Watch Over Your Heart
This morning I had some workers from a nursery come to our house to plant two trees in our backyard. One is an oak tree, and the other one, a purple ash. Before the gardeners left, they told me how much and how often I needed to water the trees. In addition, the nursery gave me a whole page of tree maintenance instructions I am supposed to implement over the next few years.
I am determined to carefully follow all those directions, and I’ll tell you the reason why. You see, last year we bought and planted three trees, but only one survived. The two trees planted today are replacements for the ones that died. I really don’t want the same thing to happen again, because it’s too expensive and time-consuming and my backyard keeps lacking shade.
You know, when we dug up the dead trees to make space for the new ones, I thought about how the Lord has to do the very same thing in our lives.
God sows the seeds of His Word into our hearts, yet so often the plants that come up don’t survive. Consequently, He has to go back and replant again and again, until finally the plants take root, grow tall and bear fruit.
Just look at your life: For how many years now has God been trying to grow the plants of faith, honesty, compassion, holiness and obedience in your heart? You read daily about them in your Bible, and you have heard a hundred sermons on the subjects. Yet these plants never seem to develop in your life, though you have been a Christian for more than 5, 10 or 20 years. Why is that?
In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains that the problem lies in the condition of our hearts. We so often blame God, our pastor, fellow believers, our husband, parents, team leader, upbringing or difficult circumstances for our lack of spiritual development. We even feel sorry for ourselves and wish we could go to one of those big crusades where an anointed preacher lays hands on us and prays, so we can become instantly spiritual.
My dear sister, even if you had such an opportunity, no permanent change would happen in you, because your real problem is the condition of your heart. Please read carefully what Jesus says in Matthew 13:3–8 and 18–23, and identify which one of these soils is your problem.
Roadside: The seed never makes it into the ground at all. It’s lying on top of, or right beside, the hard pavement and has no chance to even sprout. It’s easily and immediately snatched away by the birds.
This is the picture of a heart that is totally unprepared to receive anything. The person either doesn’t understand the Word he heard or, in the case of a believer, something is blocking the Holy Spirit from penetrating his heart. Two things that will cause this are unconfessed sin and an unteachable spirit (which is the result of pride, unbrokenness and an unsurrendered self-will).
Rocky ground: The seed falls into the soil and sprouts. However, the layer of soil is very shallow and underneath is hard rock. The root of the little plant is unable to penetrate the rock and get to the water source. As soon as the sun comes up, it withers away and dies.
This is the picture of a heart that wants spiritual blessings and benefits, but has no intentions of carrying the cross. There are plenty of believers with such a shallow commitment. They gladly receive forgiveness of sin, deliverance from bondage, healing, peace, joy, material benefits and the promise of a heavenly home. They also want the church to pray and care for them when they are in need. However, when they must choose to accept inconvenience, suffering and sacrifice for the sake of Christ, they are unwilling to make the step from being a believer to becoming a disciple of Christ. A disciple is one who follows Christ wherever He goes, even if it means Calvary.
Thorny ground: This ground has no hardness or rocks. It’s made up of good soil, soft and deep enough for a plant to put down roots and grow. However, the ground is not weeded. It has thorn bushes that overgrow and choke the life out of the little plants that came up from the seeds that were sown.
This is the picture of a heart whose ground has all the right conditions to receive the seed of God’s Word and develop healthy plants that yield fruit. However, the person has permitted other seeds to take root in his heart as well. Jesus identified them as the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. Is it possible for these plants to peacefully coexist beside the Word of God? No—because their nature is that of a thorn bush: to spread and take over the entire ground and choke all other plants to death. Worry kills our faith, and without faith we cannot please God, so nothing in our Christian life works. The lure of riches takes our affection away from the things of God and causes us to desire the things of this world. Our love will grow cold, and our usefulness to God will die away.
But is there a way to turn bad soil into good soil and bring much fruit? Yes, there is!
If your heart is hard like the pavement of the road and you are unteachable, the only thing that will help you is to repent of sin, stop justifying yourself and humble yourself before God. Confess your pride and give the Holy Spirit permission to break you in all those areas where you are unyielding. Lay down your self life, and deliberately choose His will over your own. If you do this, He will make the soil of your heart fruitful and 2 Chronicles 7:14 will become your personal testimony:
[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
If your heart has only a thin layer of good soil and your commitment has no depth because of the rock underneath, then go to the Word of God and learn what it says. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what it cost Jesus to redeem you and what the lordship of Christ is. If you submit to God’s Word, you will find that it is “like a hammer which shatters a rock,” the hard rock of your heart (Jeremiah 23:29).
If your heart is invaded by thorns, start weeding and pulling them all up by the roots. Don’t entertain thoughts or listen to people whose words turn into thorn bushes. “Watch over your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23) and immediately pull up even the smallest thorns.
My dear sister, may God’s grace be with you always.
With love and prayers,
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