparent. My attitude
used to be, "I don't need you, but you very much
need me." I was willing to help, but I was not
willing to unmask and be helped. Now I know that
when I humble and unmask myself, then, and only
then, can I truly experience God's grace and be
victorious and free.
Wayne and Gwyn discovered a secret that
delivered them from religion and released them to enjoy
the fullness of life in the Spirit-they learned what
kind of heart God revives. They learned that God's
values are not the same as man's values. They
learned that real life, freedom, and joy are not to be
found in climbing up the socioeconomic ladder, but
in humbling ourselves; not in being self-sufficient,
but in acknowledging need. They were willing to
take off their religious masks and get real. And when
they did, God met them in a way they had never
What about you? What is the condition of your
heart? Could it be that you, like Wayne and Gwyn,
have been going through the motions, playing
church, pretending that all is well, when the truth is
that you need major heart surgery-perhaps even a
Would you be willing to make an appointment
with the Great Physician, place yourself on His
table, and ask Him to examine your heart? If so,
pray the prayer of the psalmist: "Search me, O God,
and know my heart" (Psalm 139:23).
He wants to revive our hearts. However, there is
a condition that must be met if our hearts are to be
revived. The truth you will read on the following
pages may turn your world and your thinking
upside down, as it did to those who heard it in the
Bible days. At first, God's way may seem negative,
confining, or painful. But, as my friends Wayne and
Gwyn discovered, it is actually the pathway to
freedom, fullness, victory, fruitfulness, and joy.