And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands and grasps it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, some a hundred times [as much as was sown], some sixty [times as much], and some thirty.”
Jesus told a story using four types of soil to illustrate different responses to God. (Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23) A farmer scatters seed. Some of it falls on the road and is eaten by the birds. Some falls on rocky soil. It sprouts up but wilts in the hot sun because it doesn’t have a good root system. Other seed falls among weeds and is choked out as it grows, but the last grains of seed fall on fertile soil, where they grow, mature, and multiply tremendously.
In every community, church, and Christian group, we see these four responses to Christ. Some people hear God’s truth; however, it doesn’t seem to make the slightest dent. Others receive it gladly, but when difficulties surface, their joy quickly fades into despair. Many others grow for a while, then worries erode their faith and competing attractions of pleasure and possessions steal their hearts. But a few resist these temptations, grow strong in their faith, and touch the lives of tens or hundreds of others. Those whom God uses to mend broken families and guide wayward lives say there’s nothing so thrilling or fulfilling in the world.
Each of us has the opportunity to choose the type of soil we want to be. Jesus’ story explains the options, but He leaves the decision up to us.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, then to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Many of us think about this parable as though it is addressed to others, especially those who haven’t received Christ as their Savior. It does apply to those but it also applies to those of us who have received Christ. I think that most of us could identify at some point in our lives with all four types of soil and the soil can change from one type to another depending on how it is treated and what is done with it.
Let’s suppose that we were to start at the worst of the soils- the path. This is the life that has been pressed down into a hardened hopeless estate. The same struggles, habits, lifestyles steamroll over that life again and again until it may feel that it can never be anything different. It will take supernatural intervention to prepare it to receive any seed for it is so hardened that the seed is eaten up before it has a chance to take root. Lest we think this soil has no hope, we must remember that some of us were in that condition before Christ touched our hard hearts and broke up the crust of our souls and transformed our lives by His own power. Nothing is impossible with God!
Now I’ve never had a garden that didn’t seem to grow rocks. No matter how many I picked up, there always seemed to be more. I’ve noticed that they come in all sizes from the small ones that are just irritating to the big ones that will crush the life out of the plants. That’s life. I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t have to constantly work at digging out those things that hinder growth. Some of them are deep-seated habits, others are simple changes. It seems the more I dig out the more I find but every step is progress toward becoming good soil.
All my gardens seem to excel in producing weeds. No matter how much I spray or dig up and throw away, they seem to keep coming back. It sure would be nice to plant a garden and never have to weed it. But I realize that the same soil that produces good plants will also produce weeds unless I make the choice to get rid of the weeds so the vegetables can have the benefit of the nutrients in the soil. Life gets filled with weeds. We might call them distractions, things that draw our attention away from the things of God. I’ve noticed that one of the great strategies of the devil is to get us so busy with good things, enjoyable things that we neglect the excellent things of God. Sometimes we get so busy living in this world, trying to manage schedules and activities and life that we forget about eternity. There are times that I have to pause even with ministry and remind myself that even the work of God is no substitute for the relationship with Him. We will always battle weeds and often we may not even recognize them as weeds. One of the weeds I’ve battled in my garden is Johnson grass. In its young state it looks much like corn and can be easily mistaken as such. Only a discerning eye can distinguish the difference. In my life, I’ve often mistaken weeds for good plants. What I’ve learned is to trust the Master Gardener and ask Him to weed my heart. I’ve learned that I can’t trust my heart because it’s easy to convince myself that the distractions are good things- and many times they are but they are hindrances to my growth into becoming good soil.
All of us can become good soil if we will ask the Holy Spirit to break up the hardened soil, dig out the rocks, pull up the weeds and cultivate the soil of our hearts so when we hear the Word it will spring up and produce a hundredfold harvest.
Dr. John Thompson