GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus
Jesus has been teaching about the character of the Kingdom of Heaven and the paths of Disciples – those who have believed in and are now following him. Jesus now introduces a number of parables. Parables in the Bible are stories with two purposes – to reveal and to conceal. Revelation provided spiritual direction and understanding to the disciples. Concealment resulted from those who rejected the message of the Kingdom and reflected the consequences of unbelief.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-23
1. First Level of Spiritual Growth – The Contest for your Spiritual Life with the Devil. The general consensus is that this is a young believer. No serious follower of Jesus can ignore or discount the spiritual adversary – the devil. As far back as Job, Satan roamed through the earth, seeking to sow destruction among the saints (Job 1:6-7). Here Satan is attacking the mind and the heart of the disciples – “does not understand…snatches away what was sown in the heart.” In other words, before this is a willful indifference of the believer to the words and way of God. And the result is spiritual confusion and misunderstanding – “peoples hearts have become calloused, hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes” (13:14-15). The important thing here, in this dangerous warning, is that it is willful. It is not the saint who is confused and has questions or doubts. It is the man or woman who knows what is the right thing to do and willfully turns away. To that person, Satan will cooperate and facilitate a lack of understanding in things spiritual. So at the outset, of this parable, our spiritual guards should go up! 2. Second Level of Spiritual Growth –Giving Up in the Midst of Tests or Trouble. Again, likely younger believer who does not understand that hard times come with the Christian life. This second group has a better start. The word is heard and received with joy. But with trouble and persecution (note that this should be a regular expectation of the believer) intercepts the power of the word before it takes deep root, and these people fall away. The thin soil of a shallow faith – one that only expects good things from God and not tests that produce growth – leads to the second level of spiritual falling away. Again, in the context, this is a word for the disciples. So it is a warning to the Christian, or in the words of Job: ‘Shall we receive good from God and not trouble?’ (Job 2:10).
3. Third Level of Spiritual Growth – Drawn Away by Worries and Wealth. This also is the Christian who is distracted by the downs (worries) and ups (money, wealth) of this life. It is the Christian who says, “I want it all. I want the best of this life, and the life to come.” The Bible is very clear about the dangers of wealth: James 5:1-3 1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. James 5:1-3. In truth, you can’t have it both ways. You plan and work to be faithful which is rewarded in the Kingdom of God. And at best, earthly wealth is a byproduct that you then commit to ‘being rich in good works’.
4. Fourth Level of Spiritual Growth – This is the pilgrim and disciple who understands and follows. In this context, the understanding comes out of the spiritual crucible of warnings about spiritual warfare and Satan in Level One above. For this saint, his or her life is fruitful. It takes the Word, receives it with joy and understanding, and the harvest is super abundant because of this life of faith. Would to God this last soil is imprinted on all of our tombstones – that is life indeed in the Kingdom of God.
So with the parable of the soils thee is both a warning and a promise. The warning is hard times are part of the spiritual pilgrimage. Our adversary is the devil. Trouble and persecution are our expectations, and we persevere through them. We avoid the allure and distractions of the worries of this world and money which have caused other saints to fall away, and we keep our eyes on the goal ahead.
Hebrews 12:1-3 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Next week, the parables of the Weeds and the Mustard Seed – the things that prevent or encourage spiritual growth. Stay well.
— John Moore