Devotion written by Don Vickers, Leader Care Facilitator
“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:18-20
Read Mark 4:1-20
As we examine four types of soil from Jesus’ parable of the sower found in Mark chapter four let us examine our lives to see what soil we present to God.
1. Pathway People
The first type of soil that Jesus described was the path. The path is a place where people have traveled upon the soil packing it down and making it hard. When I was in grade school, we would travel to and from school through the desert. There were many ways in which we could have gone, but the way we usually took was the path. It was not slippery, it would not lead us in the wrong direction. To us the path was useful. A path in a garden, however, makes it less productive. Because the soil has been walked upon and packed down the seed does not penetrate, and it is unproductive.
The garden of our lives has also, in places, been beaten as hard as rock by the passing of people and experiences through our lives. Just as in a garden having hard places in our lives make us less productive. The path is a hard place where the seed cannot penetrate. Seed thrown there will be scorched and burnt by the sun and eaten by the birds. What types of things create hard places in our lives? For each of us, there are certain people and influences that beat a path through our lives. It is wise for us to examine those relationships and see what kind of impact they have on our minds. Are they hardening us against God and His Word? Are they discouraging you from being obedient to the Word of God then they are leading you away from Him? Sometimes we do not even notice the hardness until it comes against the Word of God. We need to be choosey as to whom we let run through our lives.
A second influence that beats a path through our lives is entertainment. What we read, watch and listen to has an impact on our lives. What we are exposed to may not honor God and could begin to callous to the Word of God. The entertainment industry steadily throws out worldly thought and philosophy that if allowed will leave a path through our lives.“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”- Proverbs 14:12
A third influence is our pursuit of pleasure. We live in a hedonistic society. We value pleasure above other things. Pleasure is a gift from God. The danger is that the pursuit of pleasure can become an obsession. To keep ourselves from allowing pleasure to rule our lives we need to constantly keep those pleasures within the boundaries that God has set forth.
A fourth influence is our personal ambitions. Ambition of the right sort is putting God first and seeking to please Him while serving others, which can help bring about much fruit in our lives. An individual with a strong personal ambition that seeks to serve themselves goes against the Word of God. It is good for us to have personal ambitions, but we need to be constantly reminded of God’s economy.“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”– Matthew 6:33
A fifth influence is our private thought life. There is a wonderful quote that says, “I am what I think about when alone – not what I pretend to be in public.” This is who we are, in reality, and before God. There is no mask that hides the attitude of our hearts from before Him. “For as he thinks within himself, so he is. . .” – Proverbs 23:7
The last influence is the Master’s footprints. There is an ancient saying in agriculture that says, “The finest fertilizer on a gardener’s ground are his own footprints.” The gardener moves across the garden gently and carefully as he cared for his garden.
The things that pass through our lives are, in and of themselves, not bad, and do not mean that we have hard places in our lives. When they move us away from the Word of God and follow after Him, then the hard places start to form in us. We determine what dominates the garden of our lives. We choose our friends the types of entertainment and pleasures we are involved in. As Christians, we need to constantly judge to see if the influences that we allow in our lives are moving towards or away from our Lord.
2. Rocky People
The second soil that Jesus described was the rocky soil. This was soil that does not have much depth. Because of it, the seed sprouts quickly but without any space for roots, it is scorched by the sun, and the plant withers and dies. Jesus said that these are the ones who accept the word, but because of their lack of roots, they fall away when persecution and afflictions come. I believe that the main cause of this is unbelief. Many people come and become involved in the church, but they put their faith in the wrong things. They trust in the pastor, the programs, the people, and in the hope that in getting involved they may be helped in some way. We are a strange creation. We will try anything and anyone, but the One who created us and is faithful to provide for us so our roots may grow deep.
People with rocky soil have a hard time believing in God and His Word. God’s way is always the right way! To follow Him takes faith. Our world is preoccupied with “self.” Christ calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him. He has the way to abundant life, but it takes faith.
When we try to live outside of God’s Word we bear no fruit. His Word tells us to forgive. When we are unwilling to forgive or when we decide that we will forgive in our time and under our conditions, we are holding our anger and resentment – the fruit of peace that is to be in our lives because of the relationship we have with God is now missing. His Word tells us that we are to love others as we love ourselves. If you and I are unwilling to love because we think that we are going to be taken advantage of, then the fruit of love that comes from the relationship that we have with God is missing because of our lack of faith.
In order for the stones to be removed from our lives, we need to determine that God is God. He is faithful and trustworthy, and He has given us His Word for us to follow and observe. We need to ask Him to show us where we do not trust, and as He shows us areas in our lives we can ask for faith. When we disobey we are saying that God is not able to handle an area of our life. When we complain about our circumstances and situations, we are saying that we know what is best for us. In order for us to be productive, we need to acknowledge His place, accept His management, and follow His directions for our lives. “And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” – Ephesians 3:19-20
3. Thorny People
The third type of soil that our Lord describes is thorny soil. A garden that is riddled with noxious plants is incapable of fruit production. The owner has to be diligent in caring for the ground. In the parable, Jesus mentions three things that can choke us out and make us unfruitful. These things take priority over the Word of God in our lives and keep us from following Him.
The first is worldly cares. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 Jesus tells us that we will have troubles and concerns in this world. The problem comes when we are preoccupied with those cares. If we do not really trust and rely upon the Lord we will be eaten up with concern. We can only live one day at a time and we must rely upon God. “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalms 118:24
Second, is the deceitfulness of wealth. Many people chase after riches only to find there is no happiness in them. Many times, we trust in money, credit, or our bank accounts more than we do God. When troubles come we should turn first to God to be the supplier of our needs. We also need to be careful that our attitude regarding our possessions is right. The riches that come to us are on trust from the Lord. We are only stewards of all He provides.
The third is materialism. Materialism is chasing after things. God made us for Himself. Anything else that we give ourselves to is missing the mark. As we respond to the claims of Christ we discover that He alone has the truth.
4. Productive People
The other soils that Jesus mentions were considered unproductive, lost ground. The last soil is a productive soil that produces thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. God desires for us to be productive soil receptive to His Word in our lives. God is the Master Gardener who will work to clear the soul of our lives from paths and rocks and thorns. Beyond the hardness and difficulties, He sees the potential locked up inside of us. His is a labor of love. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” – Hebrews 12:10-11
In order to be productive soil, we must hear, receive and bring forth fruit. We cannot assume that somehow our unchanged lives will bring in a good crop for the Lord this year! Productive people yield themselves to the Master Gardener and allow Him to break up the hard soil in their lives, remove the rocks and thorns and trust Him to make them fruitful in living. As they live in an obedient relationship with God they hear, receive and bear the fruit of the character of God.
There is a tendency to try to sidestep the issue of fruitfulness by involving ourselves in other activities that we hope will cover up our barrenness. Just like the people of Israel, we try to be busy with activities that might make up for our poor soil. The fruit that we bear cannot be borne apart from a relationship with God. The seed does not come from within. It is planted in us when we accept the Lord as our Savior. The Holy Spirit begins to do work in our lives, and we are known as Christians not by activity, but by the fruit that is borne out in our daily conversation, conduct, and character.