The new year has dawned. How’s your heart toward God? How’s mine? Pressing close, softening? Or withdrawing, hardening?
No matter how difficult our challenges, will we lean in to Jesus with hope and faith, resting in His love, keeping our hearts tender with obedience? Or will we turn away in cynicism or fear, doubting His intentions toward us, hardening our hearts with unbelief?
Quoting Psalm 95, the author of Hebrews urges us to keep a tender heart today:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put Me to the test and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known My ways. As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest.’” (Hebrews 3:7-11, emphases mine).
With miracle after miracle, God had rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. Even when they wandered in the wilderness because of their unbelief, He provided for their every need. Still, when things looked fearful, they did not listen, but complained and sought to return to Egypt, instead of pressing forward to the rest God had promised them in Canaan.*
Apparently, 40 years were not enough for them to learn to trust God. As I near 48 years of knowing God personally, that’s hitting a little close to home! The writer of Hebrews advises us strongly not to follow the Israelites’ example:
Take care, brothers and sisters, that there will not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13, emphasis mine).
Listening to my father’s advice
After I was grown and had gone home to visit my parents, I came in one day with a bad sunburn (apparently I still thought baked was better). My Dad said, “Wait a while before you take a shower. The natural oils in your skin will help your skin recover if you don’t wash them off right away.” When I took my Dad’s advice, he was shocked!
It made me sad to realize my father never expected me to listen to him. My track record proved I wouldn’t. Somewhere along the way, I had hardened my heart toward his counsel. Thankfully, I had the chance to show him I had changed. I had recently become a believer, and this time I chose to do what my Dad said.
Over the years, I’ve learned to follow my heavenly Father’s advice most (?) of the time. I pray I’ll be more consistent in 2023. As His beloved daughter, I want to listen to Him, obey Him and depend on Him fully for strength and wisdom. Disobedience is evidence of unbelief. I don’t want to shock my Father (so to speak) when I do what He says!
I also don’t want to be tricked and hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin promises pleasure, freedom and fulfillment. But what does it deliver? A big ugly package of guilt, bondage and defeat.
How much better it is to understand my Lord has my best in mind in every circumstance. He knows, far better than we do, exactly what we need, when we need it and the best way to get it to us. And He can make it happen. How many times I have seen that He loves to amaze and delight us!
A heart at rest
This year, let’s listen to God’s voice and learn His ways, studying and applying His powerful Word, day after day. It’s a joyful thing to be “obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17) and enter the rest God has for us:
- The rest of surrender: entrusting all we are and have to the mighty God who made us, saved us, sustains us and prepares a perfect home in heaven for us. “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
- The rest of choices made under His direction, then seeking His leading each step of the way. “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23).
- The rest of relationships built under His protection, obeying His command: “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
I don’t want to settle for less than God’s rest this year, do you? Let’s keep an open, tender heart toward all He has for us, believing in His character. Whether His will is easy or not, we can rest, because our loving, wise, omnipotent Father has chosen the best for us.
*Read the whole story in the Old Testament in Genesis 37, 39-50, Exodus and Numbers.
Versions cited include English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible and New Living Translation.
My life changed forever when I came to know Jesus personally. If you haven’t discovered new life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ in: How My Song Began.
2 thoughts on “Is Your Heart Tender as You Enter the New Year? ”
Really enjoyed this one. Never heard that piece of advice from Dad or anyone before! Thinking about getting rid of cynicism as we just read that section in the prayer book..
Thanks a lot, Ginny! I greatly appreciate your encouragement.