Have you ever had a light bulb moment that radically changed your life? That phrase, "changed my life" is drastically overused and I tend to get a little squeamish when I hear people say it because the reality is, not many things actually change our entire life. All that to say that when I say something changed my life, I'm not even a hint exaggerating. Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me tell you about a light bulb moment that changed my life. I was at a friends house and he made a comment about how he was unteachable. That's it. I'm sure he wasn't trying to be used by God and I'm not even totally sure he was walking with God at the time. But there it was, this statement that hit me in the chest. A short little sentence the Holy Spirit used to convict me deep. I didn't want to be unteachable. I wanted, desperately wanted, to be teachable. For years after that moment I prayed and asked God to make me teachable. God used that moment to change me. He birthed a desire in me, He drew me to talk to Him about it and then He produced the fruit of the prayer. Before that moment, I was unteachable. I was unreceptive to correction and thought I knew an awful lot. I had a hard heart. But God, in His gracious way soften it and made it soft and pliable in His hands. He turned my hard ground of a heart into good soil. (Mark 4)
Have you had a hard heart?
How did God soften it?
Did you know when the Lord tells us we are the salt of the earth that it means we are heart softeners? It does! "According to specialists in environmental science and soil chemistry, salt has been a major method of fertilizing soil for centuries." So when Jesus was talking about us being salt and light in Matthew 5, He was speaking more about the agricultural use of salt rather that the addition of flavor. The fertilizing salts in Jesus' day were not like our modern table salt (sodium chloride). Instead they were mixtures of chlorides of sodium, magnesium, and potassium, with very small amounts of calcium sulfate (gypsum). Some salts would dissolve faster than others, while others withstood the elements much better. These hardier/saltier salts were generally more valuable agriculturally because their benefits would last longer.
So when Jesus talked about salt losing its saltiness, He's referring to a process where the salts naturally disintegrates over time as it loses a small amount of gypsum. This change in saltiness makes it a less effective fertilizing agent. Basically, the salt looses it's ability to soften and enrich the soil.
Anthony B. Bradley in an article for Christianity Today, discovered and wrote, "not only did the ancient Hebrews use salt in this way, but so did the Chinese and early Romans. Salt was used in arid places to help soil retain moisture, destroy weeds, make stubborn soils easier to till, and make sour grass sweeter and more appealing to cattle. In some soils, salt keeps rust from wheat, and blight from potatoes. When applied properly, salt will kill surface weeds while allowing more deeply rooted plants and grass to thrive. And when rain or irrigation allows salt to permeate soil, the salt chemically frees vital minerals and nutrients in the soil, allowing them to nourish plants.
While this may be a foreign concept to us in the West, it is still well-known in other parts of the world. For example, the Philippine Coconut Authority recently released a technology guide sheet for farmers titled, “SALT (Sodium Chloride): An Effective and Cheap Fertilizer for High Coconut Productivity.” The guide notes that salt accelerates crop growth and development, increases crop yield, minimizes damage to plants, and promotes environmental sustainability. According to the guide, between 1991 and 1997, farmers who fertilized with salt had a yield increase of 125 percent over unfertilized coconuts."
So as we think about salt softening soil, it makes me think of when Jesus compared the human heart to soil. He describes our hearts in four different ways.
1. Hard heart like soil along a path, where the seed of truth comes but is immediately snatched up by birds. There is no time or ability to absorb the seed.
2 Rocky, a heart that hears truth and immediately receives it with joy but because there is no root, when pressure or persecution come, they immediately stumble.
3. Thorny soil. These are the ones who hear thee word, but worries of this life and desires for wealth
and other things in this life choke out the truth.
4. Good soiled hearts that hear God's Word and produce a crop of 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.
The more good soiled people, the more fruit we will see. How awesome to be investing our life and time into good soiled people. (That's another topic covered in the discipleship/mentoring series- choosing the right people to invest in). But how can we help people with hard, rocky or thorny soiled hearts get a little bit softer, good soiled hearts?
If God calls us to be heart softeners, how do we partner with Him in this impossible task?
6 Ideas of How to Soften Hearts
1. Pray for them. Only God can change hearts but He desires to use us in peoples lives. Many times in Scripture we see Him wait to move in people lives until people prayed. And the incredible thing about prayer is that He not only changes other peoples hearts through us talking to Him about them, but He changes our hearts. When we pray the best things we know how for people, He begins to align our heart to His. As we delight in Him/yield to Him, He gives us the desires of what to pray for and then we get to see Him answer them.
2. Communicate. It's just way too easy to assume things. And that little easy thing to do can bring about so much pain and frustration. Yet on the other hand, asking questions brings so much health and perspective. it is wisdom to draw someone out, to pursue their heart. Asking questions and getting to know someone shows care and love and softens hearts. When was a time you felt cared for? I wonder if it can be traced back to someone pursuing/drawing you out and asking you questions and then did something about it. On the other hand, do you have an example of how someone assumed something and did something about it. How did that affect your heart? Probably the opposite of softening.
3. Love the way they understand and experience love. The book, The Five Love Languages talks about this and how we miss people when we are loving them in a way they receive love. It takes being intentional to figure out how someone feels loved. But when you do love someone in a way to can experience it, it's a home run in terms of seeing hearts softened.
4. Use your gifts to serve.
God created you unique, with a contribution to the world that only you can give. Others may have the same gift as you, but they don't have the same combination of personality, gift and relationship with God that you have. You are a unique salt crystal that has a part to play in softening hearts. The way you serve others doesn't have to look the same way as everyone else. What has God given you and how can you use that to serve others around you? By giving of yourself, it is an example, a testimony to the world of what God can do and what He loves.
5. Do what's right. It doesn't necessarily feel like it, but the world is watching. So when we do what's right even when it seems like a loosing battle, even when we look silly and know that it will bring persecution, it speaks volumes. When others look at us and see something different, when they see people willing to do hard things, uncomfortable things, it sparks curiosity and gives room for God to work in hearts.
6. Yield to the Holy Spirit. The last and yet the very most important is yielding to the Lord. The beautiful fruit of the Spirit; like gentleness, patience and self-control are not a fruit of trying really hard to produce them in our life. They are a result of yielding to the Lord and letting Him produce His fruit through us. And the fruit of gentleness, grace and truth and patience is perhaps one of the most beautiful things there are. When you are on the receiving end of grace, of truth spoken with great gentleness, it softens. And since this thing the Lord says we will be, heart softeners, can only be as we walk dependent on Him. Here's a video explaining how you know if you're walking in the Spirit.
Laura, the founder of Missional Women is married and has six kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 14 years serving with Master Plan Ministries where she is the Women's Development Coordinator. Laura has authored 5 books, including an award winning 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, A Devotional Journey through Judges, and Discover God's Calling for Your Life. Most recently her resource for Bible studies, The Connect Cards was released by Cru Press. You can find her on facebook, twitter, pinterest, youtube, instagram, periscope, blab and her author site.
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