Preparing the soil in your garden is essential for healthy productive plants. Successful gardening is probably 80% preparation. The same is true for our soul. We need to focus the majority of our attention to our heart and prepare ourselves well so that we can live the way God intended for us to live.
Luke 8:4-15 (NLT)
One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
The parable of the soils reminds me of the pH test. The pH of soil tests if the soil is too acidic or too alkaline for plants to grow well.
The different soils that Jesus talks about in this parable are a type of pH strip to test our heart’s ability to grow the seeds of God’s word and produce fruit in our lives.
If your heart is like a path which is hardened and closed and filled with negative attitudes then the seed of truth that God seeks to plant in you is easily blown away by the wind or eaten by birds and is not able to take root in your heart.
If your heart is like shallow, rocky soil then the seed might initially take root but with the heat of increasing pressures of life the young plant withers and dies or if the storms of life come the young shallow rooted seed will be washed away.
Maybe your heart is like a field that is already full of unnecessary and unhelpful weeds that have taken root in your heart and are occupying space that should be given to the seeds of God’s word. God’s word gets choked out because we have failed to pull out the weeds of other competing life goals like money or work.
God wants our hearts to be like the good, healthy, fertile soil that is friable and ready to receive his word. When God’s word grows in our hearts our lives yield the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If you’ve ever tried to improve the soil in your garden, you know that it doesn’t happen overnight. Compost, fertiliser and other amendments need to be added regularly and repeatedly. Over time, the soil gets healthier and the plants become more productive.
So, how prepared is your heart to receive God’s truth and for that truth to then produce health and productiveness in your life.
Read through these scripture passages and note what they reveal about preparing our heart as a gardener would prepare soil.
Proverbs 24:27-34 (NLT)
Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.
Don’t testify against your neighbours without cause; don’t lie about them.
And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me! I’ll get even with them!”
I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down.
Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.
When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.
“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Songs for Reflection
Open the Eyes of My Heart
Speak O Lord
Prayer of Confession
God of growth,
you bring nourishment
to our land and to our lives.
You plant seeds of love in our hearts
to grow and to blossom
so we can welcome and serve your world in your name.
Christ our cultivator,
we ask that you break up the guilt that stifles our growth.
We pray that you will uproot our wrongdoings
to allow us and this world to grow into something beautiful.
For our shortcomings,
spoken and unspoken,
in action and by not acting at all,
may you create in us
a people of peace,
a collective of compassion and a household of hope for all.
For a bit of fun
The Parable of the Soils in Lego