A couple years ago I heard a message from Ben Stuart in which he took the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13 and applied it to believers rather than unbelievers. It’s easy to see the parable’s application for unbelievers who hear the message of the gospel, but the more I thought about and dwelt on Jesus’ words, the more clear it became that I could really be helped by applying this parable to the way I approach and steward Scripture each day. I hope the same will be true for you.
In the Parable of the Sower, a man sows seed (which represents the Word of God) and it falls in four different places. Some seed falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil. Jesus explains what all of this means by describing each place where the seed fell.
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” – Matthew 13:19
When we don’t understand the Word, it’s fallen on the path. Maybe the words we read are themselves confusing, so we don’t understand. Or maybe understanding the words isn’t an issue, but our problem is that we don’t understand how they’re relevant to our lives. In both cases, “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown.”
“This is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” – Matthew 13:20-21
When we follow the Word only when it’s easy, it’s fallen on rocky ground. We see how the truth of Scripture benefits us, how it gives us life and hope, but when there’s a cost involved, when we’re called to sacrifice or change, we fail to hold on to the truth and count it precious. Pressure from the world leads to compromise, and compromise means falling away.
“This is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” – Matthew 13:22
When we don’t see our need for the Word, when we don’t really want it, then it’s fallen among thorns. This one stings me a lot personally. There are too many mornings when I go to God’s Word and I don’t want it enough. I don’t think I need it enough. My desire for truth isn’t equal to my desperate need for truth. Perhaps it’s because the “cares of the world” are pressing in on me; I feel like there’s so much important work I need to do that the Word is choked out. Or maybe I’m deceived into thinking that the things of the world are greater than God’s Word. This could be as simple as wanting to get on social media before spending time with God in His Word. If Scripture isn’t properly esteemed in our hearts, it won’t bear the fruit that God desires.
“This is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:23
When the right soil is prepared – we understand Scripture and its application to our lives, we follow it no matter what, and we acknowledge our desperate need for it – the Word bears tremendous fruit in our lives. It works powerfully to transform us into the likeness of Christ, and it even spills over to bear fruit in the lives of those around us as well. This is the kind of heart each of us needs to prepare for the truth.
If we’re honest, every one of us, on any given day, can be any one of these. Most of the time our hearts and minds won’t be the right kind of soil just naturally. It will take effort. We’ll need to prepare good soil to receive the Word. And I think that preparation starts with understanding our sinful state.
If we believe what the Bible says about God’s holiness, we’ll understand that we’re sinners in need of change. We’ll want change. If we know in our hearts that we’re sinful rebels – and we don’t like that, we hate it, but we know it’s true – then we’ll hunger and thirst after righteousness. We’ll hunger and thirst after the righteous One.
We’ll be like David when he cried, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you” (Psalm 63:1). That will be our cry day after day. Our souls thirsting for Him, our flesh fainting for Him, seeking earnestly after Him.
And where will we seek Him? In His Word.
We’ll diligently seek to understand His Word, and understand how it applies to us.
We’ll surrender ourselves to Him, committing to follow wherever His Word leads.
And we’ll recognize our need for Him. We’ll know that the things of this world won’t satisfy, so we won’t chase after them all day long, and instead chase after Him.
The next time you open the Word to read, or you hear a sermon preached, or a friend speaks truth into your life, take a moment to evaluate the state of your heart, and prepare good soil that leads to an abundant harvest through the power of God.