The Subtlety of a Hardened Heart

“They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed; for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
”(Mark 6:50-52)

Can you imagine walking with and living with Jesus 24/7 and not fully grasping who He was? After hearing Him teach the masses, seeing thousands converted, and watching many healed from crippling diseases, their maturity level was at best basic. The Scripture says, referring to all the miracles they saw Jesus do, “Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”

From our modern day Christian perspective, it would be easy to criticize the disciples. But a careful observation will reveal that we suffer from a similar hardness of heart.

The hardness of heart that the Scripture is referring to is not a deliberate, stubborn unbelief, like the Pharisees and Sadducees possessed. But it’s a hardness of heart that is a result of spiritual immaturity. It’s an immaturity caused from a self-centered, unbroken life.

Were the disciples zealous? Yes, they were even willing to die with Him? Were they serious and committed? Yes, they left their business and family to follow Jesus. The disciples were all those things and more, but they lacked one key ingredient, a brokenness that is a result of surrender and abandonment of the self-life. They were committed followers but their scattering at the arrest of Jesus was an indication of their lack of abandonment.

In a similar way, we are no different than the disciples. Many of us are committed followers of Jesus. In many ways, we are an example to our community and neighbors, and that’s a good thing. But there is more. The Lord wants to move us to another spiritual plain. This comes to us when we are willing to abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s examination and let Him reveal our self-centeredness. We must give Him permission to reveal our lack of surrender, our selfishness, and our dependence on our own strength.

That’s what suffering, disappointments, and set-backs are about. The Lord uses those things to strip us of operating out of our own strength. He is bringing us to the Cross. The Cross is the death process that must be constantly at work in each of us. (2 Cor. 2:9)

Roy Hession, a gifted writer of the past, says it best regarding our personal death process.
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”(Calvary’s Road)

Bottom Line

The goal of the committed follower of Christ is to desire a “deeper channel in us for the life of Christ”. The more we are willing for our flesh and self-life to be revealed and put to death, the more we will experience the fullness of the life of Christ. What is the end result? The life of Christ will be manifested through our life to others – which is God’s intention. Others will be affected by the quality of your life. You will be free to be the person God created you to be and you will be a sweet aroma to all those around you.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NLT)

Surrender and Abandonment

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. “ (Romans 12:1)

Surrender and Abandonment are not new concepts; this Biblical principle is seen throughout Scripture. God’s relationship with man is based on his degree of surrender and abandonment. Because of His absolute Holiness and sovereignty, He demands absolute surrender and abandonment of our life.

To the outsider, this may seem like an unreasonable request, encroaching on man’s free spirit and the ability to live his own life on his own terms. However, to the committed follower of Christ, we realize that God in His wisdom knows that unless we are willing to cast ourselves on Him completely, we will go the way of the world. In other words, absolute surrender and abandonment is for our benefit. The deepest contentment and inner peace is found in absolute surrender and abandonment.

When we live in this state we are living in complete trust and dependence upon our Lord. The Biblical principles of “In order to receive we must give” and “In order to save our life we must lose our life” are all connected to the principle of surrender and abandonment.

God wants us in the position that we have no place to turn but Him. He wants us to hold on tightly to nothing but His promises. He wants nothing to be more passionate to us than our love and devotion to Him. The unique thing about this proposition is that it enables us to love our friends, spouse and our children with a quality of love that we could never manufacture on our own. It causes us to love and give ourselves to those who are unlovely, troubled and hopeless. We become a magnet of God’s love to the world.

About this time every year my thoughts move toward how I want next year to be different. Rather than setting a lot of goals that I will probably give up on in a few months, I like to focus my primary New Year’s resolutions on a renewed commitment to surrender and abandonment. I review those areas that I struggle with surrendering. I examine those areas that I have a tendency to surrender and then take back. What are those areas of my life that I just can’t let go of?

I think I am doing pretty well at living the Christian life until I start to examine those areas where there is a lack of surrender and abandonment. One of the things that helps me with this process is to read over various prayers of surrender by saints of past centuries. I have listed a prayer below by Francis Fenelon, a 16th Century priest who was one of the great spiritual voices of France. It is one of the prayers I am focusing on this year. I must admit, reading through this does not give me great pleasure, but it does allow the Holy Spirit to remind me of my inconsistencies.

