And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. [Luke 8:15 (NLT)]

thistleWhen Hurricane Irma uprooted trees here last September, the underground irrigation pipes throughout our 1,800 home community were wrenched out of the soil and the lines ruptured. Trees and stumps had to be removed before the process of finding and fixing the leaks could begin and we went more than seven months without irrigation. What with winter and spring’s hotter than average temperatures, receiving about half of our average rainfall since November, and no working irrigation system in our community, the once lush green grass became dry and brown, the flowers wilted, and the parched soil got hard. The only things that seemed to thrive were the weeds! Fortunately, the repairs were completed last week, the summer rain eventually will arrive, and our grass, shrubbery and trees will recover.

Seeing how our once good soil became so hard and dry made me think about Jesus’ parable of the four soils in which the soils represent the sort of people who receive the seed of God’s word. One was the hard dry soil of a footpath where the birds quickly snatched away the seed. Because the second soil was rocky, the plants’ roots were shallow and they withered and died in the hot sun. The third seed was sown among the weeds that crowded out the new growth. It was only in the fertile fourth soil that the seeds produced a good crop. Although this parable tells us that not everyone will be receptive to God’s message, perhaps, there’s more to it.

When looking at our parched ground, I realize that unless it is cultivated, watered, and fertilized, good soil will not remain that way. Like the fourth soil, we can receive God’s word with enthusiasm but, unless it is well tended, our faith will suffer. Worry, busyness, or discontent can crowd out our enthusiasm and commitment the way thorny weeds do in an untended garden. If we don’t keep feeding our soil with God’s word, like the plants sown on the rocky soil, our roots can wither and die because of things like regret, troubles, doubt or unforgiveness. When we let failure, complaint, anger, or temptation give the enemy a foothold, he can snatch away our faith faster than a sparrow can a sunflower seed on a footpath. We may have been good soil when we accepted Jesus but, at various times in our lives, we can become any one of those other soils. I’m not a gardener, but even I know that it takes work to keep a garden productive. We must continue to fertilize with prayer, cultivate with a community of faith, and water with God’s word if we want to bear fruit in God’s garden.

Although Jesus was explaining to His disciples why people responded as they did to Him, His parable is more than a lesson about evangelism or gardening. It’s a reminder that good soil can go bad. We must continue to tend the soil in our spiritual garden lest Satan steals the word, we stop believing when troubles arise, or the cares of the day leave no room for His word to grow.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15:4-5 (NLT)]

When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. [Hebrews 6:7-8 (NLT)]

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