Hardness of Heart
I stand before you this morning to share with you what God has placed on my heart. I pray this message will touch you the way it has me and change your life in a positive way.
My message today is “Hardness of heart.” I realize that term may turn some of you off but that is the way God gave it to me. I guess you could call it “How to be sensitive to God.
Recently God healed me of a sickness in my body but the healing did not manifest the way I had expected. In the process God showed me that my heart was hardened to his healing.
I used to think people with hard hearts were God haters or, at the least, people in rebellion to Him - SIN. That’s what I used to think, but now I see hardness of heart in another light.
Earlier this year my wife and I flew to FL. As we headed to the airport, we realized we were late. Nowadays if your not there two hours early, you’re late and since the flight was at 6 a.m., this meant getting out of bed about two and on the road by three since the airport was twenty-five minutes away.
The weather was harsh that morning, raining hard and windy. And as we neared the airport, the traffic was thick. After parking the vehicle, we rushed into the airport, made our way thru the ticket booth and security checks, and finally seated on the aircraft.
As the plane left the runway I was still feeling the chaos of the journey- the confusion… it had me agitated. As the rain continued, the plane headed into the clouds. And on the other side of the clouds it was peaceful, the moon was full and the stars where out. It was like I had gone into another world.
There was this smooth, tranquil layer of soft rolling clouds with the full moon shining a brilliant light with a pitch black background and bright stars.
At the time I was reading Mark chapter6. I could not help to think about instance when Jesus came walking to His disciples on the water. They were in a terrible storm. After nine hours they were still only halfway across the Sea of Galilee, normally a two-hour trip.
They were in trouble and fighting for their lives. Yet here came Jesus walking on top of the water and calming the storm. He was totally in control.
As I stared at the solid layer of clouds beneath us, in my imagination, I thought about what it would be like to see Jesus walking on the clouds beside the plane. That’s not any more impossible than Jesus walking on the water!
Let’s turn to Mark chapter 6 and read some of this text. Let’s start at verse 45 and continue reading to…. Let’s stop at 52. When you have Mark chapter 6 verses 45, please stand with me so that I know you are ready to read Gods word.
I will be reading from the King James Version of God’s Word
45And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, [beth-sey-i-duh] while he sent away the people. 46And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 47And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. 48And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. 49But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: 50For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. 51And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. 52For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
This text picks up just after the feeding of the five thousand, which will make my point. Also, I want to point out some things in the text that will give you a broader understanding and help enforce this message.
First let me point out that in the King James Version it reads, Jesus Constrained his disciples to get into the ship. There are a few theological views why Jesus need to force them into the ship but I like to think it was because they were experience fishermen and knew that there was a storm coming.
So the disciples did what God told them to do.
Then our text says “when evening had come, the boat was in the middle of the sea and Jesus was still on land.” If you were to do an exegesis of this text you would find that the ship was in the middle of the sea and far off course. They had rowed 3 – 4 miles - far from their destination and probably been in the water for nine hours.
This journey was a two-hour trip; the text says they were at the “forth watch” or sometime after 3 a.m. They’ve been out there a while. The text says Jesus saw them rowing but that the wind was contrary, or working against them. Jesus saw them, from land. Don’t you know that Jesus is always watching you and can always see what trouble you are against, no matter what storm you face, Jesus is there with you?
The text then Says Jesus came to them walking on the sea but they were afraid. If you often wondered why they were afraid of God it is because they did not recognize Him, see in those times they believed stormed were caused by bad spirits and they assumed the figure was a ghost causing their demise.
It is amazing to me how sometimes that we do not recognize God when He comes to us. God could be trying to help you in your storm right now, but you don’t see him there.
So Jesus let’s them know who he is. He says “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid”. In the original language Jesus is saying, “I am”. See Jesus was saying the exact same phrase as when He spoke to Moses via the burning bush. You need to remember that in this language words and phases only have one meaning. Not like the English language where words can have several different meanings as in there, point to a place, their, as a pronoun.
So when Jesus spoke this phrase, the disciples thought, it must be Jesus.
Now we get into the heart of this message. As I said early, as I was looking out the window of the plane, I wondered what it would be like if Jesus started walking on the clouds next to me. How would we react to this miracle?