Please remember that surrender and abandonment is not about “doing more for God”, but about allowing God to do a work in your heart so that you may be in sync with Him. As you read this prayer may the Holy Spirit give you a nudge toward a greater degree of surrender and abandonment.

Dear Lord, I desire to give myself completely to you. Give me the courage and strength to make this leap of faith. My Spirit longs for you. Strengthen my will and my reserve to surrender all of the compartments of my life to you. If I don’t have the strength to give you everything, then draw me by the sweetness of your love. Lord, I know that I am your child and I belong to you. I am horrified by thought that I belong to myself and to my passions! Help me find all my happiness in you, for there is no happiness outside of you.

Why am I afraid to break out of my chains? Do the things of this world mean more to me than you? Am I afraid to give myself to you? What a mistake! It is not even I who would give me to you, but you who would give yourself to me. Take my heart.

What a joy it is to be with you, to be quiet so that I might hear your voice! Feed me and teach me out of your depths. Oh God, you only make me love you. Why should I fear to give you everything and draw close to you? To be left to the world is more frightening than this. Your mercy can overcome any obstacle. I am unworthy of you, but I can become a miracle of your grace. (Francois De Fenelon 1651-1715)



My wife and I enjoy watching true-to-life movies about English kings and queens. The royalty down through the centuries are prime examples of abuse of power, self-indulgence, pride and ultimate vanity. It proves that man, when left to his own resources, will self-destruct.

One of the words that come to my mind when I think of the various kingdoms of the world is the word “Yield”.  Even with absolute power there must be a degree of yielding. The kings of the past who had the most peaceful and prosperous rule displayed an attitude of service and humility.  

It was the custom and the law of the kingdom for the subjects to yield to the authority of the king. To refuse to yield is sure death. But to properly yield to the king turns away his wrath.  Properly yielding brings prosperity and peaceful living in the kingdom. 

Just as properly yielding in an earthly kingdom is important, learning the importance of yielding in the heavenly kingdom is just as important. Having continual inward peace is goal of every believer.  Being at rest during every situation is the ideal of every committed follower of Jesus.

Yielding to our heavenly Father is not a set of religious rules and regulations but more of a Biblical principal which includes learning to rest, surrender and abandon. Matter of fact, most struggles in the Christian life occurs when we lack these spiritual virtues.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden come to me and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.”(Matthew 11:28-29)

One of the key components of yielding is learning to rest.  It’s the idea of casting your burdens and cares upon Jesus so your soul (your mind, will and emotions) can rest.  We can rest when things are falling apart because Jesus the sovereign God is in control. I heard someone say one time, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurred to God?”  That means God is never taken by surprise at the events of our life. He is fully aware of every detail.

Another element of yielding is surrender and abandonment.  As a follower of Christ, we can never be at peace with God or ourselves unless we learn the act of surrender and abandonment.

In my immaturity and naivety as a new believer, I thought the sum total of the Christian life was being born again. That is a first step, but I soon learned that being a committed follower of Jesus sets in motion a war in the heavens for my allegiance.  Since the enemy lost his grip on my soul he began a campaign to gain back the affection and allegiance he lost when I was born again.

So the battle in the Christian life becomes the struggle of surrender and abandonment.  I think that is the reason we have so many struggles in life. We are not willing to abandon and surrender every area of our life to the supremacy of Christ.

I know that is paradoxal but weakness is strength, and surrender is victory. The more of our life we surrender to His control the greater our rest.

The Scripture teaches us that abandonment and surrender is normal to the Christian life.”… do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed (metamorpheo) by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:1-2)

Why is surrender and abandonment such an issue with God?  Fenelon says, “God’s desire is to seek out and destroy the roots of self-love. You, on your own, could never find those hidden roots. God can see the entire path of self-love with your heart. Let him attack self-love at it strongest point.”

Yielding to the King of Glory is all about being suited for Kingdom Life so that He can live His life through us. It is not about performance but about relationship. It’s about laying down the self-life and exchanging our life for His life.

God desires an ongoing love relationship with us. Will you join me in allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our life in order to reveal our self-love so that we may fully yield to the King?