I found myself reflecting on the Parable of the Sower again this past week and I want to share one verse with you from Matthew 13. As you know, the seed in this parable is the word of God and the soils represent the condition of our hearts. So, before I go any further, let me make this important point:
The productiveness or the fruitfulness of a word that God spoke does not validate whether it was from God or not.
That’s why we have this parable and why we are presented with four different kinds of soil. Three of these soils were no good but the seed was still authentic – it just didn’t bear fruit. The seed is never the problem. The fault is never in what God says – the fruitfulness is determined by the soil.
Many people make the mistake here of thinking that we judge a tree by its fruit and that’s absolutely correct. But they will wrongly assume that we know whether this was a word from God or not by the fruit. That is not always the case. You will remember that Jesus once spoke into the lives of ten lepers and healed them all. But only one leper had a character change enough to return and give thanks. Does that mean the other nine were falsely healed? No, God’s word is not validated by what we do with it. God is not on trial by what I do – I am.
Matthew 13:22 “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
If you are a gardener you will know that if you stop caring for your garden – then it will not be long before the weeds are up to your waste and the good plants are not even be visible. We will always have weeds because the seeds are deposited by birds and sometimes the soil we bring in to top up our garden already has seeds in it. We plant good seeds and seedlings, but other seeds compete and very often the weeds will grow in times of drought or neglect more than the good plants because many of them require less moisture and will always overtake a neglected garden.
So, here’s the challenge we face every day. God’s word comes to me – this good seed which I receive into the soil of my heart. But I have this other word; and this other idea; and over here I have this disappointment; or this criticism; or this complaint; or this doubt or fear … I’ve got all these other seeds that are vying for the same nutrients in my soil. They all want to germinate and take root in my heart – the cares of this world, the worries of this life, various other burdens or concerns and especially the busyness of life – all compete with the good seed.
Let me just give you a quote here for your fridge door:
Busyness is artificial significance.
The enemy works to expand our busyness to increase our cares and worries so he can then plant seeds that compete with the Word of God.
Mark 9:17-19 “A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” ”You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
Now in the NKJV and the RSV Bibles, Jesus replies, “You faithless generation.” In the NIV which I am using here and the NASB it is translated “You unbelieving generation.” This is one of those times when the translation makes all the difference and I’m a little annoyed that two of the most read Bible translations in the world today use this word ‘faithless’ because that is not what it says. The literal word in the Greek is translated unbelief and those two are definitely not the same. Let me explain.
Simply put, unbelief is not the absence of faith, it is merely the presence of unbelief. There is a difference. Later in verse 24 this man says, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” The problem here is you can have more than one seed growing in your garden but to say it’s a faithless garden is not accurate. There is faith in the garden. There is good seed in the garden. So, to call it faithless is simply not true. There’s just unbelief in there as well. The weeds of unbelief grow right alongside the good seed of God’s word.
Over the years I have heard people who struggle to embrace the gospel say things like, “Well, I have more of an intellectual bent.” What they are really saying is they have an unbelieving bent – that’s nothing to be proud of. I have it on good authority that God is quite smart; He is very intelligent; I think they call it omniscient – which means He is the only genuine ‘know-it-all’ – and yet God’s intellect and knowledge doesn’t interfere with His belief.
So, if my intellect and knowledge is affecting my faith, obviously what I know is wrong and I allow my garden to be filled with seeds that compete with what God is saying. They compete with the Truth and therefore they compete with my destiny.
True faith gives you access to your greatest source of intelligence. I believe in the days ahead we are going to see the greatest intellectualism mankind has ever seen and it will come out of faith. Here’s another one for your fridge door!
We don’t believe because we understand – we understand because we believe.
Faith gives us access to a level of understanding which you will never get through human reasoning.