SPEAKING OF SOIL . . .
Gardening isn’t really my bag. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one who greatly appreciates the wonders and beauty of nature, and will ooh and aah along with the best of them. But I’m fairly certain that the horticulturalist genes passed me by when I entered this world. Which is fine, because chiggers and creepy-crawly things that accompany gardening, I can do without.
I’m convinced that my contribution to the whole process of cultivating and planting is best utilized at the tail end of the growing period when, depending on what emerges from the ground, the sniffing, and picking, and eating begins.
But when it comes to the Gospel message and the seeds of God’s Word being sown into human hearts—I’m all in. As one who believes that God hears and answers prayer, I’ll roll up my sleeves and get to work with the rest of you intense spiritual gardeners.
For years, we at Hope City KC (an inner-city ministry in Kansas City, MO), have prayed for the Word of the Lord to go forth and prosper (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Our prayers have been fueled by the unmitigated truth that God’s Word is top-quality seed being sown. Jesus, the living Word, is perfect. He is Organic, Heirloom, Non-GMO seed (many thanks to the seed-buying pros online for those impressive words).
God's Word never fails, never returns void. It accomplishes everything He has purposed (Isaiah 55:11). Despite my weak words and oftentimes smaller-scale targets when praying, His Word always hits dead center somewhere according to His vast and glorious plan.
So, whenever I feel discouraged because I, personally, don’t always get to see the results of my prayers, I remind myself that somewhere, someone is getting zapped by God. It lifts my spirit every time.
But some time back, I realized that I’d been slighting a rather important component in my seed-sowing prayers. Since the Word of God is flawless—nothing about that seed needs altering—the problem lies in the soil. According to the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:3-20, the Word is being sown into trampled, hardened, cluttered human hearts that struggle to receive the seed and keep it growing. At any point in time, that could be one of us.
Seeds sown on the path, are the casual listeners. Ears hear the Word, but it’s not sinking in. I shudder to think of how many times I've been that casual listener! It becomes the yada yada yada or background chatter we tune out or let slip past because we are unable to mentally grasp. Verse 4 says the birds (Satan, vs15) immediately eat up those seeds. Our divine encounter is lost . . . for now.
Seeds sown in stony ground are those who receive the Word with gladness (16-17). There’s immediate growth. Life is good, things look promising. But their roots have no depth. Perhaps unforgiveness, disappointment, or unbelief brought on a callousness or dullness of heart (Mark 6:52 AMPL). What was once soft and open, is now hardened and closed off. Whatever the cause, deeper intimacy with God is hindered. The oomph they desperately need to endure the troubles or persecution that arise because of the Word, is missing. Further offense comes (offenses will surely come), and pow! that person stumbles or falls away.
There’s the seed sown among thorns—those sinful tendencies in us all that haven’t been rooted out yet. It's the cares of this crazy world (good and bad), the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts for other things that creep in ever so subtly. Our hearts are pulled every which way, our spiritual life gets choked out, and we're the last to get the memo. Ouch! There’s only so much room in the garden of our hearts. Something has to go. Let it be the thorns!
And finally, there's the seed sown in good soil. That’s the heart condition we’re all after. A heart that receives the Word, and allows it to go deep and effectively exercise its superhuman power in and through us as we keep trusting and believing (1Thessalonians 2:13).
It's our "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" response to Jesus saying, "He who has ears, let him hear'' (1 Samuel 3:10, Mark 4:9).
So, I’m praying for hearts today—yours and mine—because we all could stand more cultivating at times. Let's pull out our gardening tools and get to hoeing, and weeding, and fertilizing, and watering (and whatever else gardeners do) so we too can receive His Word and allow it to effectively exercise its superhuman power in us.
Photo byDaniel ÖbergonUnsplash