Sometimes we just aren’t ready to receive God’s Word and practice it. Our heart just isn’t prepared to accept it and respond.
In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus discusses conditions of the heart that prevent a person from receiving the Truth and acting on it.
“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” ESV
Christians who spread the good news of salvation are familiar with the first example, for they know not everyone who listens comprehends the message right away. Satan takes this opportunity to snatch the Word of God from the nonbeliever.
In the parable the Word is described as seed that falls on a footpath, which is compact soil, and thus is unable to penetrate and sprout. Birds swoop down and gobble it up.
The second example is shallow soil with underlying rock preventing a plant from growing deep roots. Such plants are susceptible to the scorching sun and wither.
We are deeply rooted when our trust is the Lord. We read in Jeremiah 17:8 that when this is true of us we are like a tree planted by water that remains green when it is hot and even in drought continues to bear fruit.
Plants in shallow soil are also easily uprooted. They have not yet experienced the Lord as trustworthy.
It is not enough to profess Christ as Lord and Savior; we must attach ourselves to Him putting into practice what He teaches. Jesus tells us how in Scripture.
–We become yoked to Him. [Matthew 11:29]
This is to become Christ’s disciple, learn from Him and submit to Him.
–We abide in Him. [John 15:1-7]
True disciples are connected to Jesus. This is a fixed reality. We live life out of our connection with Jesus.1
As we live life in this manner, we come to know He is everything the Bible tells us He is, and we can trust that His grace is sufficient for any circumstance [2 Corinthians 12:9]. He will never leave us nor forsake us [Hebrews 13:5], and he loves us [Ephesians 3:18-19].
If we are not firmly rooted and grounded in Christ according to His Word, such heart issues as doubt, fear, or self-pity can separate us from Him. We walk away.
Soil Growing Thorns
The third type of soil is already growing thorns, therefore any seed that sprouts must share the field and the nutrients of the soil. The tender plants that poke up are soon choked out by the dominant plant species and unable to produce.
This describes Christians who hear the Word but fail to practice it. They are still worldly. This group may sit in church some Sundays or maybe listen to a Bible teaching podcast on the way to work but they are busy. Their allegiance is to their careers, the possessions they have accumulated such as a house, boat, or RV, the finer things in life such as trips, or a dinner at a good restaurant, and shopping at high-end stores. It isn’t wrong to have material possessions or have a good time, but we can pursue them instead of God.
If it isn’t personal accomplishment, materialism, and pleasurable activities that preoccupies the person with this type of heart, it is the worries of the world. We may find ourselves striving to make sure our pantries are filled with food, and we have money in the bank in case of disaster. While planning isn’t wrong, we often do these things because we are worried that God won’t provide. We count God out and count on ourselves.
Jesus spoke about these worries in Matthew 6:25-33. He said “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
“To seek His kingdom is to seek to live in accordance with His standards, His guidelines.”2
The fourth soil, the good soil, hears the word, understands it, and produces much fruit. So first we approach the Bible with ears to hear whether we are reading it or listening to a teaching. Our goal is to understand it in such a way we can apply it. If we don’t understand how to apply a verse after studying it, we can ask the Holy Spirit to show us.
It was my husband who first set this example for me. He went to God in prayer and asked what it meant to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. [“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”] The Holy Spirit prompted him to watch children and he noticed they were trusting, joyful, dependent, and humble.
One way to have good soil is to ask God to reveal to us anything we need to pull out or plow up, all the issues that keep us from being wholly committed to God. (To learn how to examine your heart read the blog posted Jan. 10).
Also, our hearts are prepared by studying Scripture, so we know what God expects of us. And remember, the love of God is agape meaning He intelligently, intensely wills the best for us.3
If we want to have a receptive mind, have an attitude that is other focused rather than self-focused, and a desire to do God’s will rather than our own we will prepare the soil. In that way we will identify anything that is preventing us from faithfully practicing God’s Word which will produce fruit.
©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved
1-Which of these soils currently describes your heart? What is your evidence?
2-What do you do to ensure your heart is the good soil, ready to hear the word, understand it and produce fruit?
1-New Testament Commentary “Christ-Centered Exposition Exalting Jesus in John” by Matt Carter and Josh Wredberg. B&H Publishing Group Nashville, Tennessee.
2-“The Tony Evans Bible Commentary” by Tony Evans. Holman Bible Publishers Nashville, Tennessee.
3-“The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words” by Terry L. Miethe. Bethany House Publishers Minneapolis, Minnesota.