Read Ezekiel 11:19
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
These are the words of an exasperated mother or father which you may have spoken or heard on occasion. They may not be the exact words of God, but the sentiment seems similar as we read the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had developed a pattern of behavior over the generations where they would live in accordance with His law for a while, then fall away from it little by little until they were living in complete sin. It is not so different from society today. We are influenced and distracted by social media, news outlets, and rogue priorities which drag us away from God’s best for our lives.
I was recently speaking with a young mother who was sharing her concern about sending her young daughter to preschool. She was concerned about her daughter picking up bad behaviors from fellow classmates. Up until this point, the little girl’s mother had kept her daughter sheltered from bad influences and felt pretty confident that she was raising her daughter in a Christ-centered world. She was doing a good job of focusing her daughter on what was important and right. How could she think of releasing her precious child into a classroom where children would break the rules, talk back, and not share appropriately? These may seem minor, but they are huge to a young mother who has committed to doing her best to raise the next generation to honor God.
This scenario made me think of how we approach life in the “real” world. As adults, we should be steering clear of dishonorable behaviors and habits that pull us away from God’s best. So how do we get back on track?
We ask God for softened hearts.
In Ezekiel, we find God conversing with Ezekiel about how bad things were getting. God chose Ezekiel to be His messenger, telling him,
“I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead . . .”
A softened heart is one that is willing to submit to God’s way and involves surrendering a hard-heart which gets distracted by things that pull us away from God. A hard-hearted person thinks their way is better than God’s and that no change is needed. A softened heart is willing to recognize our flaws and make changes. When our hearts are softened, we are teachable and willing to try again to live up to God’s standard. We have a “singleness of mind” – a focus on God’s desires for each of us.
So, although we may not be able to shelter ourselves or the next generation from a society that has lost sight of godliness, we can respond with a softened heart. We can own our mistakes and make changes to get back on track. How can we teach the next generation to respond with a soft heart?
Do you have a soft heart? Are you willing to make changes to get back on track with God when you tend to wander? Think of the people you influence each day –your kids, your co-workers, your spouse, your neighbors. Pray for them to have a soft heart. Trust God who is in the business of changing the hearts of man.