A week and a half ago I was in South Africa and couldn't sleep. It wasn't the jet lag, it was this particular line that kept repeating itself in my mind and heart,
"Responsibility is your ability to respond. Responsibility is your ability to respond. Responsibility is your ability to respond..."
Around and around it went. It seemed as though the Holy Spirit was trying to bore something deep inside of my heart. I shot up in my bed, "Okay! I hear you! I'm responding! What do you want to say to me?"
For nights on end, God began to download several things to me, but all of them going straight back to the position of our hearts.
God has made you powerful. Powerful enough to reject or receive Him. Powerful enough to walk with our without Him. Powerful enough to respond to Him and His words or not. It comes down to your free will and what or who your will is submitted to, your way or Gods way?
You see, our heart issues and the state of our heart is completely our responsibility. Often we'd like to blame those around us, circumstance, upbringing, our environment and even God, for not flourishing in life, but the honest truth is that we are responsible for the state of our hearts. Out of the abundance of the heart, our mouths speak - so what's been coming out of your heart? Whatever bubbles out of your mouth is telling of what is deep within you.
Our hearts are likened to a garden that we have the responsibility to tend to. Don't believe me? Well, take Jesus at his word then.
Matthew 13:3b-9 &18-23 NLT“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
The purpose of soil in agriculture is to receive and cultivate the seed until it grows into it's intended matter and serves it purpose on the earth whether its vegetation, trees that produce oxygen, food, etc. Well, if our heart is likened to soil, then it's purpose is to receive the seed that God scatters amongst us through His word, messages you hear, time with Him listening to His voice, Godly leadership, and so on. The state of our heart determines the wellbeing of the seed and it's ability to produce 30, 60 or 100 times the DNA that is within that seed. God wants to entrust you with more, but you have a responsibility to tend to your heart.
If we wallow in unforgiveness, bitterness or offense for too long and don't deal with issues that God has been allowing to come to the surface for weeks, months, or years (because He gives us the grace to deal with them in season), our hearts will begin to harden and we'll begin to self-protect. Then, when "seed" is thrown out into our lives, we will despise it and reject it, not understanding all that God wants to give us.
“Offense makes a terrible house guest. It evicts what you previously valued and invites in what before you would never have entertained.”Charlotte Gambill
When we cultivate and take responsibility for our hearts, God can entrust us with more. Often we just have to wake up to the ability we have to respond.
We can respond to life with:
- Forgiveness - Cancelling a debt that someone owes you spiritually, physically, mentally or emotionally that they will never be able to pay you.
- Repentance - Turning from our way and truly submitting our WHOLE lives (not just our big toe), to God.
- Gentleness - To be gentle is: "not harsh or severe." Are you able to respond to life in such a manner?
- Patience - “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.” - Um, yeah. We're all working on this one.
- Love - It is the standard at which Jesus gave His life for us and the standard we are required to give to one another.
You have the ability to respond:
- To His goodness - It's His goodness that leads us to repentance, rather than rules, law, expectations or regulations.
- To His invitation - For relationship, more, a flourishing life.
- To His call - Don't feel like you have a call? Just respond to Jesus' famous last words and you'll change the world with that calling, "Go and make disciples!"
- To rise up - Whether you feel like it or not, it's your responsibility.
- To His love - I always say "Loved people love people," so will you let God love you because he longs to have every part of your heart?
- With what God gives you - Everything you have is a stewardship responsibility, so how will you respond with what He has placed in your hands: children, money, gifts, abilities, time, family, relationships, etc.?
- To what happens to you - This one is hard because so many difficult, painful, and awful things have happened to many of us, hardening our hearts, yet God still gives us the ability to soften our hearts. Facing the pain and choosing to forgive is always key, even if you don't feel like it.
- To God's word - He has given us so much through His word, but how will we respond to it?
- To fear - Yes, fear. Will you let it rule you or will you respond with faith and love?
And so much more!
Abraham's response to his wife Sarah’s negativity and unbelief in the seeming delay of God’s promise of a son landed them with an Ishmael, before they had Isaac. One child represents their way, the other child represents God's way, and both had to do with their response.
In your life, are you producing Ishmael's or are you allowing God to bring about the Isaac’s? Are you willing to take the time to cultivate your heart and bring about the good things God is trying to produce in your life that will have a lasting generational impact. You are responsible.