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On your Mark


The soils

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times. (Mark 4:4-8, NIV)

These same soils are in you and me.

Sometimes we are not receptive at all to what the Lord desires in our lives; at other times we quickly embrace God’s will, but at the first sign of adversity we wither in our intentions and commitments.

On still other occasions we get distracted by “things,” and we lose out.

Thankfully, there’s a part of us also that is good soil and becomes productive for the Lord.

Jesus’ most basic parable of the Kingdom is this one — the story of the soils. We are that soil. He is the Sower. His words are the seeds.

When you initially look at this story, you might think the farmer was rather careless. Our mass-farming technology today finds a sower going out into fields that are thoroughly prepared for receiving seed. But in Jesus’ day, before tractors and mechanized equipment, this story reflected the nature of terrace farming in Galilee.

A footpath went through the fields. Without chemicals, weeds had to be hand pulled, and often they were missed. Rocks littered the fields and were impossible to eradicate from the dirt.

So the farmer took the risk that he would lose some of his seed on the path and among the rocks, and that weeds would grow up even in the good soil and choke the grain. But the farmer was willing to risk a little in order to gain a lot.

Life is like that, isn’t it? We prefer having everything in neat boxes. But life can be messy. Things are not always clear-cut. And sometimes, in order to attain a greater good, you must risk some losses.

Jesus’ ministry is like that. His words, like seed, are going out. He doesn’t just sow His words in what He knows will be highly fertile soil.  He sows also on the margins. Some of His words are going to get lost because they fall on hard places in our lives — the beaten down “paths” where we insist on our own way rather than God’s.

Jesus knows also that we are greater at starting commitments than finishing them. At times, we’re shallow and drop out when the going begins to get tough and we find there is a cost in continuing. We get distracted by other things that choke out what the Lord could have done had we remained focused.

A farmer sows his seed mostly on good soil. But the human heart is not a vegetable garden. Much of Jesus’ seed falls where it bears no fruit.

It’s quite an irony: The efforts of the Lord of Glory often fall on unproductive or unresponsive people.

But when you embrace Jesus and His words, your life blossoms with value, purpose and productivity.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, help me to identify the unreceptive parts of my life — the beaten path, the shallow parts in me that quickly fail, and the thorns of competing things that choke out my usefulness to You. I want all of my life to be good soil for You.


GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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