Do you realize that if you want to do something with all your heart and mind, you actually do it? It could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what your mind is set on. For example, if you want to pray, meditate on the Word, give to the Lord or help the poor, you can do it. On the other hand, you can deliberately abstain from them even if it is from the Lord. In other words, you can harden your heart toward a thing or matter, because of a personal desire of yours.
The Lord is not pleased by hardened hearts when it comes to doing His will. He rather desires a heart that listens to Him no matter what. Our mind and heart work together and they should be governed by the Lord from the Word and by His Spirit. We have to tune them to that extent by our sheer faith in Him. He who does it will vastly benefit, though at the present it may not seem that way. If we trust in the Lord’s call to do that which He appointed us, we will not face loss. We may have a rough ride, face a storm or fear a difficulty, but the Lord will take us to the end.
Hardened hearts are people that want to have their way because of their carnal desires, but in a time of need wish the Lord to aid them. The Lord does not work with such attitude. Either we are completely with Him or we are not. It is when we do not feel like putting that extra effort to obey Him or do not feel like sacrificing ourselves to Him that we build hardness in our heart. And our mind will act to do the things He did not sanction. When we press ourselves for hardness of heart, God will allow us to go for it. We accomplish what we desire, but there will come a time when we must forego it, and we do not wish to do it for selfish reasons. For the Law, will and morality of God cannot be overruled by our hardness of heart. Jesus said to the Pharisees concerning divorce, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment” (Mark 10:5).
Israel wanted ‘a certificate of divorce’ to be sanctioned no matter what. They followed their carnal mind rather than God’s wish. So, Moses gave it to them. It led to displease God so much so He at one place said “I hate divorce.” They wanted it for a selfish intent. Selfish intent always precedes hardness of heart. It begins with ‘what I want rather than what God wants.’ As believers we must be careful and see to it that God governs our hearts and minds so that we do not lose His intimacy and mercy. Israel at one point lost His mercy. When the time came and Jesus told the Jews not to divorce, it was hard for them to take. He taught them that it was not so from the beginning.
What God has set and planned for us from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world, it will not change. It is for us to receive it from Him and live it. But it is when we encounter the flesh and its desires that we wish to break away from it. It is by the hardness we acquire in our hearts for those desires. We can counter hardness of heart from not appearing in us. By habitually hearing God teach us from the Word we can repel it. Then, the Spirit gives us strength and guides us appropriately. But if we nurture hardening of heart to please us, God will leave us to it that we learn the hard way. One can harden his heart regarding anything. It could be in serving the Lord, giving to Him, obeying Him regarding the heavenly qualities such as forgiving, love, honesty or anything by which He is pleased.
So, what does it mean to habitually hear the Lord and what could be the benefits we reap?
- We experience the Lord in unusual ways. These are the ways that have never been experienced by us. At first, it feels strange and frightening, but soon we understand that it is the Lord working in and for us. It is how He appears marvelous to our eyes. The disciples experienced Jesus in an unusual way when travelling on the sea. It frightened them, “But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’” (John 6:20). As we get to understand the ways by which He works, we will know that He never leaves us, no matter what – even in small matters.
- We acquire genuine friends. They are very important to us. When Herod arrested Peter to kill him and make the Jews happy, the angel of the Lord walked Peter out of the prison without anyone noticing. After realizing that he was indeed brought out of prison and that it was not a dream, Peter straight away went to Mary’s house. “And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). We acquire true friends in the Lord that will share our burden, pray for our well-being and care for us spiritually and otherwise, if necessary. They will never betray us, abuse or harm us – a people the world lacks.
- We will have all things at our disposal. The Lord God makes sure of it. Once we become His children, all that is His is ours. But, He deliberately makes us walk in the valleys and over the mountains to bring us to maturity only to bless us mightily. It is the only way to claim ownership of everything He owns. And the chief reason is resisting the hardness of heart. “Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything” (Gal. 4:1).
- God delivers His promises. When God speaks His Word to us regarding any matter, He will deliver it. He entrusts His promises to us so that we walk in Him for obtaining their outcome. It is one of the benefits of habitually hearing from Him. And Paul said, “But at the proper time manifested (made visible), even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior” (Tit. 1:3).
- We hear the Lord’s voice. Once we become intimate with Him, He begins to relay His desires to us that bring Him glory and joy to us. Since we do not have a hardened heart, we hear Him crystal clear. “His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters” (Rev. 1:15). We will know it is His voice and not another’s, and have the surety of fellowshipping with Him.
- We are always controlled. In other words, we are kept in and for the will of God. No frightening matters will cause us to flee; neither do circumstances steer us away into hardening our hearts. As Paul felt and said, we too shall feel and say, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). Christ’s love that took its seat in our hearts will control our emotions and behavior in all things. It teaches us to take the right directions at the right time. It fills us to be calm and humble. It guides us to sacrifice and benefit than lose and suffer. We are manifested as true definition of dying to the world and living to Him.