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Seeing Past the Surface

"But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart."

1 Samuel 16:7

Many people have tough exteriors, yet have hurting hearts who need God's help.

Charles Sell, in his book Unfinished Business, tells the story of David Simmons, Dallas Cowboy football player and Christian. He explains the reason for Simmons' intense drive to succeed:

His father, a military man, was extremely demanding, rarely saying a kind word, always pushing him with harsh criticism to do better... When Dave played football in high school, his father was unrelenting in his criticisms. In the backyard of his home, after every game, his dad would go over every play and point out Dave's errors. "Most boys got butterflies in the stomach before the game; I got them afterwards. Facing my father was more stressful than facing any opposing team." By the time he entered college, Dave hated his father and his harsh discipline. He chose to play football at the University of Georgia because its campus was further from home than any school that offered him a scholarship. After college, he became the second round draft pick of the St. Louis cardinal's professional football club. Joe Namath (who later signed with the New York Jets), was the club's first round pick that year. "Excited, I telephoned my father to tell him the good news. He said, 'How does it feel to be second?'"

Despite the hateful feelings he had for his father, Dave began to build a bridge to his dad. Christ had come into his life during college years, and it was God's love that made him turn to his father. During visits home he stimulated conversation with him and listened with interest to what his father had to say. He learned for the first time what his grandfather had been like-a tough lumberjack known for his quick temper. Once he destroyed a pickup truck with a sledgehammer because it wouldn't start, and he often beat his son. This new awareness affected Dave dramatically. "Knowing about my father's upbringing not only made me more sympathetic for him, but it helped me see that, under the circumstances, he might have done much worse. By the time he died, I can honestly say we were friends."

Underneath his hard exterior and sometimes torturous actions was a boy who had been hurt by his father. He had never been taught how to be a good father and was never given an example to follow. Thankfully, David Simmons saw past his father's rough exterior and was able to witness to him.

As Christians, sometimes we are too quick to judge people's outside appearances or actions. Despite the anger, hurt, or animosity some people show toward us, deep inside they are crying out for help. They know the needs they have, and are probably frustrated at their failed attempts to meet those needs. What they need is the Saviour.

When asked to find Israel's next king, Samuel fell prey to human nature-he looked for the fittest, tallest, and most skilled son of Jesse. But God reminded him that outward appearance didn't dictate inward readiness. God knows the heart.

We need God's help in seeing past people's surface issues and actions, and ministering to their hearts. Many people have tough exteriors, yet have hurting hearts who need God's help. Rather than judging someone by their outside, realize the inner needs and be faithful to witness to them. People may reject your message, but the kindness and Christ-like love you show them will break through their exterior.

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