Welcome to the Upstream Teaching Blog. This week is part 3 of Pastor Richard's series; 'Kingdom Life'. We are looking at the Parable of the Sower, or what Richard calls, the Parable of the Soils. This week, it's the Stoney Ground!
Read the parable, and Jesus' explanation of it, again in Matthew 13. Notice that the seed which sprouts sooner has weaker roots. The seed that takes longer has deeper, stronger roots and is therefore a stronger plant and more likely to last.
Jesus is telling us not to despise slow conversions. Someone who receives God’s Word with joy and gladness is not a bad thing, but we need to make sure we don’t assume that excitement is a true conversion. Sometimes people need time to consider stepping out in faith, changing their whole existence and giving over their lives to Jesus. It’s a big deal. Ultimately, the seed that grows into a plant will be measured by how it stands up during hardship.
Matthew 13:6 - the plant was scorched because of the heat, it withers and dies. In v21, Jesus tells us that the sun represents persecution, tribulation for the Word’s sake. Once again, just like we saw last week, Satan wants to steal the Word. He wants to rob you of it. He wants you to abandon it.
When you stand for healing for example, it is not uncommon for your symptoms to get worse. The person with no commitment says ‘oh well, I guess that didn’t work.’ But the committed person says 'no, I am fully persuaded that God is true and every man a liar! I will believe the promises of God which are yes and amen.' You see the difference?
Have a look at these passages; Psalm 34:19, John 16:33 and Matthew 12:25. Notice that God doesn’t fight against His own Word. God doesn’t send tribulation or persecution, those things are coming from the devil…to steal the Word.
It’s almost universal that there are aspects of unbelief and doubt in our hearts when we make a commitment. If the root of the plant doesn’t penetrate the ground deeply, or the Word of God doesn't penetrate your whole heart, you will waver under persecution and tribulation. So let’s talk about roots.
A strong plant has roots that go way down. So, how does that work spiritually? Roots represent our ‘love response’. Shallow roots mean a conditional love response. Unconditional roots are the kind that last, they go deep down. Ephesians 3:17 - Agape, unconditional love. Romans 4:21 - FULLY persuaded. But, did you know that Abraham had to go through a process to get to that place of full persuasion? It's true. It takes time to get rid of the rocks!
Think of the stoney ground. Rocks impede plant growth. They represent areas of hardness in our heart. It’s fine whilst all is well, but as soon as the sun comes up and the heat is on, we begins to wither. Rocks in our hearts are areas of hardness that when we encounter hard times, the rocks reveal the limits on our commitment to Christ. The rock which represents 'offence' is throughout the Bible. A stumbling stone which causes you to be hindered on your journey. It’s unexpected. It’s an offence. When we encounter unmet expectations it triggers an opportunity to be offended. You choose. Life is hard. Membership in God’s kingdom requires unconditional commitment. You choose whether your roots are going to go down deep or if the sun will make you wither.
Mark 8:34-35; we are called to walk the same path that Jesus walked and that path includes suffering. God doesn’t send the suffering, but it’s inevitable in this world when we are swimming upstream, against the flow, against the devil. Following Jesus is an all or nothing proposition.
Here’s the good news; if you give all of yourself to Him, He gives all of Himself to you! Luke 14:26-33. Never quit! 'So, what’s in it for me?', I hear you ask! Revelation 2:7; To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Our heart is God’s farm and He wants to grow fruit. We have to get the rocks out of the soil of our hearts. Throughout the entire Bible there are countless stories of persecution; David, Joseph, Abraham, Paul, Moses, on and on. When we encounter these tough times we have to know we have an unconditional commitment. No matter what, I’ll never quit, I’ll never stop believing. Have you had that experience? That you’ll do whatever it takes, no matter what. There is nothing in this world that is more precious and dear than Jesus. Mark 9 tells us to pluck out our eye or cut off our foot if it causes us to sin. He’s not talking literally, Jesus is trying to express the critical importance of elevating the kingdom of God above our earthly struggles. Have you done that?
Prepare your heart, get rid of the rocks, let your roots go down deep and be fully persuaded and unconditionally committed to Jesus and watch your life flourish and bear such fruit that you won’t ever stop marvelling at the goodness of God and the power of His Word. Hallelujah!
Join us again next week for more ways to grow in your faith-walk with Jesus.
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