For years I had a square foot garden. I would mix good soil into the beds, plant the seeds, weed and water faithfully. The fruits of my labor? A couple of tomatoes, a few handfuls of beans and – if I was lucky, some lettuce. The problem? Deer. They beat me to the produce every time!
In reading Matthew 13, Jesus uses the example of a garden to describe our hearts. At first glance it’s easy to assume if we go to church and read our Bibles on a regular basis we have good gardens growing. But, just like my square foot garden, success isn’t measured by the type of soil, weeds and watering. While all those things are important ingredients to a successful garden, the true measurement is in the amount and quality of fruit it produces. If one thing is lacking, fruit will be weak or non-existent.In Jesus parable of the Sower and the seeds He describes four types of hearts.
1. Seeds that Don’t Take Root
The first seeds fell on the path, they never made it into the good soil. I wouldn’t expect
the seeds that fall out of the package onto the kitchen floor, the deck or the driveway to produce fruit. It’s the same with our hearts. If the words of God are reaching only our minds and not our hearts, it will be evident in a fruit-less life. (James 1:23) The problem: Not understanding.
The Solution: Letting the Word of God Change You (Heb. 4:11)
- Confess your sin (Psalm 66:18)
- Ask God to help you understand, remember and apply what you read (John 14:26)
- Journal your prayers to God (Penzu is a great free online journal)
- Out of a heart of gratitude for all God has done for you, when it comes down to doing what you want or what He wants – surrender to His will as a sacrifice of love to Him. (Rom. 12:1)
2. Little Sprouts
The second seeds fell on rocky ground. While at first everything looks great – little tiny green sprouts pop up out of the ground, their roots don’t go deep enough into the ground to sustain the plant and produce fruit. When the sun comes it is scorched and dies away. A heart that receives the Word with joy grows for a time, but when trials come it shrivels up doesn’t mature to produce fruit. The problem: not being rooted and grounded in the Word.
The Solution: God’s Promises
- Clinging to the promises of God’s Word when your brain is screaming at you to quit (Psalms 18:30)
- Write God’s promises on 3×5 cards, on your mirror, on your device’s lock screen – anywhere you will be continually reminded of them. (Deut. 11:20)
- Text or email a verse of Scripture or a note of encouragement to a friend who is discouraged (Ecc. 4:10)
- Know trials will come. Believe God will use them for good and to build character (James 1:3)
3. Plants Overtaken by Weeds
The third seed fell on good ground but then the thorns came and chocked it out. If I am
not continually fighting the weeds in my garden, they will hog all the nutrients in the ground and my little plants will be stunted or die. The weeds in our lives can be anything in excess. Money, entertainment, possessions are blessing to be enjoyed. But, when those things become more important to us that loving God and loving others – they become weeds that steal all my time, energy and thoughts leaving little left over for God’s Word. The problem: loving the world.
The Solution: Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart
- Commit to spending time daily in the Word and in prayer
- Pray with your spouse and children
- Search your heart on a regular basis – check you motives. Ask God to check you too. (Psalms 26:2)
- Be willing to do the hard thing – if you find you are out of balance – be willing to “weed” whatever it is out of you life, maybe for a season, maybe forever.
4. Plants that Produce Fruit
The fourth seed fell on good soil. When the seed is planted, watered, weeded and protected from critters, it will produce fruit. It’s not the easy path and there are lots of obstacles along the way, but it’s always worth the work. God promises the time we put in will produce fruit exponentially.
The Solution: Humbly Accept the Word Planted in You (James 1:21)
- This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23
- By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matt. 7:16
Colossians 1:9-12 “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”