One of my favorite things to do in the spring is to plant my flower and herb boxes. I am amazed that the tiny, dry little seeds contained in each package will produce a harvest of fresh herbs or a colorful array of flowers that will shine throughout the summer months and into fall. I love to watch as the little seedlings germinate and push their way through the soft soil, seeking the life giving rays of sunshine and warmth. As they grow, the tender shoots gather strength and begin to multiply, preparing a brilliant shower of colorful flowers or a harvest of flavor.
Sam loves to plant a vegetable garden each year as well. I find it ironic that as much as he hates to eat vegetables, he loves to plant and grow them, which means we end up with lots of fresh veggies that we have to give away! He has latched onto the beauty of Earthboxes though, and usually plants a variety of hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, beans, corn and cucumbers. He faithfully waters and fertilizes the tiny plants; counting the days until he can harvest the fruits of his labors. His enthusiasm over his first tomato of the year or his first grilled habanero are both fun and funny.
First, the farmer scatters his seeds across his field. Now in those days, most farmer’s didn’t have huge fields like we do today. Most of them were only a few acres as the farmer had to work them by hand or with a small team of oxen or donkeys and a rustic plow. There are a wide variety of soils in the Middle East – everything from fertile to rugged and rocky, and one field can have many different types of soil in it. I know this to be true here in America as well. The field that was next to our house in Maine had three distinct soil types in it – fertile loam, ledge, and wet. Unfortunately, because of the difference in the soil types, the farmer who worked the field was forced to turn it into a pasture. However, in this story, the field is representative of our lives – we tend to have a very small circle of influence.
Back to the story though. The farmer is scattering the seed by hand. Now we all know that hand scattering, or the direct seeding method isn’t the most accurate way to plant something. The seeds go everywhere – sometimes where you want them to go, and other times where you don’t want them to go. They overcrowd one area, leaving others under seeded and bare. Such is the way we spread the gospel.
There are times in our lives where we are in a spiritual high – mountaintop experiences – when we are just on fire for the Lord. We can’t stop telling everyone we know about Him and what he’s done in our life. And then there are other times where we become trapped in mediocrity. We don’t read our Bible regularly, we don’t take time to pray daily, we fall away from church or fellowship with other believers. Our walk with the Lord becomes bare. Neverless, the farmer has seeded his field.
Now in this story, there are four types of soil that the seeds fell on. First was the footpath. A footpath is a place where nothing can grow. The soil is so compact from all the traffic that seeds have no place to go – they just lay on top of it and the birds will come and eat the seeds. This is representative of those who’ve completely rejected God. Their hearts have become so hard that the seeds of the gospel don’t have a chance of penetration. I’m sure we all know people like that – people who are so embittered by their past that they blame God for all the failures in their life; or worse, they don’t even acknowledge him. They seek only the pleasures of this world and give no thought to what lies after death.
The second type of soil is the rocky soil – or as my Bible says, “shallow soil with underlying rock.” This is the soil that I think is the most dangerous. It’s the soil that is indicative of the seeker movement in the church. On the surface the soil looks good, but just a few inches below the surface lay a barrier of rocks which prevent the roots from reaching the Earth’s moisture and nutrients. Seeds planted in this type of soil often spring up quickly giving a false sense of hope for the crop to come, but once the sun comes out, they wither and die because they don’t have the root system to sustain them through the hottest part of summer.
As I said, I think this is the most dangerous type of soil and is the type cultivated by the seeker movement. This is the “mile wide and inch deep” kind of Christianity. One that can not sustain the fiery trials that life will bring. They look good on the outside as long as things are going their way and life is peachy, but once troubles come their way, their faith withers and dies and they blame God for their troubles. Without root development, they don’t have the faith to withstand the trials and troubles that come with living in the real world. As a Christian, the Bible is our spiritual source of water and nutrition. Without a daily dose, we are weak and underfed, and are in no way fit to withstand Satan’s arrows.
The third type of soil is thorny. This is soil that is no fun to work in, and one that will never produce a harvest; and we all have thorny soil in our fields. People who are thorny, are fence setters. They want the best of both worlds, but in the end the ways of the world always overpower the ways of the Lord. Time and time again in the New Testament, we are told that the spiritual nature is always at war with the worldly nature. That because we live in the real world, we will always be tempted by the things of this world – greed, materialism, anger, lust, sexual immorality, deceit, selfishness and selfish ambitions, etc. And unless we burn the weeds out of our life, the gospel will never be able to take hold in our lives. Unless we jump off the fence and pick a side, we will forever be pricking our hands on the stickers.
The fourth type of soil is the fertile ground. I guarantee you, every farmer prays for fertile ground – as should we. Fertile ground is the best soil to plant in. Because it has the right balance of nutrients and moisture, the seeds take root, they send up well nourished seedlings that grow to full maturity, which produce a bumper crop. Farmers work the fertile soil carefully with a stringent routine of fertilizer, tilling, and crop rotation, in order to maintain the integrity of the soil and ensure continued production and success. As a Christian, I have to do the same with my walk with the Lord. The gospel message took root in my heart, but in order to prevent it from becoming like the seeds that fell on the shallow soil, I have to work at my relationship with Him. If I want to be useful for Him, I’ve got to stay in the word and prayer daily – they’re my source of strength. I have to be willing to get out and till the field, pull the weeds, gather up the rocks and build a fence, and plan for the harvest. I have to make an effort every day – I can’t just sit back and expect to reap a bountiful harvest of blessings if I haven’t done a thing to deserve it.
“Dear Lord, please help me to be a field of fertile soil. Help me to guard my heart against the desires of this world which threaten to choke out your life giving message. And help me to be an encouragement to others when their field is becoming overgrown with weeds and thorns. Please help me to be in prayer for those who’s hearts are as hardened as the footpath – give me the courage and strength to keep spreading your seeds even when it seems futile. Thank you for Jesus – the greatest farmer who ever lived. In his precious name I pray, amen.”