“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.”
Mark 4:3-8 KJV
Jesus was not teaching about farming. He was using this parable (story) to illustrate truths about how God’s Word works. It’s interesting that Jesus uses a natural seed as an example, because you can’t speed up the growth of a seed; it’s something that takes time to germinate and grow. A farmer knows that he will only reap a harvest from what he sows. You cannot cheat on sowing and reaping; you cannot sow one thing and expect to harvest something else. Jesus continued to explain the meaning of this parable, and He starts by saying, “The sower sows the word.” (Mark 4:14).
Jesus tells us that in this story, the seed represents the Word of God. He goes on to show how the different grounds or soils represent different conditions of the heart. Jesus is showing us how different people can hear the same Word and yet experience different results. It’s all got to do with the condition of the heart.
“And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.”
Mark 4:15 KJV
The first type of ground or condition of heart is a heart where there is no desire for the Word of God. The seed is sown, but it never even enters the soil, because the ground is hard. The heart is not interested, and the Word doesn’t get inside – so the enemy easily steals the Word.
“When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.”
Matthew 13:19 KJV
The enemy can steal the Word from us (prevent it from being fruitful) if we are not interested in it, or if there is a lack of understanding. Understanding allows the Word to produce fruit in our lives.
“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.”
Mark 4:16-17 KJV
The second type of condition of the heart is the heart of someone who understands the Word and is even excited about it, but didn’t take the time to allow the Word to take root in their heart. Their commitment to the Word is shallow and cannot last long. Just as a plant needs to establish a strong root system in order to sustain its growth, so we must also become rooted and grounded in God’s Word to truly mature and have a fruitful life.
A seed can be planted in shallow earth, and it will germinate and grow faster than a seed planted in deep soil, but it will not last. The seed in deep soil will put all of its energy towards establishing the root system first, while the seed in shallow soil has no choice but to put its effort into the growth of the plant above the ground. The plant in shallow soil will look like it is more mature than a plant in deep soil, but it will not last. It will soon wither and die, while the seed with deep roots will grow slower, but strong, and bring forth fruit.
The plant that has no roots will not last when challenges come. Jesus said that the person who hasn’t allowed the Word to take root in their heart will become offended and reject the Word when “affliction or persecution” comes. The enemy’s purpose with affliction (pain or suffering), or persecution (to be harassed because of your faith) is to get you to take your focus off of the Word and thus stop the Word from taking root in your heart and producing fruit in your life. Allowing the Word to take root in your heart takes quality and quantity time.
“And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Mark 4:18-19 KJV
The third condition of the heart is one which is distracted. If the enemy can occupy your focus and attention with anything but the truth, even good things, he will prevent the Word from producing fruit in your life. Jesus said that this heart is distracted by three things: the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lust for other things. These three things choke the Word; in other words, these three things stop the life of the Word from working in you. Being preoccupied or concerned with anything above the Word, even good things, will prevent the Word from producing fruit in your life.
“And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”
Mark 4:20 KJV
The good heart will produce an abundant harvest – not because it has more, but because it has less! The good soil has fewer rocks and less weeds. Just like a laser’s strength is in its focus, so the good heart’s strength is in its focus. If you take the Word (which is like a seed) and keep it as a priority and focus in your heart, it will be established in your heart and produce the fruit that it talks about.
This is a lesson from the discipleship manual I put together called, “ROOTED”. It contains 21 lessons (plus 1 bonus study) with questions and answers to help you dig deeper and get the most out of the lesson. It’s a great tool for personal use or group study. To obtain a copy please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.