Sow to Grow in 2018
We are what we sowed yesterday and we will be tomorrow what we sow today.
As we move into 2018 let me ask you a question:
What are you going to allow God sow in you this year that will add value to your life, the lives of others and enable you to serve God more effectively in the future?
In Mk 4:26-29 Jesus tells a parable to indicate that the Kingdom of God is like a seed that has a power all of its own and that will continue to grow even if we can’t see it. He then goes on to tell his disciples a parable about a mustard seed. Jesus indicates that even though it is the smallest seed it will, when planted become the largest tree in the garden. However, a mustard tree is normally a small tree, so it seems that Jesus is indicating that when the kingdom of God is at work we will see unexpected growth. It seems, to me, that Jesus is telling us that we must be in faith for Gods kingdom to work in us, even if we are not always conscious of it, and we must expect God to do more than we would expect or could achieve without God working in us.
But before Jesus told these two parables He taught the disciples the parable of the sower. If we view these three parables together it seems to me that Jesus is saying to us that we must be in faith for His kingdom to grow and work in us, but we do need to give attention to the condition of the soil in which the seed is planted. That soil is our heart.
Get the soil ready: The parable of the sower
In the parable of the sower Jesus indicated that there are four possible places that seed, when it is sown, could land.
The Hard heart
First there is the hard ground, the path way. Jesus says that the path represents the hard heart and the hard heart is easy picking for the enemy of our souls. There are many things that make our hearts hard towards God, for example:
Disappointment because God didn’t do what we expected or wanted
A society that tells us faith is nonsense and a desire in us to fit in
A low self –worth that tells us God wouldn’t be interested in me
Pride that says I know best
Sometimes we are not even aware of the hardness of our heart and sometimes the hardness has not even resulted from a conscious decision. But if we want God to work in our lives we need to start by asking ‘is my heart in any way hard towards God?’ If it is then I need to ask Him to soften my heart towards him. The softening may be a process and take time, but as soon as we make that first step we are pointing in the right direction. God meets us and offers us grace:
God continues to give us more grace. That’s why Scripture says, “God opposes those who are proud. But he gives grace to those who are humble.” James 4:6
The Shallow Heart
Next Jesus talks about the rocky ground. This time the seed grows but the root has nothing to take hold of and as soon as challenging circumstances come along they wilt and die. The psalmist tells us that the person who is careful about whose council they take on board and who dwells on the scriptures is:
‘like a tree that is planted near a stream of water. It always bears its fruit at the right time. Its leaves don’t dry up.’ Psalm 1
The Christian life requires us to get roots down. In Acts 2 we are given a brief indication of how the Christian Church first emerged after the ascension of Jesus. Many people responded to the gospel but as the chapter finishes the writer tells us that these new believers ‘devoted themselves
to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2:42). These new believers had to devote themselves to learning about the faith and to Christian living if they were to survive the difficult opposition that was going to emerge in those early days of the faith. We often meet people who complain that their church is not doing enough for them or that they are not getting enough visits from other people in the church. Whilst I do think a local church should do all it can to help people grow in their faith, the scripture seems to put the emphasis on the individual to be devoted to making the most of what is available.
So the next question perhaps I should ask after ‘is my heart hard in any way towards God’ is what am I doing to add depth to my life as a Christian? The answer to that question could a variety of things but a few examples may be helpful:
If you are a young Christian get on a foundational course or get some books that will help you understand the new faith that you have accepted
Have a Bible reading plan
Spend time with Christians who can encourage you in your faith
Take a life enrichment class that has biblical foundations
Choose to resolve your difficult questions rather than give up
The Stifled Heart
Thirdly Jesus says that the seed can grow into a plant but life’s worries, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things restrict growth and the believer's life becomes unfruitful.
The worries of this life
are many. We can worry about our income, our health or our family. We could be concerned about global warming or terrorism and all of these things are legitimate concerns. But Jesus indicates that we must master these fears if we are to be fruitful. Paul tells us:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Philippians 4:6-7
Just praying may not be all we need to do to overcome our worries but Paul’s words certainly seem to indicate that we should start with prayer. As we pray about our anxieties we are bringing God into the equation. We are giving Him opportunity to shift our perspective and we are inviting the Holy Spirit to minister peace to our souls; even if we don’t understand everything that is going on or even why we feel peace in a troubling circumstance. Am I allowing God to address the worries in my life?
The deceitfulness of wealth
is a difficult monster. It tells us that if we have enough wealth then we will be safe, respected and happy and the reality is that there is some truth in that thought. But it’s not the whole truth. The pursuit of wealth can also destroy relationships, be at the root of social injustices and be damaging to our souls. Wealth is a beast that must be tamed. We need to ask ourselves ‘is my approach to wealth a Godly one?’
The desire for other things
perhaps, is a recognition that sometimes we just want to go and do something that is not Gods best for us. James indicates that we sin when we are enticed away by our own evil desires (James 1:13-15) and he concludes that sin leads to death when fully blown. A final question that we need to ask may be: ‘is there anything that I am doing right now that I know is not what God wants for me?’
The Fruitful Heart
Finally, Jesus sets the goal: To have a good and noble heart. Presumably, he is saying that if we overcome our hard hearts, develop depth in our lives and avoid the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things we will be placed to bear disproportionate fruit.
As we move into 2018 can I ask you to consider the condition of the soil of your heart and to think about how you are cultivating that soil. The following prayers may be helpful:
Lord show me and help me to overcome any hardness of heart towards you
Lord help me to add depth to my life so that I can withstand the battles of life
Lord help me to overcome my anxieties
Lord help me to not be deceived by wealth
Lord help me to only desire that which is within your will for my life
Remember you will reap tomorrow what you sow today. God is always at work in us to will and do act according to what pleases him (Phil2:13) and so at one level we have to trust that God is sowing seeds into our lives all the time that will produce a harvest. But at another level we are able to ask God to help us grow in certain areas of our lives. So trust God to be working in you and at the same time ask Him to help you know how you can sow to grow in the areas of life that you would really like to see develop in the future. But do keep cultivating that soil!
Be blessed, have a great year and believe for fruitfulness.