Scripture: Mark 4:1-41
Observation: Jesus teaches the crowds around him, using parables (or stories) to describe the Kingdom of God and the message of salvation. He tells a story about scattering seeds, a lamp, and a mustard seed. At the end of the chapter, he leaves in a boat with his disciples who encounter a strong storm along the way. When Jesus commands the storm die down, immediately the wind and waves obey him.
Application: Growing up, we had a garden in my backyard where my dad would often attempt to plant seeds that would eventually sprout into fruitful tomato plants, zucchini squash that were about as big as my leg, and tasty but totally misshaped potatoes. Planting seeds was quite a process, and it always started with one thing: preparing the soil.
After a long, cold winter, the soil was pretty dry and hard, packed down in most places. As winter gave way to spring, he’d go out and start to prepare the garden by tilling the soil, loosening it up, and creating a strong foundation for the crops he wanted to plant. He knew that without preparing the soil, the seeds would never grow. It didn’t matter how many seeds he planted or how “good” the quality of the seeds were; without tilling the soil, the seeds would never take root.
If we want the seeds of our faith to grow, we have to start with fertile soil, soil of the heart that’s soft and open and ready for something to take root. Here’s how Jesus put it in verse 8:
“Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”
Jesus goes on to explain the parable, talking through the different kinds of soil in our hearts:
- Footpath soil: We hear the message of God, but immediately, Satan snatches it away.
- Rocky soil: We hear the message of God and receive it with joy, but we don’t have deep roots. When problems start to arise, we turn away from him.
- Thorny soil: We receive the message of God but allow it to be crowded out by our own human worries, desires, and the lure of worldly wealth.
- Good soil: We receive the message of God, allowing it to take root in our lives, producing a harvest far beyond what we could imagine.
Ask yourself: What kind of soil do you have in your heart? What parts of this world are you holding on to too tightly? What has a grip on you besides the life-giving message of Jesus? Is it a relationship? Your money? Your expectations? Your desires? When faced with adversity, are you ready to persevere or do you allow your problems to trump your purpose? Do you face persecution with confidence or with cowardice?
What kind of soil sits in your heart?
For me, I desire good soil. But the thing is good soil doesn’t just appear. It requires some work, some tilling, some gentle preparation. You can prepare good soil in your heart by being open to the still, quiet voice of God. You can prepare good soil in your heart by opening up your Bible, even when you don’t feel like it. You can prepare good soil by setting aside time each day to spend with God. You can prepare good soil by taking your eyes off yourself and putting them on others through serving and giving generously.
Give yourself the gift of good soil, and God will do the rest.
Prayer: God, I pray I can have a heart filled with good soil. I pray I’ll do the hard work to prepare my heart for your message, even when it’s difficult and when I have a thousand other things vying for my attention. I pray you’ll plant something in me that’s fruitful and gives you the glory. Amen.