When we see God’s miracles, how do we react? Are we amazed and surprised? Recently God healed me of sickness in my body. Doctors diagnosed me and mapped out how my life was about to go downhill. But God Said differently.
Although I had rebuked the lie and refused to accept this sickness in my body, and had received healing prayer from many true spirit warriors, I was feeling the symptoms and began to prepare my self for a fight.
I had never been on the receiving side of healing. I had laid hands and prayed and saw positive change in people's lives but never been on the other end. I had never experienced a miracle in my life.
God showed me that my heart had been hardened to his healing power. Can you imagine? I was so amazed, so surprised when God healed me. I was not use to the experience of a miracle. I was amazed beyond measure.
If we look at Mark 6:51 we see that the disciples had a similar reaction. The scripture says,
“Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled...”
That’s exactly the way I felt in my healing. I thought to myself that anyone who really thought about the magnitude of this miracle should feel the same way. We greatly amazed beyond measure at the miraculous power of God.
Then I read the next verse.
“For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”
It was just like someone slapped me in the face. For the first time, I realized that being greatly amazed or surprised at a miracle was an indication of a hard heart. WOW! Or, another way of saying it is, relating to the natural more than the supernatural is an indication of a hard heart. By that definition, my heart was hard.
Example: Do you know someone who lives in a home near the airport?
Are you missing a miracle in your life, what ever the situations because your heart is hardened to God’s Power? If you ask me, I do not think miracles are part of God’s plan. I think Jesus would rather we live a blessed life and not chase miracles. If you are chasing miracles, then you life must be chaos.
But there are times when we need miracles in our lives and I’m afraid many of us miss them because of a hardened heart to his supernatural power and His awesome Grace. We are so focused on the natural; we become hardened to the supernatural.
This set me on a journey – I wanted to know what a hard heart really is, what caused it, and how to cure it. This has turned out to be one of the most important things the Lord has ever shown me.
The dictionary defines hardened as cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to agree that there are certain areas of your life where you have a hard heart toward God.
Here is some good news:
God made us so that we can harden our hearts and literally shut out unwanted influences. It was meant to be a positive thing, but because we haven’t understood this -- what God meant for good has actually worked against us.
See hardening of your heart against drugs, sickness, poverty, depression, and other road blocks in our life can be a good thing. What ever you don’t focus on, your heart will harden to; and what you do focus on, your heart will soften to become sensitive to.
One of the best examples of hardheartedness is found in the book of Exodus where Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel leave the land of Egypt as God had commanded. There are fifteen times in Exodus where the Scriptures mention Pharaoh’s heart being hardened.
This is the only explanation as to why Pharaoh persisted in resisting God when it was so evident that he was no match for God’s power. A hardened heart dulls a person’s ability to perceive and understand. It is the equivalent of spiritual retardation - Or Spiritual dyslexia.
In Mark 8:, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the characteristics of a hard heart. He said in verses 17-21,
17But 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? 18“Having eyes do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” 20“Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” 21So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”
In these verses, Jesus gives us symptoms that are descriptive of a hard heart:
Here are Five symptoms of a hard heart:
(1) Not being able to perceive, (2) not being able to understand, (3) not being able to see, (4) not being able to hear, and (5) not being able to remember.
A hard heart is characterized by an inability to perceive spiritual things. This describes a person who just doesn’t have an aptitude for spiritual things. Others seem to perceive things that a person with a hard heart can’t.
A hard heart will also keep a person from understanding the few things they can perceive. They might see what the Lord is trying to show them, but they can’t get a hold of it in a way that they can apply it to their life. This is why folks can be under awesome preaching, but not be able to apply it to their life – They don’t understand. Sad to say their heart is hardened.
When a person is hardhearted toward God, it’s like they are spiritually blind and deaf; they just can’t see spiritual truth or hear the Lord speak to them. And they can’t remember.
Have you ever asked someone what the preacher preached last Sunday and they don’t remember? Maybe their heart was hardened to the preacher or they had something else on their minds, either way, they have a hard heart.
