The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 20

Responding to the Word of God

The Parable of the Sower and the Seeds
Matthew 13:1-13

How are you responding to God’s Word?

Jesus is most concerned for those who follow Him. He gave a parable to explain the four responses to His teaching. These responses are related to His audience in His day more than two thousand years ago as well as it is to us today.

In His parable, Jesus referred to the familiar farmer who went into his field to sow seeds. The seeds fell on different types of ground. Jesus explained to His disciples how the different types of ground affected the germination of the seeds. The seeds fell on basically four types of ground.

The first type of ground is along the wayside. The seeds that fell onto the wayside were exposed, and the birds quickly came to eat them. The “birds” represent “the wicked one.” The wicked one snatches away the Word of God from those whose hearts are hardened. Their heart’s condition is one that has been “blinded” by Satan to the gospel. While Satan contributes to their blindness, it is precipitated by their own hardness of heart. Seeds on the wayside depict the Word of God that does not have opportunity to take root in the heart, and the heart is lured away by the philosophies of the world. There is no understanding of the Word because the natural mind cannot  accept and comprehend the things of God.

The second type of ground where other seeds fell onto was filled with stones and rocks, and not much soil. Plants grow quickly, but soon the sun dries them up. There is not enough soil, and with a lack of moisture, the plants start to wither and die as soon a the heat of the sun begins to scorch them. Matt 13:21b says of seeds which fell on such ground as, “when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended.” Jesus explains that this type of ground refer to hearers who hear  the gospel and are filled with joy in the initial days. But when they reach home and start telling the love ones and close friends about the Good News, they are discouraged by criticism and ridicule. With rising persecution, they lose their initial interest and joy of hearing the Good News. Soon, when faced with further testing, they give up their faith because they did not have strong commitment to Christ. They had tasted the goodness of the Lord and His salvation, but due to hardship in maintaining the faith, their initial belief dried up and withered away, and they return to their old ways of life.

Here we learn that an emotional reception Of God’s Word is not enough; without a strong foundation based upon God’s Word, we will not be able to stand against tribulation and persecution. When faced with temptation, discouragement and failures in life, those who are not rooted in God’s Word will lose their faith.

The third type of ground refers to that which has many thorns. When the seeds fell onto such ground, the plants grew up quickly but the presents of thorns choke them and they cannot grow further to bear any fruits. This refers to those who are easily distracted by their worries and anxieties of life, those who are filled with the riches and lusts of this world. Jesus said, “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt 13:22). In short, the “pleasures of life” dominated their focus on the spiritual demand of the Kingdom that they went astray. Instead of minding things from above, their orientation of life was on the ease and comforts of life.

How can the “thorns” of life cause us to be unfruitful in our spiritual walk? The cares of this world can cause us to be unprepared for Christ’s return. When we get too absorbed by the cares and anxieties of life, these distract our minds from what is truly important. The Apostle Paul did warn Timothy about the deceitfulness of riches. He describes this danger in 1 Tim 6:9-10:

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Also, the danger in riches lay in diverting our attention away from God, and feeling self-sufficient. The pleasure of life tend to divert our minds from the things of the Spirit. If we spend time sowing the things of the flesh, it will be impossible to reap the fruits of the Spirit.

The fourth type of ground that the seeds fell onto was good ground. Here the plants grow well. The farmer has a harvest from these plants. These are the hearers who understand the Gospel and, indeed, bear fruit for God.

The writer of Luke’s Gospel adds that they hear “the word with an honest and good heart”, and then “keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Lk 8:15). Those with “an honest and good heart” are the ones who will understand the Word, keep it, and with patience produce fruit in their lives! These were like the Bereans whom the Apostle Paul said were more noble (honest) than those in Thessalonica. He commended the Bereans for they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

When hearers of God’s Word understand what they hear, they are more likely to “bear fruit”. But the key to understanding is having a “good and noble heart” that is willing to listen and learn.

What kind of “fruit” will one bear? There are different kinds: The fruit of winning souls to Christ, (Rom 1:13); the fruit of practical holiness (Rom 6:22), the fruit of sharing material things (Rom 15:27-28), the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., a Christ-like character described in Gal 5:22-23), the fruit of good works (Col 1:10), and the fruit of praise & thanksgiving (Heb 13:15).

It is also important to observe that not all will bear the same amount of fruit. There are “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13:23). As illustrated in “The Parable of the Talents” in previous weeks, some may be given more according to their ability to use what God has given them. Whatever our ability, we should exercise it accordingly, to the best of our ability.

Jesus further explains “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” who is Jesus Himself. The seed is “the word of the kingdom,” that is, the gospel of the kingdom, which was the theme of Jesus’s preaching.  The ground refers to our hearts and how we respond to God’s Word in the midst of different distraction that we face today.

Beloved, do we have a heart that is noble and good that will respond positively to the Word of God? Surely, this is the desirable impact the Lord expects of us – that in receiving His Word, we will produce fruit for Him, either thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold of fruit.

It is good that we examine our hearts so that we can be assured that we are doing God’s will instead of fulfilling the desires of the world and the wicked one. Bearing fruits in our Christian life is not just an encouraging sign of growth, but is a sign of obedience to God who has called us into His Kingdom.

We must remember that at the close of Jesus’ preaching of the Sermon on the Mount, He expects us to be like the wise man who build his house on the Rock, and not on the “sandy” things of this world which will shake our faith in Him, and dethrone Him in our hearts. When calamities strike, are we ready and steady to stand firm in our faith? Those whose faith is on Christ the Rock will not be easily cast down when hit by the wind, rain and flood. Yes, the hymn writer, Edward Mote, reminds us: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” If that is so, the whole foundation of our life will not fall apart when we are hit by hard times!

But when we have heard the word of wisdom of the Lord, and yet refuse to follow the Lord’s instruction, Jesus alludes to such an attitude as that of a foolish man. The foolish man seeks the easy way out in life to enjoy the pleasures of the world. There is no preparation or thought of building up the spiritual life based on God’s word. Thus, when disaster strikes, his weak foundation cannot hold him up. The wind, rain and flood overwhelm him that he collapses with no hope of any reparation. Jesus warns His followers to be wise and walk the way of wisdom according to God’s word and be blessed not just for now, but forever.

As we reflect on God’s Word today, let us not be like those whose “heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” but let us be like the good ground that “heareth the word, and understandeth it… beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matt 13:15,23).

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing 22 May 2011)

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