For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. – Matthew 13:15 NIV
Watching Dr. Charles Stanley on TV one night I experienced the beginning of a miracle. Suffering for years with myasthenia gravis, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Patience with my unhealthy circumstances had just about run out. I sat there broken-hearted, hoping to hear a word from God.
Then I heard Dr. Stanley’s words. At first I was only half listening and then he started speaking about the power of patience and obedience while God heals you. That got my attention. In the midst of my brokenness, his words touched my heart and triggered the beginning of a healing and, ultimately, complete remission.
What Dr. Stanley said was nothing new to me. I simply hadn’t wanted to hear the truth, I guess, because I wasn’t sick enough yet to really listen. God healed me by changing my heart, which caused me to really listen and to hear and better understand His word.
Most of the time what causes our hearts trouble is our not listening with understanding or accepting the truth. We often sit unmoved as God’s word flows into our hardened, stubborn and untouched hearts, so we remain sick and Christ cannot heal us.
In the above quote, Jesus explains this point to the disciples and why He teaches using parables. He uses parables to make the truth plain to those who are searching for the truth and to confound those who are too lazy to look for truth.
In the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus uses four types of soil – the path, the rocky place, the thorny soil and the good soil – as examples of our heart conditions. In fact, this parable is also designed to teach and show what hinders us from profiting from God’s Word.
Mathematically, when you stop and think about it, three out of the four of the soils – 75 percent – are hearts that cannot or will not hear the truth and, subsequently, misunderstand the gospel. Differently stated, only 25 percent of the hearts are good soil. Based on the parable, on average three of every four of us miss the light of truth found in the gospel.
We should note the same light that draws and directs the eyes of some repels and dazzles the eyes of others. The same music that hurts the ears of some stirs the souls of others. The light and the music seen and heard both depend upon the condition of one’s heart. The condition of the heart allows for clear sight and sound in order to experience God’s desired effect.
Real disciples seek to know the mysteries of the Word and, if needed, they will search for the meaning and be led into a more intimate knowledge of truth. But carnal hearers rest in plain and simple listening and won’t take the time to dig deeper. One may ask, “What is a parable?” A parable is a shell holding deeper fruit for the diligent, revealing little fruit for the lazy.
When the heart is heavy, the ears are dull. The whispers of the Spirit of God cannot be heard, nor can the loud calls, because His pitch is too high to hear. It is like a dog whistle, which dogs can hear but humans cannot.
So when God’s Word is too high-pitched for our ears or too gently delivered, we are resolved not to listen and thus not to learn; we shut our eyes and stop up our ears. In such cases, we shut the windows of our souls (our eyes) because actually we love the darkness more than we love the light.
Stanley’s preaching made me very uncomfortable that night but, as my heart opened, my ears opened, too, and my eyes began to see the light and it comforted me – oddly that same TV light earlier had hurt my eyes.
So what’s the bottom line?
When we stop and open our hearts to scripture, we are healed. As my heart turned to God’s Words on “patience” that night, I realized God had used Charles Stanley to touch my troubled heart and triggered a healing, just as Christ said when we “Turn He would heal them.”
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org