People often express to me that they just don’t have the ability to remember Scripture or to remember teaching; or they can tell me everything about the lives of their coworkers; or they can rattle off the latest gossip about movie stars. What is it that you are focusing on? What ever you don’t focus on, your heart will become hardened to.
Focus on the things of God, the promises He made to you, remember what God has done in your life, where He brought you from, where He is taking you. Don’t focus on things not of God, Don’t focus on your sins or imperfections, Just focus on God’s word.
Let me share two things I’ve learned about Hardness of Heart
One: What ever you consider, what every you think about, whatever you focus on - your heart becomes softened toward. Conversely, whatever you fail to consider, don’t think about, and don’t focus on - your heart becomes hardened to.
It wasn’t sin that caused the disciples’ hearts to be hard; it was them focusing on things other than the miracle Jesus had just performed. They weren’t looking at pornographic magazines or fighting or lying; they were occupied with trying to save their lives in the midst of the storm. That wasn’t sin.
If you took me sailing, I would want you to have some carnal knowledge about sailing. If I ride with you in a car, I don’t want you to drive by faith; I want you to have your eyes open and your brain working. That’s not wrong.
But, if we get into a situation where our carnal knowledge and abilities won’t save our lives, (like peter in the water) I would like you to be able to go beyond the natural and draw on the ability of the supernatural. We can’t just be limited to the natural realm.
This is what was wrong with the disciples. They had just witnessed Jesus taking five small loaves of bread and two small fish and feeding thousands of people. What an awesome miracle. If they had kept their minds stayed on that miracle, they wouldn’t have been shocked or surprised to see Jesus walking on the water.
If they had been thinking spiritually instead of naturally, they would have known that Jesus would take care of them. Instead of being surprised to see Jesus walking on the water, they would have expected it. If you focus on God, you can expect miracles in your life, they should not surprise you.
Likewise, if we were not so dominated by considering the natural, we would not be surprised by the supernatural. We should expect to see the miraculous power of God manifest in our lives all the time. But the truth is, our hearts have become hardened toward God and His supernatural power because of our failure to stay focused on spiritual things.
The second thing is:
One of the benefits of understanding what causes hardheartedness is that you can reverse this process and use it to become hardened against the devil. Glory
You cannot be tempted with something you do not think about. If you are not focused on sin, you will not commit it. You can’t go anywhere in your actions that you haven’t already gone in your mind. So, control your thoughts and you can control your actions. It’s that simple.
2 Corinthians 2:5 says to (Cast)”… down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
Cat collar illustration?
Begin closing the message _
Today we only scratched the surface of these truths that the Lord has shown me about how to soften our hearts toward God. I need to spend four weeks here to reap the full benefit of these truths. It’s important because one of the ways to soften your heart toward God is by just sitting and soaking in the truth. It’s not enough to just hear truth; we need to absorb it.
Let’s say the men have a basketball fellowship here at Messiah Center. We have a good team, we are entering in the play offs – Going for the finals.
There’s a new guy in church, a new member. He’s an older man, much older than the young men on the team.
He comes in to the practice looking to be a part of the team. The men look at him and think, whoa… you’re a little old to be playing ball. But you are very tall.
They ask him, can you play? You got any Game?
He says, yea, I use to play in my younger days.
Well, you know we are in the finals and …. Well…. We have never seen you play - don’t know if you got skills.
Tell you what … we're going to practice at twelve o'clock next Saturday. So meet us here. We'll find out what kind of game you have."
They don't know him, don't know whether he can play or not play. We've got to find out what he can do. We are moving into the finals. We just can’t put him in the game without seeing what he can do. We don’t know if he can play.
Same guy walks in. But this time somebody recognizes him and says, "There's Michael Jordan." Nobody asks if he can dribble. Nobody asks, "Can you jump?" Nobody asks him if he can dunk. Why? Since we know who he is, we already know what he can do.
Are we hardened to God in our lives? Are we so focused on the things we know, the natural; that we are not looking at the supernatural?
Have we forgotten who God is? We know what he can do. We know he can perform miracles in our lives. He wants to live a blessed life free of poverty, sickness; free of depression, loneliness; free from insecurities, guilt. You’re not alone; God is on your team.
Illustration about cat and collar