In my small group last night, our conversation turned to people who say they love God but live in ways that seem to contradict that love. So we started talking about what it means to love God. And I think it comes down to attitude.
When we are willing to completely surrender our lives to Him and live within His boundaries, He promises to bless us beyond measure and give us peace and joy that human understanding cannot explain. This means that sometimes we have to make the hard choice to do things His way instead of doing things our way. This means accepting His “no” with grace and poise instead of fighting Him. This means letting go of our ideas to hold onto His promises and dreams.
But it’s not an easy way. In Matthew 7:13-14, He says “Enter by the narrow gate”, because this is the better choice. But it requires sacrifice, surrender, and surety. And most people just aren’t willing to go there. They aren’t willing to say “no” to what they want. They want to do things their way. In their timing. By their methods. According to their emotions.
And God showed me as I drove home last night that it goes back to the sower and the seed.
In Mark 4 (also Matthew 13 and Luke 8), Jesus tells the story of a sower who is out sowing seeds: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 14 The sower sows the word.
God gives us all faith seeds. From the moment we are born, we are implanted with the ability to believe in God. We are full of the possibilities of knowing Him and walking with Him. Which simply means we all have the opportunity to believe.
But our enemy will come against us at every opportunity to keep us from believing. Keep us from sprouting truth. Keep us from developing faith. And Jesus shows us three examples of this is Mark 4 by illustrating three unproductive seeds.
Seed #1: 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes [snatches] away the word that was sown in their hearts [lest they should believe and be saved].
Some people allow themselves to be distracted away from God and go their own way – because it looks and feels better. They know God is asking them to walk forward, with Him, but they want instead to walk a side path. Because it looks better, it has fewer rules, and because it makes them feel good. There is no surrender, no rules, and no boundaries. They are free to live as they please, and if God is with them, great; if He isn’t that’s OK. They allow themselves to be snatched from His love by their own desires. When life is really as simple as allowing God to adjust and expand your desires. Psalm 37:4 reminds us to “delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”. In enjoying God and following His plans, He will allow us to have joy, peace, and happiness. He wants us to enjoy our life, but on His terms – not ours.
Seed #2: 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root [it lacked moisture] it withered away. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble [in time of temptation fall away].
Some people stay at a shallow, uncommitted level where they don’t grow roots of dependency. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-18 that all people would know God and be rooted in Him – “17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—”. There is a depth of His love that requires us to be rooted in confidence, faith, and trust in Him. Because only when we are rooted in Him will we stand firm and stand still in the middle of pain, trials, and hardships. He doesn’t want us to have shallow, undeveloped, and immature roots. For when we are not grounded in Him, we will be easily convinced to go the wrong way. We will be easily persuaded to not trust God’s voice and direction. We will be easily deceived into believing God does not love us. So God wants us to be rooted – firm, committed, wholeheartedly sold out – in Him, so we know who He is and we know who we are in Him.
Seed #3: 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things [pleasures of life] entering in choke the word, and it [he] becomes unfruitful [bring no fruit to maturity].
Some people are so absorbed by personal pleasure and living as they please that they have blocked out room in their heart for God. They want to feel good and look good, because their substance comes from outward appearances and personal pleasures. If it feels good, it must be OK. If it looks good, it must be the right thing. But what they don’t realize is that they don’t produce life. They don’t produce eternal value and change. They don’t produce growth. They don’t encourage maturity and selflessness. Because they have no substance. They have momentary value and temporary pleasure, which will not last. When the moment passes and the excitement wears off, the value is gone and the pleasure disappears. And God wants so much more for us than that. He doesn’t want us to live from one pleasure to the next, from one moment to the next, from one piece of happiness to the next. He wants us to live “being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory” by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18), because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Because though we live in the world, we “are not of the world” (John 17:16). Meaning we can live beyond the moment and above our feelings. Meaning we can think eternally instead of just now. Meaning we can have “life more abundantly” (John 10:10) than the moment, the emotion, and the trend.
And then Jesus tells us there is a fourth seed, the way a believer and follower should live. Because He has already told us how not to live – selfish and snatched away, ungrounded and faltering, and driven by the moment and pleasure. So now He has to give us something to strive for, the goal of being His follower.
Seed #4: 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit [having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience]: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
This is the only productive seed. This is the only seed to have a harvest. Because it is the only seed that isn’t selfish in its roots. It is the seed that chooses to endure instead of be pulled out of the good ground. It is the seed that chooses to develop roots of faith in Him instead of being distracted away. It is the evidence of people who get what God wants to do so we decide to trust Him completely. And because we do, we “bear fruit”. And we continue to bear fruit. We continue to grow, to mature, and to change. We find new and exciting things in our life, the evidence of His presence.
The seed is in you and is yours to plant. Are you allowing it to grow and develop in Him? Or are you keeping it in darkness and isolation, hoping to feel good today? The choice is always yours. What are you doing with your seed?
Marie Fremin, 1/27 and 1/30/16