Mark 4:16-17 (NKJV) 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 our last post we began looking at the main variable in the parable of the sower from Mark 4. This is a key parable. Jesus says that if we do not understand this parable we will not be able to understand “all parables.” Conversely if we do understand it, we have insight into the nature of how the Kingdom of God works in the earth.
The seed is not a variable. The seed is the Word of God. It is always good. The ground is the heart of man. It is necessary for the ground to be good ground if we are going to see the fruit God wants for us. There are two types of ground that Jesus describes. There is good ground and there is bad ground. The bad ground is divided into three types, but they are all bad ground. The first is the wayside. We may be bad ground in some areas and good ground in others. In whatever area we are not good ground, we will see no fruit.
This is the hard ground that has not been prepared for the seed. Jesus said that the see that falls there is immediately stolen by the devil. We can become pathway ground in many ways. The bottom line is that pathway ground people are unteachable. They here what is said but they do not really receive the Word into their heart.
The second ground Jesus describes is a little different. I was a pastor for 40 years. I have seen this over and over. Jesus says the stony ground people are the ones who hear the Word with gladness. I have known many people like this. They hear something that piques their interest and they get excited. The promises of God sound good but there is a problem. Jesus says they have no root in themselves.
The problem with stony ground is that it is shallow. Things begin to grow quickly but they do not have the depth to endure any kind of hardship. Jesus says that when affliction or persecution comes for the Word’s sake, they stumble. The King James Version says they get offended. I have personal experience in that.
As a pastor, I taught many things over all those years. I often had people come to me after a message all excited about the Word. They knew that message was meant just for them. However, when they found out that the devil did not just give up and things were not automatically changed, they would get angry with me! The problem was not with the messenger it was with the hearer. They were shallow ground. This caused them to have no root in their own lives. When a little dry time or a little trial came to them, they could not stand.
What can we do to guard against being shallow, stony ground? There is a clue in how Jesus describes these people. He says they have no root in themselves. If we are going to be good ground, we cannot think it will be sufficient for others to give us the Word. We must understand that we must build the Word of God into our own lives. We must be willing to dig into the Word for ourselves. We must do what Paul told Timothy was necessary for him.
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
I like the King James Version of this verse. The New King James says that we must be diligent to present ourselves approved to God. The King James Tells us how. We must study to show ourselves approved to God. Some would say Paul is speaking to a leader in Timothy so this is something necessary for leaders and ministers. Timothy was both but he was something else as well. He was Paul’s spiritual son. Paul was not just teaching him how to be a successful minister or leader. He was teaching him how to become a successful Christian man.
Every Christian must understand that the Word of God is food to their spirit. It is the one aspect of God we can see and hear in the natural. Jesus was the Word made flesh (John 1:1.) Jesus was the physical human manifestation of the Word of God. Conversely, the written Word of God is a physical manifestation of Jesus in the earth. Hebrews 4:12 tells us the Word of God is alive. It is like no other book in the world. It is not just philosophy or theology. It is the life of God injected into the book we call the Bible.
The nature of this life is that of a seed. Just as a seed carries the life of any plant, the Bible carries the life of everything God intends the believer to be. If we need healing it is in the Word of God. If we need financial victory it is there. Overcoming sin, relational problems, discouragement and depression are all in the written word of God. However, they are there as seeds.
Seeds do no good if they cannot get into the ground. Once they are planted, they need to be cultivated. They need to be able to grow roots. Roots allow a plant to find nourishment when there seems to be none. They also anchor them in the soil so that wind or other causes will not uproot them. The deeper the roots the stronger, more stable and more fruitful that plant will be.
We must not be the kind of ground in which the seed cannot find root. We must give attention to what we hear. We must study for ourselves. We must hear the word preached or taught, but that is not enough. We must read the Word. We must study the Word. That means we need to look deeper than the surface. We must look up the words, consider the historical background. We must meditate on the Word.
You might say, “I just don’t have the time for that.” Then you do not have the time to succeed as a Christian.
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua needed to succeed, not just for himself but for the nation of Israel. God told him how to do it. He could not just rely on what Moses had taught him. He had been Moses personal servant the better part of his life. Moses was a great man of God. I am sure Moses taught Joshua everything he could, but that was not enough. When it came time for Joshua to fulfill his life in God, he had to dig deep into the Word for himself.
I think one of the problems the church is facing today is the abundance of things we must do and want to do in life. It is difficult to make ends meet financially, so many families must have two incomes to get by. On the other hand, there are more entertainment options than at any time in history. I like entertainment. I watch TV, I sometimes go to movies. I like to watch and sometimes play sports. At 65, I even play some video games. However, none of that is going to make me successful in my Christian life.
Life is about balance. Today it seems that Christians are increasingly defining balance as a great deal of work and play while we try and fit the Word of God in when we can. Does that look like what God told Joshua? We need “good success.” Just as Joshua needed it for more than himself, so do we. We need it for our families, for our community and for the world in which we live.
I think we need to ask ourselves if our faith can stand in the trial. Do we become offended and blame the Word of even the messenger? We need to have root in our own study, meditation and relationship with God. Just like Joshua, if we have that kind of root system, we will have good success.