“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.
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)
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)