This is “harvest season” rather than spring planting, yet a farmer can take clues from inspecting his harvest to determine what he needs to do the next year for a better harvest.
The parable of the sower speaks of different “soils” of the heart that produced different results from the sowing of the Word. What can we do to help our hearts be “good ground” so that God’s Word can take root and bring forth fruit?
1. Hosea 10:12 says, “ Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” Jeremiah 4:3 also speaks of breaking up our fallow ground.
2. We need to remove the “stones,” the hard places of our willfulness, and the “thorns” of the cares and pleasures of this life which want to choke out the Word.
3. Psalm 25:9 says, “ The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” Elisabeth Elliot writes in Keep a Quiet Heart, “Meekness is teachability. ‘The meek will he teach his way’ (Psalm 25:9, KJV). It is the readiness to be shown, which includes the readiness to lay down my fixed notions, my objections and ‘what ifs’ or ‘but what abouts,’ my certainties about the rightness of what I have always done or thought or said. It is the child’s glad ‘Show me! Is this the way? Please help me.’ We won’t make it into the kingdom without that childlikeness, that simple willingness to be taught and corrected and helped. ‘Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls’ (James 1:21, KJV). Meekness is an explicitly spiritual quality, a fruit of the Spirit, learned, not inherited. It shows in the kind of attention we pay to one another, the tone of voice we use, the facial expression.”
4. Psalm 25:14 says, “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” Reverence for the Lord makes us teachable. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
5. In Matthew 15:16 and Mark 7:13, Jesus tells the Pharisees and scribes that they have made the commandment or word of God “of none effect” through their traditions. That is a scary thought, that we can diminish the effectiveness of the Word by our preconceived notions or our imposing on the Word our own ideas of what it says or means.
6. In John 7:17, Jesus says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” A willingness to do His will makes us teachable.
7. Though this speaks of the seed rather than the ground, it is a needed reminder: John 12: 24-25 say, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” In order to bring forth spiritual fruit we have to be willing to die to our own plans, dreams, desires, and will and yield all of those things to the Lord. This sounds so difficult, and it is, but the more we know the Lord, the more we can trust Him with all of those things and stop grasping them for ourselves, thinking we can protect them. His way really is so much better, but often we can’t see that til we get on the other side of the issue at hand, til after we’ve yielded. That’s where faith comes in — faith in Who He is, His love, wisdom, and goodness.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and there are probably many other aspects to consider, but, if you’re like me, this is more than enough to get us started.
What do we do, though, if we’re not feeling particularly meek, if we know we don’t reverence the Lord as we ought, if we’re feeling stubborn and willful and we know it is wrong, but we don’t know quite what to do with ourselves? Should we avoid the Word, then, thinking it will be useless with our hearts in that condition? When I am feeling like that, first of all I pray and confess that to the Lord and ask Him to change my heart. Then I look up verses like three in Psalm 80 which say, “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved,” or Psalm 85:6: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” or Psalm 119:36-37: “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” or Psalm 119: 10-11: “ Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.” (If you have a concordance or Online Bible program, it’s very helpful to search for the word “quicken” and read through the verses that contain that word, and use those in your own prayers. One online source is at crosswalk.com. When you click on the drop-down menu for the version you want to use, at the very bottom there are choices for the KJV or NASB with Strong’s numbers. If you use those, the words in the verse will be highlighted and you can click on them for definitions, other ways they are translated, etc. BibleGateway.com is another good source).
When we go to Him confessing our lack of meekness, reverence, and willingness and asking Him to work on us in those areas, then He can use His Word to begin to plow up the soil of our hearts and make “good ground.”
If we leave a field untended, it grows weeds and the ground hardens again. So this plowing must be a continual process. It might sound painful, “but no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). The more our hearts are “weeded” and kept soft and pliable, the more the seed of God’s Word can take root and bring forth fruit.
(Photos courtesy of the stock.xchng)