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How to Prepare Your Heart for Growth (Matthew 13: 3-9)
Seeds planted on unprepared soil will never grow. In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches us how to prepare the soil for the seeds He is planting.
Four Types of Soil
Crowds gathered around Jesus as He began teaching, and He shared with them one of His most powerful parables: The Parable of the Sower. Jesus sat down by the sea and said,
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on a path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. If you have ears, hear!” -Matthew 13:3-9, NRSV
In this parable, the soil represents your heart, and you must prepare your heart - and the hearts of others - to receive the message and love that Jesus is planting in your life. The four types of soil are:
The hardened path
The rocky ground
The ground covered in thorns
The rich soil
Before diving deeper, which soil best represents your heart?
Many of Jesus’s parables are left open to debate, but in this case, He has actually given you the answer. Further down in Matthew 13, He explains what each form of soil represents.
The Hardened Path
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.” - Matthew 13:19, NRSV
Immediately, this reminds me of the world at large. Modern society has become so hard-hearted that it simply does not understand, or even try to understand, the message being shared in the Gospels. Many feel that Christianity is about rules, dogmas, and judgment, but in reality, our faith is about the beauty of God’s love and mercy.
But even as a Christian, you might sometimes harden your heart. It’s a defense mechanism. Pain, suffering, and doubt can cause you to retreat within and reject the work Christ is trying to do in your life. Only through trust (and a whole lot of prayer) can you break through that hardened ground to prepare the soil for the seeds Jesus is planting in your life.
The Rocky Ground
“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet such a person has no root but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.” -Matthew 13:20-21, NRSV
Many Christians come and go. Regardless of which denomination you belong to, I have personally seen it across the board. People join up, get on fire for their faith, but that flame quickly dwindles. Their faith was a raging fire, but raging fires can be hard to control, and they quickly burn out. The moment troubles come, the flame consumes all of the fuel and eventually goes out.
Another reason large fires struggle to stay lit is because they take a lot more maintenance. You have to keep adding piles of wood and fuel to keep them burning that brightly. That’s why building a strong, sustainable fire - even if seemingly smaller - is much more effective.
To remove the large boulders from your soil, focus on one stone at a time. Don’t try to build a large fire on top of the boulders, clear out a small area and build the fire of your faith free from stones. Then, each day, continue to remove more stones to clear out a bigger area. Your faith will slowly grow in maturity and become more stable in the process.
The Ground Covered in Thorns
“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.” - Matthew 13:22, NRSV
Living the Christian life in modern society is difficult. Temptation comes from all directions as we are bombarded with messages through social media, television, and other technologies. The devil has learned how to make good use of each of these tools.
Like the hardened path, society seems firmly planted among the thorns. In fact, the modern world embraces the the thorns - completely unaware of the damage that they are doing.
Removing the thorns takes constant effort. Like a gardener pulling out the weeds, you must routinely clear the thorns from your life. The moment you begin to relax, the thorns begin to creep back in and often go unnoticed until they have fully surrounded you. Sin poisons the soil and leaves faith unable to take root and grow in your life.
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The Rich Soil
“But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” -Matthew 13:23, NRSV
To find the rich soil, you must venture off the hardened path to find softer ground, and then you must remove the stones and clear the thorns that will prevent the seed from taking root. It is a lot of work, but as Jesus tells us the harvest will be bountiful.
Faith does not come easy. Jesus freely offers it to you, but you must work to ensure that your heart is prepared for it. You must water the soil with love to keep it soft, remove the stones through prayer and steadfastness to allow faith to take root, and battle against the temptations that threaten to choke out the beauty Christ has implanted in your heart.
And as you become an expert gardener yourself, share your green thumb with those around you. The Word is not a message to keep to ourselves; it is meant to shape the entire world. Help others prepare the rich, deep soil that will allow faith to take root and grow in their lives as well.