The Parable of the Sower is a very familiar story in scripture. I have often walked away from studying it with a sense of futility or hopelessness. This time I want us all to walk away with hope. In the past it seemed as though the message was, "What kind of soil are you?" or "Don't bother with the rocky soil or the thorny ground or the path, seed won't grow there anyway!" Both impressions leave me feeling helpless to change my own situation or to effectively share the gospel message with people whose lives are full of imperfection and difficulty.
I know many gardeners and they all consistently tell me that soil cannot change itself. Rocky soil cannot decide to be un-rocky. Thorny soil cannot choose to get rid of thorns. Hard compacted soil cannot just loosen up! In order for soil to change, the gardener has to change it. It is the same in our lives. God is the master gardener, he is the sower and his desire is to amend the soil of our hearts to accommodate the growing Word in our lives.
This gives me hope! I can't change my own heart, but God can. I can ask him to work the soil of my heart knowing he did not plant seeds there for them to die, but with the desire to bear fruit.
The other discouragement I often face is in spreading the word. I have heard that farmer called irresponsible for wasting seed by broadcasting it onto the path and the rocky/thorny soil. What we must realize is that the Farmer is God. When Jesus came as God in the flesh, he came proclaiming the message to anyone who had ears to hear. He came healing those with grateful hearts as well as those who never said thank you. (Think of the ten lepers.)
This picture of the broadcast seed has become beautiful to me! There is God, casting seeds of truth to whoever will receive them. God does not withhold his truth from those whose hearts are hard! He does not keep his gospel from those with busy, hectic, distracted lives full of worry and anxiety. He does not refuse to plant his Word in the lives of those who are too shallow! Rather, he casts his seed abroad giving anyone and everyone who hears a chance to receive it and produce fruit.
This does something for us as those entrusted with the scattering of seeds of truth. It gives us permission to sow into the lives of those who may not receive it. It gives us freedom from anxiety as we contemplate those who may not keep the word even if they initially receive it with joy. Our job is to scatter seed. Our job may be to water it, or help people see their need for the master gardener to come and work in their hearts. But it is not our responsibility to make those seeds grow and bear fruit. He lets us off the hook for the productivity of others.
But Jesus does not let us completely off the hook for the outcome in our own lives! We may not be able to choose our soil composition, we may not be able to keep out the weeds or the rocks or keep our hearts from becoming compact when it is stepped on; but we do have a part to play in the productivity of the Word in our lives. Our job is to do what Jesus says in verse 15. We must cling to the Word. We must steadfastly endure with perseverance. That is our part. Cling to the Word of Truth that God plants in your heart. Hang on in tough times, trusting the Master Gardener to work the soil of your life, and watch as fruit grows and matures to bring a great harvest!