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To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. - Matthew 13:12 (NLT)
When Reid and I moved into our house we had no clue what we were doing. We didn’t know how to fix a broken gutter and had probably never changed an air filter. We were over the moon about owning our own home, but mostly unaware of all of the potential disasters home ownership could bring. I was too busy envisioning the right paint colors and where our furniture would fit to think about what to do if the dishwasher stopped working. Whether we were prepared or not, the disasters would come. And they did come--more quickly than we thought! The day we signed all the paperwork, we decided to swing by for a celebratory dance in the empty living room. But when we walked in, we stepped right into a giant puddle. Closing day was the same day our hot water heater broke and poured out all over the hardwood floors. So much excitement melted quickly into one giant leak.
I think, if we are all honest, sometimes being a Christ follower can feel the same way. In the beginning of your walk with the Lord, things look rosy. But life is still hard. Suffering is inevitable, and what then? What does walking with Jesus look like when life gets difficult? Our current series is all about building a better life, and the parables of Jesus show us the kind of life He wants to partner with us to construct. This week we are going to take a look at the parable of the sower and dig a little deeper into our own foundations. There we may discover some cracks in need of repair, or maybe some leaks that threaten to take us down. This week’s parable is going to give us the right tools to patch the cracks and repair the leaks of life.
A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it...“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. - Luke 8:5, 11-12 (NLT)
Growing up, I was always the kid with the correct Sunday school answer. Bible trivia was my jam, and I knew exactly what the teacher was looking for. The Sunday School answer to this parable is, “Be the fertile soil,” which is true and good. But the simple Sunday School answer is not what we are looking for this week. There is so much more to be discovered here. I believe Jesus wants us to learn something from every type of soil we encounter in this story. With each type of soil, Jesus is showing us the potential pitfalls that come with the Christian walk. And for each pitfall, we can find a tool to help us overcome. To discover today’s pitfall, we need to dig a little deeper and read a few of the verses that came before. Quickly read Matthew 13:9-19. Did you notice what Jesus is doing? In the first part of the parable, He is calling out the people around Him who are listening but don’t understand. And did you catch why they don’t understand in verse 15? Hard hearts. The number one cause for pitfalls in our Christian walk is the enemy, Satan. And nothing lets Satan in more quickly than a hard heart. So how do we combat hard heartedness? With our first tool - vulnerability. We must first be open to what Jesus is teaching and vulnerable enough to invite the life change His teaching demands. Without an open line of vulnerable communication to Jesus, you are giving room for the enemy to steal the truth from your heart.
Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture….The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. - Luke 8:6, 13 (NLT)
I don’t have a sweet tooth. Honestly, when it comes to eating healthy, it’s not generally the sugar that trips me up. It’s just one particular treat. Fresh chocolate chip cookies. I can’t say no. No matter how committed I am to a healthy eating plan, no matter how much success I’ve had at the gym, I can almost always be derailed with a fresh chocolate chip cookie. Today’s pitfall is right in the verse. Temptation. Some of us receive the truth with joy. But when life gets hard, when temptation strikes, when the cookies are held under our noses, we just can’t say no. How do we combat temptation? Faithful repentance and obedience. Repentance and obedience grow us deeper roots. Each time we choose to obey, our roots in Jesus dig a little deeper, and it becomes a little bit easier to say no to the next temptation. Think about choosing a healthy diet. Is it harder to say no to chocolate chip cookies on day 2 or day 200? Day 2 of course! When you have 199 days of good choices, saying no to a cookie becomes second nature because you have seen the benefits. The same is true for our walk with Christ--the more we repent and obey, the more we see the benefit, and the more we desire Jesus and all He has to offer. When we walk through something difficult and choose Jesus in the midst of it, we begin to see that there is no better way to live.
Have you been saying “yes” to temptation? Or turning to an old vice in a time of difficulty? Obedience starts with repentance. Turn to the Lord and tell Him you want to obey. Ask Him to show you a way out. Need some extra help? Contact Jennifer at email@example.com.Share Tweet
Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants.... The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. - Luke 8:7,14 (NLT)
“I’m so busy!” How many times a week do you say that to someone? Or how many times a week does someone say that to you? It is the word of our time. Busy, busy, busy. Honestly, I think many people believe busyness denotes importance, but Jesus warns us about busyness, about being caught up in the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. There are a million things a day that demand your attention, a million distractions constantly at our fingertips. Phones, emails, TV, shopping, the list of distractions available to us are endless. For me, this particular pitfall hits close to home. How many times have I chosen an episode on Netflix over reading my Bible? Or hanging out with friends over time with Jesus? How many days have I spent worrying anxiously over something small, while God was waiting for me to simply share it with Him? Honestly, probably too many to count. When we let a worldly mindset take over everything we do, our growth and maturity in Christ is stunted. We remain little Christian babies, unable to stand when life gets hard. How do we combat a worldly mindset? We focus on Heaven. A friend of mine once asked an old preacher how he’d walked strongly with the Lord for so many years. His answer was simple, “I think about Heaven every day.” When we start our days focused on eternity with our Creator, it changes the way we spend our time. We think about relationships - how can we spend our time more intentionally with people? We think less about a current worry when the promise of a perfect eternity awaits. And we become more able to endure hardship and pain when we don’t see hardship as the end.
Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!...And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. - Luke 8:8a, 15 (NLT)
I am not a strong gardener, but I love green things. I have lots of plants in my house, but mostly the kind that are extremely forgiving and don’t need a lot of attention. I only remember to water something when I notice a wilting branch or yellowing leaf. So, give me a succulent, and I’m golden. Give me a temperamental fern or needy orchid, and it will surely be dead in a week. And let’s not even talk about outdoor plants. I tried my hand at a tomato plant last year and got one tomato. The whole season. One. That is why the end of this parable baffles me. A miracle happens that is often overlooked. When the word of God is planted into the heart of a person who clings to it, more than what was planted is harvested. More. What? I understand that less than what is planted can be harvested because well… that happens to me every time. But more? How??
All week, we have been looking at the pitfalls that threaten our walk with Jesus, and we’ve discovered several tools to combat these pitfalls. We can use all of our tools to become the good soil - vulnerability with Jesus, faithful repentance and obedience, and an eternal Heaven focused mindset. But at the end of the day, it is these tools combined with the grace of God that will produce a crop 100x larger than what was planted. We were not made to do this whole life thing on our own. Jesus has given us some tools to do it better, but He has also given us something more. Himself. Without the grace of God, none of our tools would work, but with Him, we can do more than we ever thought possible.