I have heard sermons preached on just about every word of Jesus that has been recorded in God’s Word. I’ve rarely sat down and digested them. I don’t know why I have felt that hearing God’s Word is good enough. A hard life sure is easier if I stop looking at it from the whole “me” perspective and start looking for what God is up to.
Here is a parable of Jesus that I have often “heard”:
Mark 4:3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
I always heard this and went down the list and said, “Oh! I’m not the footpath kind of guy. Those folks are bad. God’s Word means nothing to them. I’m not a shallow guy. Shallow people are bad. I’m not a weedy, thorny dude. Those dudes are bad. Yeah, fertile soil! That’s the ticket. I’m good and I know it!”
I was more worried about making God’s Word say nice things about me that I didn’t listen and understand.
Jesus wants me to listen. He said so himself. He isn’t illustrating these things in this parable to divide people into a bunch of categories. He wants me to understand. If I simply hear God’s Word and adjust my reality to make me feel better, I’m not listening. I’m not growing. I’m withering.
Life is hard when you are withering.
Mark 4:15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.
Now, if I honestly read this and look at what it means, I can see myself here time and time again. God is speaking to me every single day. His message is loud and clear. I have chosen to stop listening. My heart is hard and life is hard and it is pretty easy for Satan to steal away the good in my life. I have to honestly look at myself and hear the message, listen and understand. This will cause some major excavation to begin and the message will begin to take root. I’m not bad if I honestly see myself here in this place. I am listening to God and that in itself starts to move me to a better place.
Mark 4:16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
I gotta tell you that this is probably where I have spent most of my life. Life gets tough, I make a mess and come crawling back to God and he blesses me with his amazing grace. The sound is sweet and I am all kinds of happy again. But I don’t let my roots go deep. I settle for sprouting and growing until the first sign of trouble and then I lean on myself from there on in. I’m back in withering mode. If I refuse to admit this, I simply repeat the cycle over and over again until I give up and fall back into being a footpath.
Mark 4:18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word,19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.
Once I finally get some roots, once I finally begin to grow, I take my responsibilities seriously. I take them so seriously that I worry and chase after ambition. I feel overworked, overly busy and want more things. I feel spiritually suffocated and wonder why I can’t seem to thrive successfully like I used to. I long for simpler days with God and get frustrated as discontent and selfishness begin to grow inside me. Once again, if I fail to listen and understand, I will continue on allowing the weeds to grow around me and choke me to death.
Mark 4:20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
I am reading this and wondering, “When will I ever arrive here?” Even today, as I read and accept God’s Word into my life, as I expand my hearing to not only include him in my day but to make him the focus of my day I have to honestly confront myself and ask, “Where is the harvest?” I can’t help but feel that there is much more to do to before I actually have some evidence of falling into what I always referred to as the “good group”.
One day at a time.