Earlier this week, I came across the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Matthew.
“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. 7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. 9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
I love how Jesus describes things and how the parables make it easy to visualize what is being said. What I love most about these parables is when Jesus explains the reason for the parable, which He did a few verses later…
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. 20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. 22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. 23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.”
After reading this I thought about how my faith has grown and also how it is so often put to the test. I thought about a time in the past - a time when I was at each of the stages that Jesus talks about. I've been in a place where I did not understand at all, a place where I got very excited but that excitement would quickly fade. I've also been in a place where worldly anxiety and other distractions have kept me from growing deeper and fortunately I've had the grace of understanding the Word of God and even experienced spiritual fruit.
I shared this passage at Bible study this week with 6 young men. We talked about what it would look like for an athlete trying to live out their faith through their sport at each of these stages. We discovered that for an athlete – like anyone else -the Christian life is not easy. We talked about how often one may start out a season very encouraged to live out the faith through sport but how difficult it can become when one faces adversity, how difficult it is to persevere in the faith and how quick one is likely to abandon Christ maybe because He failed to live up to our expectations. We talked about that if one really wants to commit to Christ and be that fourth type of soil it take a lot of perseverance in those times of difficulties that we must put God first and make time for him every day. Athletes who want live for Christ have no problem working out or getting extra work in before or after a long practice, yet they struggle to make even a little time for the Lord.
Our conversation came down to a few questions we had to ask ourselves, what do we say our priorities are? And what do our actions actually indicate what our priorities are? Does the line get crossed - when athletics interfere with your spiritual foundation and response to God’s Word? The guys struggled with this, a few asked questions like, “does this mean we shouldn't work out as hard?” It absolutely does not, but the time spent working out should not interfere or be more than the time we spend in God’s Word or in prayer with the Lord. That is hard to hear when athletes are pushed so hard by their coaches, teammates, and family members to be the best and do the best you possibly can, it seems that the best way to do that might be to abandon the Lord and take matters into your own hands.
It’s not easy to be that fourth type of soil, but we’re not called to do easy things, it is difficult to follow Christ – that’s why everyone isn't doing it. This message of perseverance and overcoming difficulty is perfect for the season of Lent. It would be easy to give up on that Lenten fast – in a sense abandoning the Lord’s call to die to ourselves and seek Him. But what type of soil do you want to be? You know what, let’s forget what we want, a better question would be what type of soil is the Lord calling us to be? I’m pretty sure He wants us to be that rich soil, being fruitful, right?
Let’s persevere this Lenten season, continue to pick up our crosses, seeking Him, loving Him more and following Him closely, so that He might be made known to others.