By Michelle Barringer
We all have four ways to respond to Jesus, and it’s important to know the difference. I’ll explain this through my stories today.
A Sunflower Story
Walking into a grocery store recently, a sunflower plant caught my attention. Her yellow flowers illuminated her beauty. Healthy, thriving, and fruitful, she was breathtaking!
I purchased this potted sunflower plant and named her Pearl after my friend Pearl who loves sunflowers.
Since I’ve purchased her and placed her on my deck, the wind keeps knocking her down. Pearl’s pot is shallow so it doesn’t provide much stability. Her soil dries up almost as fast as I water her. If I don’t water fast enough, she starts to wither, get limp, and look pitiful.
I’m not a gardener, but I’m determined to keep Pearl alive, blooming, and fruitful. It’s probably time to transplant her in my yard rather than in another pot.
Unfortunately, our yard doesn’t have good soil; it’s sandy. Pearl needs good soil to grow her roots deep so the wind won’t knock her down, and she can reach the water and nutrients whenever she needs more. Then she’ll produce more flowers, and one day sunflower seeds.
I’ll have to buy some good, fertile soil to plant her in so she can thrive. So, it is with us. God’s seed needs good soil to grow, thrive, and produce fruit.
The Parable of the Four Soils
In Matthew 13 and Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the four soils. These soils represent the four different ways people respond to Jesus and his messages. The seed is God’s Word.
The four types of soils include:
- The beaten path where the birds devour the seed immediately. The seed doesn’t even have time to take root before the enemy snatches it.
- The rocky ground lets seeds quickly sprout, but as soon as trouble comes along, because their roots are shallow, they wither and die.
- The thorny soil is where both the seed and thorns grow together. Eventually, the thorns choke the good plants so they can’t bear fruit.
- The good soil is where the seed flourishes and produces thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times more than what was planted.
The Soil of Your Heart
Our heart is the soil. Our heart determines the way we respond to Jesus. According to Jesus’ parable, there are four different ways to respond to Him.
Some scholars argue that the first three kinds of responses are of individuals who don’t truly have salvation because no fruit is produced. This would mean no permanent change happens in their life. The fourth soil is the only one that produces fruit. This person experiences a genuine conversion; their life changes.
However, there’s another way to apply the truth of the four soils. Because sanctification is a process, it’s possible each of the four soils represent different phases of our spiritual growth.
For example, when we first hear God’s message, many of us have a hard-heart response. Meaning, it doesn’t penetrate our heart. As we continue hearing his Word, we may have a shallow-heart response. The message penetrates our heart, but doesn’t last long.
Next, we’ve allowed God’s Word to enter and start to grow, but we’re still more worldly centered, showing a half-hearted response. Finally, a whole-hearted response means we hear and obey his message.
Perhaps these four soils represent how in some areas of our life, we receive God’s message, and it changes us, while in other areas, it doesn’t.
For example, you may respond like good soil when it comes to obeying God’s command of not lying (Colossians 3:9), but you are like rocky soil when it comes to obeying him about not quarrelling (2 Timothy 2:24). You heard the message, but you aren’t obeying it.
Or you may respond like good soil and produce a lot of fruit when it comes to singing praises to Jesus (Psalm 135:3). You sing heartily every chance you get. But you’re like the thorny soil whenever you get frustrated. Yet love is not rude (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Your Heart’s Response
Are you verbally claiming to follow Christ, but denying him with how you live your life? Even in a few areas of your life?
Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
In Mark 4:9, Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” In other words, “If you understand this, then you need to respond” (TPT).
If you’re having trouble bearing fruit, it’s not the seed that’s the problem. It’s the heart’s soil it fell upon. How’s your heart’s soil?
Is the enemy snatching God’s Word from you before it can even get inside of you like the seed on the beaten path?
Is God’s Word quickly being absorbed, but as soon as you experience any trouble, you wither?
Is your heart’s soil thorny? Identify the thorns and get them out of your heart so they don’t choke you and destroy your faith and fruit.
Perhaps you need to do like I need to do with Pearl. Transplant yourself into some good soil where you can grow, flourish and produce good fruit for Jesus.
As Christians, we need to not only hear God’s Word, but obey it. Let God’s Word penetrate your heart where it can grow, thrive and multiply. Let God’s seeds grow in every area of your life.
Wife Step: Identify one area in your life where your heart’s soil may be hard, rocky, or thorny. Then ask Jesus to transplant your heart with good soil in that area.
Michelle Barringer is a writer, speaker, blogger, Gallup-certified Strengths Coach, and a full-time learning and development consultant. She has a master’s degree in communication. Michelle is currently writing her first book in the wee hours of the morning. She is NOT a morning person.
She’s journeyed with Jesus for a long time getting to know Him better, and has gotten to know herself better in the process. Michelle is an encourager and cheerleader. She only has one goal and mission in life: to live the purpose of God and encourage you to do the same. Her biggest passion is to encourage hearts in faith, purpose, and perseverance.
You can join Michelle on social media @michellerbarringer on Instagram and Facebook and her website www.michellebarringer.com where she writes about faith, purpose, and perseverance sharing true stories and biblical insight.
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