"Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves... What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment's hesitation."
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 4:1-20,
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
In the parable, God is the farmer. The seed is the word of God. We are like the different types of soil. We can be a path, rocky ground, a seed sown among thorns or good soil.
Notice that the farmer isn’t particularly careful where he sows his seed. He sows it liberally, in places where it has a very poor chance of growing and yielding a crop. That’s our God. He sends his word out to everyone. He doesn’t save it for the good, or those who try hard enough, or for a special group of spiritual priests or an ethnic group. Everyone is deserving of the word of God.
Why is this seed so important? The Bible says“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He (meaning Jesus) was with God in the beginning . Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4.
God gives us his word. He sows it into us, like a seed into soil. And that seed is Jesus, the Redeemer, the very Word itself, eternal from the beginning and maker of all things. God has given us his very self!
How do we respond? Well, one choice is that we can hear the word, but before we even think about it, Satan takes it away, like the birds eating the seed along the path. Wow. Jesus says that Satan has the power to take away his word from our hearts and minds! Perhaps we need a sticker on our fridges to remind us, “Satan is Real. God, protect your Word in my mind and heart.”
We might respond another way. We may receive the word with joy. That sounds fine until trouble or persecution comes. And then some will fall away. They can’t handle it. They blame God and the get rid of his word. They clean house. They come up with a new spiritual paradigm, like “I’m a good person, and I treat others well.” All of us know people who, through adverse circumstances, or even just watching the news, say, “The world is too bad for God to exist.” This is the rocky soil. Plants in rocky soil have no roots and dry up easily.
Ask God to give us roots. Roots come from reading the Bible, praying to God, worshiping him and serving his people in love. Ask God for roots, so you won’t be scorched and withered when the hot, dry days come. We will all encounter times of trouble. Without roots, we will not endure it.
Still another choice sounds like today’s culture –like a plant choked by thorns. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things take over. Our hearts are alternately fearful of the future or captivated by the desire for more things. Advertising is big business in this country. Advertisers know that if they show it to us, we will want it. When is the last month you didn’t buy something? the last week? The last day?
This is lent. If you’re still reading this, let me ask you something. When is the last time you prayed: for yourself, for your wife, for your husband, for your children, for your friends, for your enemies, for your country, for the lost to be found, for the faithful to stay faithful? My Lenten prescription for this soil type: Pray more, shop less, leave the worrying to God.
Lastly, the good soil. Oh, we all want to be the good soil, don’t we? Notice something about the seed. We don’t make the seed grow. Everything about the plant, all its DNA, is packed into that little seed. It can grow all by itself. It needs the right environment, nurturing. The soil needs to be soft so that the roots can push down deep. We need a soft heart. We can’t be hard hearted, wanting our own way. God’s word will penetrate deep into our hearts if we remain tender-hearted. We respond and yield to the word of God. The farmer waters the soil of our hearts and we grow and produce a crop.
What is this crop? Every crop produces both fruit AND seeds for propagation. What kind of fruit is Jesus interested in? In Galations 3:23, the Bible contains a list of the fruit of the Spirit. This is the kind of fruit God is interested in. It is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” This is your personal fruit. It is your spiritual maturity. It is born through a life of letting the Word work in you. That is a personal crop, offered to God as a living sacrifice.
The fruit of the Spirit will contain seeds –that are seen and planted all around us. It is the Word in us being reproduced in other people, in new soils. When we are good soil, we will carry that seed for the farmer who will sow it in new fields. God has a purpose for us beyond ourselves. it is to reach his lost sheep throughout our community and the world. God is partnering with us to achieve glory for himself, a harvest from every tribe, language and people and nation.” Rev. 5:9, Daniel 7:13-14. We are made, through his Word, through Christ living in us, to reproduce his family here on earth, and present ourselves to Jesus, the one to whom all authority, glory and sovereign power is given!! What a mission!
Lord, in this Lenten season, we meditate on the annual reminder of your day of atonement. You died on the cross. In so doing, you destroyed death and defeated Satan, and delivered us from death, the devil’s stronghold. Satan set up his kingdom on earth when he deceived Adam and Eve and led them into death. But you came down from heaven. You taught us how to have life in you. You told us how to multiply that life by telling others the good news. Now, we are restored as members in good standing of your family! We thank you and praise you for your mercy. We rejoice with you in your willingness to extend eternal grace! Be with us. Shine through us! May we find a way to offer you a harvest, 30, 60 or 100 times!