Written by Gary Piper
The Parable of the Sower…
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A Sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1–9, ESV)
Later in a conversation with the disciples explained the parable of the Sower.
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18–23, ESV)
Have you ever noticed something strange about the parable of the Sower or the parable of the Farmer as some versions read?
It starts off with, “A Sower went out to sow,” which is probably why we call it the parable of the Sower. However, later when Jesus tells the disciples the meaning of the parable it is no longer about the Sower it about whether the seeds grow or not.
I would like for us to take another look at another meaning of the parable hidden below the surface may. Let’s take a look at what the parable has to say about what God wants to plant in our lives.
First of all did you catch how reckless the Sower in the parable was? According to Jesus’ story the farmer grabbed a hand full of seeds and began throwing them willy-nilly to wherever they land.
How many of us who plant a garden or flowers do not first go out and prepare the ground yet the Sower in Jesus’ story did nothing to the ground nor did he have a specific area picked out?
I remember many years ago when Patti and I lived on Velma Drive after I nearly killed myself trying to spade up a garden spot in our backyard my grandfather brought his rotor tiller to our house and cleared out a good size garden area in no time. If my memory serves me right the plants did not grow well in spite of how rich the soil appeared to be. Telling me there is more to preparing the soil and growing a garden than just tilling up the soil. Like testing the soil then adding the necessary “stuff” to help the seeds germinate and grow to maturity.
Yet in Jesus’ story no soil preparations are made and the seeds fall on unprepared soil. Let’s think about how that can relate to our lives today. First of all it will help if we can identify the Sower/Farmer. We could say the church is the farmer because God commands the church to plant seeds of faith in the entire world. And since we are members of the church and called to do likewise the image of being the farmer can extend to us as well.
Now let’s stretch our imaginations a bit more and say that God is the Farmer. Some may say that is impossible because God is more organized than throwing seeds willy-nilly as the farmer does in the story above. However consider this:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, ESV)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)
Each of them reveals a great deal about God. Included in that is the fact that God comes to us where we are. They also suggest and illustrate the type of ground our lives may represent does not stop God from seeding our lives. While the condition of our lives is important what is more important are the seeds God is wanting to plant in us.
But before he can plant his seeds in us he must first have our attention as suggested in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17–19, ESV)
Even though the parable makes no reference to God helping the prodigal son “come to himself” that is not true with me. I don’t know about you but sometimes God has some pretty unique methods of getting my attention.
Once God has our attention he can then begin doing his most important work in us planting not only the seeds we need to be imitators’ of Jesus but also so we can mature spiritually and fruitful.
While the list of seeds God wants to plant in us is extensive Paul in chapter 5 of Galatians provides us a partial list:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV)
When Paul was writing his list I believe the first three he did not list randomly and that may not be true with the remaining ones.
The first seed God wants to plant in us is love, not only his love for us but our love for others and especially our love for ourselves. One of my favorite verses on love is from chapter 5 of Ephesians (reading from the Message Translation):
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:1–2, The Message)
I believe Love is the first seed because it is love that makes it possible for the other seeds to take root, germinate, ripen, and become fruit for others including ourselves.
I am learning every day that one of loves greatest foes is blaming when we begin playing the blame game it becomes impossible for us to love whoever or whatever we are blaming. And that applies to all of our relationships especially our relationship with our self.
After Love comes Joy. There are times when I think peace should have come second but we need to hear and understand that how we define peace and joy is not the peace and joy God is wanting to give us. For the most part we understand peace and joy from an emotional standpoint, but they are seeds of God therefore they are spiritual and not emotional. While it is true they may manifest themselves from time to time as emotional but they go far beyond just emotions that make us feel better.
I understand Joy as the ability to celebrate and enjoy life under all circumstances especially when life is at its darkest and weakest and it is God that transforms the impossible to reality by giving us his Joy. Speaking from experience without “the Joy of the Lord” that is impossible. I also believe it is the Joy of the Lord that transforms some of what first appears to be “bad things” into good things.
For example when I was first told I would need heart bypass surgery that was a bad thing yet when my doctor told me without it I would not have survived my November heart attack the Joy of the Lord tuned my bypass surgery into a good thing. And suddenly I found myself at Peace not only with the surgery but also with the heart attack and my sudden change in life style. I am convinced that one of the most important “ingredients” of Peace is the Joy of the Lord which is why Peace comes third rather than second.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, nor is it feelings of euphoria in response to a job well done! – Peace is active presence of Jesus!
Perhaps the best way of knowing the true Peace of Jesus is by experience rather than just studying about it from a book. I found this short testimony a couple of days ago and as I read it even though the circumstances were different for me I felt as if it was my story and I experienced the Peace of Jesus as I so often have. As you read this “hearing” it is my prayer that it may remind you of your experiences with Peace at the hands of Jesus.
Where does one find God in the midst of economic downturn and unanticipated change? Even in the midst of sadness, anger, and disbelief, I see God everywhere! I know the face of God in unimaginable kindness from coworkers, numerous suggestions for job leads, two unsolicited offers for career coaching, and countless invitations to lunch. Clearly, there is something more at work here.
Most surprising, I have been met with an unmerited and extravagant amount of peace. At a time when most people would be panicked and afraid, my heart knows that this is exactly the place I am supposed to be. It is a peace that I can only describe as coming from the heart of Christ. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
As important as Love, Joy, Peace and the rest of the God Seeds are every one of them and even life itself is totally dependent on God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in us.
“Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only! Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, The Message)
You’ve heard me say this before and you’ll no doubt hear me say it again – The most important relationship in your life is your relationship with God! Not only that but you cannot have a real relationship with God without first having a relationship with Jesus! Jesus speaking about the importance of entering the Kingdom of Heaven “spills over” into the importance of our relationship first to him then to God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. One day a man found the treasure, and then he hid it in the field again. He was so happy that he went and sold everything he owned to buy that field. “Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a man looking for fine pearls. When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44–46, NCV)
Whenever we go in search of Love, Joy, Peace Roy Godwin in his book “The Grace Outpouring: Blessing Others through Prayer” writes. “The key is searching for God, learning to listen for his voice, burrowing into his heart, listening to what he says, and then doing it, however simple or complex it might be. If he says it, do it. If he doesn’t tell you to do anything, then why are you doing things? Why not just sit at his feet?” (Godwin, Roy; Roberts, Dave “The Grace Outpouring: Blessing Others through Prayer page 110. David C. Cook. Kindle Edition)
One last thought about hearing and understanding God which is perhaps the most important thing any of us can and must do:
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:10, The Message)
If that verse is not familiar to you then perhaps you’ll recognize it in this verse.
“God says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be praised in all the nations; I will be praised throughout the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NCV)
Scripture quotations marked ESV “Are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
“Scriptures marked NCV are quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”
Scriptures marked MSG have been taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”