Soften, or Harden, Your Heart
I believe you are able to soften, or harden, your heart in regards to God. He has a plan for your life, has blessed you by His Word, and promised you a lot of amazing and wonderful things. Have you softened your heart to receive those things?
My yard is pretty rough, it is so hardened by the gravel in it, I find it difficult to get the bare spots filled in with grass. I think I would have to bring a dump truck full of good soil in if I ever wanted to have a soft, lush yard. But, I dug through all that gravely, nasty ground in order to plant bushes in my front yard. I covered their roots with good healthy soil to give them a fighting chance.
As I stood there allowing a gentle mist to give them the drink they need to keep flourishing, I thought about my heart. As long as I keep a gentle flow of good thoughts going in there, I feel close to God. I hear Him whispering His love deep in my soul and I know that when I need something, He is there meeting my needs.
When I water my heart with negative hurtful thoughts, I feel like God is nowhere near me. The loving whispers are drowned out by the hailstorm of doubt and unbelief.
I was driving down the road one day and my mind’s eye formed a car coming through an intersection and slamming into the side of the van I was carrying instruments in for church. I started imagining what that would be like and then the Holy Spirit let me know that was crazy. Why would I carry the thought into a whole vision? I laughed out loud and said, “Ha ha devil, I’m safe in the arms of God.” The trip went on without a hitch and I was able to see how far I’ve come and how much growth I still need in the area of my thinking.
I control my own thoughts. I know that is true. I realize that thoughts often come out of nowhere, like the auto accident I imagined, but I also know that those thoughts that come out of nowhere can be thrown out just as quickly. It’s a choice to discard negative, detrimental thoughts … or to just follow them along until they become a living fear within you.
Thoughts, pondering, meditation … all of these bring a hardening or a softening to the heart. Either way you look at it, hard or soft, whichever word you choose can be negative or positive. It just depends on your point of view.
Jesus spoke of the disciples and their hardened hearts twice fairly close together in Mark. The first one we see is Mark 6:52, “For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.” The second 8:17, “But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?'”
In both instances, bread enters the picture .. why? I don’t have a direct answer to this question, but I have a thought: maybe because a little leaven leavens the whole loaf? (Galatians 5:9) If you allow the enemy a crack in your life, it quickly takes over. A little thought of fear soon creates an anxiety you cannot control.
In the first passage, Jesus has fed the 5,000. After completing the miracle of ministering to the entire crowd, He wants to get some alone time with the Father. So, He tells the disciples to get in the boat and go before Him to the other side. Notice, He didn’t say, “Start crossing and get stuck in the middle somewhere.” He tells them to go ahead of Him to the other side. Then He sends the multitude away and heads for His prayer time.
The disciple head out. It says Jesus made them go … in the King James Version, it uses the word constrained for this same story. Constrain means to compel or force someone toward a particular course of action. Now, why would He have to force them? I wonder if they were looking at the sky and resisting getting into that boat. After all, they were mostly fisherman and knew the signs of bad weather.
After His time in prayer, Jesus decides to join the disciples … by walking across the sea to the other side. He sees them out there straining to row the boat because of all that wind fighting against them. How often are we straining to get to the other side?
This interests me, why does it say, “He would have passed them by”? If they had not called out to Him, He would’ve just kept on going, but why would He do that?
Skip forward to verse 52 … they had not understood about the loaves because their hearts were hardened. I believe Jesus wanted them to remember the miracles they had seen and put their trust in Him, since He told them to cross all the way over. They shouldn’t have feared the wind, because He had given them directions and if He gave them directions, He would give them what they needed to complete the task. (This story is found in Mark 6:45-52)
Often, when we’re straining to get to the other side, when we feel like we’re being beat down or sent backwards by the winds, we simple need to remember Who is with us and what power He has already provided for us. He has given us the tools to overcome, we just have to know deep down that we have those tools and that He is ever-present to get us where we need to be.
Let’s head over to Mark 8:17-18, again we find Jesus commenting on their hardened hearts. And then He follows it with, “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?”
So, what is a hardened heart? I think it’s being insensitive to what God has for us. Or it could also be described as being closed minded to what God wants us to learn. It’s not seeing the truth in the Word, but instead being controlled by the things of the world. The disciples weren’t able to look past saving their own lives to see and know that God had a way for them. They were controlled by the wind, instead of by the Word … “Go to the other side” was a word from the Lord.
A hard heart is simply a heart that is more sensitive to other things than to God.
It is caused by what we focus our attention on, and it dictates the level of unbelief in our lives.
Interesting that they had seen Jesus save them from a storm already and so quickly forgot His power. So, He commands the wind and waves with “Peace by still,” and it happens. Let’s just look what is between Mark 4:35 and Mark 6:52 … the two storms.
Storm number 1, “Peace be still.” Then, a demon possessed man is healed, a woman touches His garment and receives healing, Jairus’ daughter is raised from the dead, and other people who were sick receive healing. The disciples themselves hav been given the power to cast out demons and heal the sick! They actually do miraculous things of their own. Then there is the feeding of the 5,000. And then … storm number 2, “I think I’ll just walk on over and meet my disciples across the sea.”
It’s amazing to me how much the disciples had seen and experienced and yet they got freaked out so easily. It was only a storm … they’d been through storms before and survived them. They’d seen and done miracles. And yet, they had a crack of unbelief … they had their minds focused on fear, rather than on God.
This just lets me know how easily we all forget how amazing, big, and powerful our God is – and that He lives inside of us who believe.
What happens when our hearts are hardened:
- Hard hearts keep us from receiving spiritual truths.
- After a church service, some people are able to talk for a long time about what God did in them during that service. Other people walk away the same as they walked in, and they’ll often comment about how they get nothing out of church. Why? The condition of the heart.
- Hard hearts stop us from understanding spiritual truths.
- 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
- When we don’t understand God’s Word, Satan finds no resistance when he comes to steal it away.
- Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”
- Hard hearts keep us from remembering, or relating what we learned to our own everyday lives.
- The disciples remembered the facts about feeding the people, but they had forgotten any spiritual lessons they may have learned. They didn’t relate it to their own lives and so they got stuck.
A hardened (or softened) heart is based on sensitivity.
One reason people who know what the Word says, still don’t see it work for them, is their sensitivity. They are more sensitive to fear and doubt than they are to the truths of God’s Word … because they have thought more about things that minister fear and doubt than they have meditated on God’s Word.
I believe we can harden our hearts to doubt and fear by considering only God’s Word. We can become just as sensitive to God and faith as we have been to Satan and doubt.
Stated from the softened heart perspective, I believe we are quite able to soften our hearts to doubt and fear, by following those negative thoughts. Or we can soften our hearts to love and peace, by being focused on the Word of God and building ourselves up in the most holy faith.
I have created a list of amazing thoughts, with verses to go with them. This list will lift you up. It will soften your heart to receive from God all that He wants you to have. You can have that list by simply clicking here.
I recommend reading it regularly aloud. And, may I tell you something that sounds a little bit crazy? If you stand in an authoritative pose and say it like I imagine David did as he headed out with that stone in his sling, it will have a more powerful affect on you and your belief.
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