The Parable of the sower is very familiar to everyone. In fact, we can be tempted to think to ourselves, “I’ve heard this story hundreds of times before, and there is nothing new for me here.” And because we know this story so well, we can close our ears to what the Lord wants to say to us. And that is the point of the parable.
Right after Jesus told this parable, He called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And after Christ told His disciples the meaning of the parable He said to them, “Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” So how we listen and respond to God as He speaks to us will determine the amount of growth and spiritual fruit we will bear. Another way to say it is, the condition of your heart will determine what God can do in your life.
At any time, our hearts can take on whatever combination of the four characteristics our Lord talks about in this parable. Because life is difficult and unfair, we can become hard hearted. When other people attack you or hurt you, the natural response is to protect yourself. You either lash back, or recoil and put up a wall. You may even tend to hold on to the hurt and play it back in your mind over and over again. As you cultivate those images you can become hardened by bitterness. Through unforgiveness, your heart can become so hard that it’s unresponsive to God’s will and your life never really changes.
Our hearts can be like the stony ground, where the Word comes to the person but it has no lasting impact. We can come to church looking for a temporary emotional lift. We can hear the Word of God and accept it with joy, but we don’t do anything more with it after we leave the liturgy. “They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”
So many times, I talk to people who are struggling with a decision or situations in their life and they complain that their faith seems dry and they feel empty. Every time I ask the same question, “Are you taking time for God and keeping your daily rule of prayer?” If you expect to be fed only on Sunday mornings, spiritually you’ll develop a deer-in-the-headlight stare. You cannot feed your sinful nature six days a week and expect to hear God’s voice and receive all you need from a 12 minute sermon on those times you choose to show up. You might feel emotionally uplifted for awhile because God’s Word is good every time you hear it, but you cannot blossom without getting rooted. If you reduce your walk with Christ to just knowing some obscure facts and being satisfied with a fleeting emotional lift, you get a heart that is shallow and rocky.
Our Lord warns us of other dangers. “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” These folks are distracted and anxious. Instead of having a mind and heart devoted to pleasing God and pursuing righteousness, they are divided. Remember that Satan’s battle cry is, “Divide and conquer.” A divided mind and heart will always prevent God from producing a bumper crop in your life. We need to ask ourselves, “What is it that I’m really living for?” If our focus is on worldly wisdom, earthy pleasures and personal ambitions, then our heart is full of thorns and God’s word will be choked out.
The fourth kind of heart is the noble and good heart. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” The person with a good heart hears the word, applies it to their life and then receives a harvest of spiritual fruit. That heart is fertile ground for God to use.
God desires to see spiritual growth in our lives, to create change and make our heart fruitful and abundant, but it all depends on the condition of the soil there. The condition of our heart will dictate how we will respond. Since God wants us to have a heart that is good soil for Him to use, how do we prepare for His planting?
The first thing to do in getting our heart ready, is to turn it over. How? Repent of any known sin. Repentance means to turn away from sin and pursue righteousness. To repent means that you make a change in your direction. It’s more than saying that you are sorry will try to do better. You go to confession, seek the guidance of your spiritual father, acknowledge that you have sinned and you need God’s forgiveness and grace. In order to cultivate a heart that is noble and good, you need to plow up your heart and turn over that soil. Ask God to break up the hard, rocky surface of your heart and turn over the pride, bitterness and unforgiveness that holds you back.
The second step is to fertilize and water the soil of your heart. Set aside time in your day for prayer when you know you will not be distracted by other things. Meditate, as God told Joshua to do, so that the truth will saturate and flow into your heart. Allow prayer and the Scriptures to fill you so that it overflows into your thoughts and conversations.
As you do this, you are literally washing away the deadly poison that resides there and you’re replacing it with faith and humility. It is just like washing soap from a milk jug. The only way to get all the soap out is to allow fresh water to run continuously into the top until the soap is gone. A daily rule of prayer is just like that.
The third step is to incorporate God’s grace into the situations of your life. We are commanded to not be hearers only of God’s Word, but a doer as well. If we want a harvest to take place, we must apply these truths the Church offers to us and give them life.
In Galatians Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Put your faith into practice and live what the Church teaches. Don’t just say you believe it, live it. Because if you don’t live it, you don’t really believe it.
The fourth step is to weed the garden of your heart. Guard it from the thorns of anxiety, worry and the cares of the world. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Don’t allow weeds of evil to grow, but remove them from your heart and life. Be careful what you watch, listen to and read. Take care in the company you keep. Protect your heart and your relationship with God. Keep a standard of holiness and purity always before you. With your eyes on our Lord and your trust in Him, live to please and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
If we will guard and cultivate our hearts, we will become ready soil that is good for God to use. And with good soil and a willing heart with patience, a harvest will be produced bringing forth fruit. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.