The Key to Fruitful Lives
My sleep was filled with ghoulish nightmares last night, dreams of sealed coffins and relentless zombies and crying out for deliverance in the name of Jesus. I have no idea where those ideas came from, or why, since I never indulge in those story lines or images in any recreational or research format. Perhaps it was the single scoop of Blue Bunny Cherry Chocolate ice cream with extra chocolate chunks, extra dried tart cherries, hot fudge, and whipped cream. Perhaps this was my spirit’s way of saying, “No, my dear friend, it is not okay to splurge once in a while.” I don’t know.
What I do know is that, just as I cried out the name of Jesus in my dream, as the box I was lying in folded in a fetal position was being ripped open by something that was out to get me, so I am turning to the Lord this morning with the overwhelming sense of despair, hopelessness, and insignificance that seems to be sitting like a solid concrete block on my chest making it hard to breathe and forcing tears from my still sleepy eyes. Rather than wasting hours in fruitless self-analysis, or missing the opportunity for genuine revelation by shrugging away the sadness as an irrelevant effect of late night sugar, I opened God’s word to see what He would have to say in the experience of the moment.
I came to Christ’s explanation of the parable of the sower, the seed, and the soils. In the Lukan account of the parable (8:4-15), Jesus’ disciples approach Him following the public teaching event and ask Him what the parable means. Jesus replies (8:11-15) with an explanation of the message inherent in the parable. The seed is the word of God, specifically, in this context, the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Each of the soils represents people and their various responses to God’s word as they encounter it.
The path people hear the word but are not prepared to embrace it. Satan steals away God’s truth from them before it can penetrate the hardness of heart that characterizes their existence.
The rock people also encounter God’s truth. They take it in, even with joy, but they lack depth of heart. Jesus says of these, “They have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away.” The thorn people fare little better. They also hear. But as they make their way through life, though they accommodate God’s word, they do so as one commitment among many. Their lives, in fact, are so filled with other loves, those loves soon choke out any maturing stalk of divine grain.
It is the good soil people whose condition catches my attention today. Their hearts, noble and good, are prepared both to receive God’s word, but also to support the life cycle of the word from seed to fruit. They hear the word. So do all the others. They retain the word. So do the rock and thorn people. But their heart condition allows them to do something the others do not. Jesus said, “By persevering [they] produce a crop.”
Just as the maturity and fruitfulness of a seed requires the perseverance of the soil to embrace the seed, to provide the seed room to grow, even giving way to its roots, to nurture the seed by retaining water and minerals, to support the stalk and the leaves and the flowers through all the stages of their development, so the heart and mind and spirit of a person, if the word of God is to be fruitful in their lives, must persevere, endure, wait patiently for the process of life God’s word evokes.
Given seed and soil, perseverance is the key to fruitfulness. Faithfulness brings forth fruit. Hold on. Hold up. Stand firm. Keep the faith. Endure to the end. These are the keys to spiritual maturity, victory, and fruitfulness of life. If you have received the gospel, give way to it, live with it, love it, retain it, nurture it. This truth from God will change your life, yes, but the change is the point. From death to life, from empty to full, from barren to fruitful, this is the work of the word of God in the human heart that keeps the word and treats it as uniquely precious and fervently seeks and protects its development in life.