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If youíve ever tried to garden, you know that each plant, each vegetable or flower, is a unique living thing. Each grows differently. And one growing season can differ greatly from the next. But youíre always hoping for the best every season.

Over time you get to know your garden. The color and texture of the soil tell you a lot about moisture and fertility. You are constantly on the lookout for invasive weeds. You realize that the productivity of your garden is somewhat due to the quality of the seed you sow, but also due to the quality of the soil that receives the seed.

Jesus knew that parables from the land would find receptivity from an audience who understood gardening and farming. We, too, can learn how faith can grow and thrive, or shrivel and die. We can see that there is more than one possible response (soil) to Godís word (seed), more than one way that the seeds of faith can fare.

Jesus told the following parable:

A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didnít have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! (Mark 4:3-9)

He explained the parable this way to his disciples:

The farmer plants seed by taking Godís word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they donít have deep roots, they donít last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing Godís word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear Godís word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept Godís word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! (vv. 14-20)

As you can see, our reaction to Godís Word has very real consequences. Jesusí explanation helps us understand how people who responded to the same message take radically different directions in life. They heard the same truth but the soil of their lives received that truth in different ways.

The parable also helps us step back and see spiritual growth from Godís perspective. He works within the seasons and limitations of our lives. God is the great spiritual ecologist, managing the soil of our lives to get the best possible production and results. Long before the quality of the soil can be considered, the ownership of the ďlandĒ has to be settled. Does God own you? Are you receptive to his seeds because you see him as the One who watches over your garden, or do you treat God as someone who is sowing unwelcome seeds into your life?

Part of a fruitful spiritual life is learning certain practices that help us to receive Godís Word and let it renew our minds. We learn to ask how God can prepare and cultivate the soil of our lives to receive the gospel and see it grow and multiply in and through us. Growth Tracks has been designed to introduce spiritual disciplines and expand your understanding of the day in, day out details of your life in Christ. In this channel we will give attention to these spiritual disciplines and the ways God can use them to transform us. Spiritual disciplines can be described as things that God does to us in order to prepare us so that he can work through us!

This material is adapted from One Year Through the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), available everywhere books are sold.

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ďStudying and teaching from the New Living Translation second edition provides refreshing insights from a translation with high credibility.I recommend it to both Christ followers taking their first steps of faith and seasoned veterans on their spiritual journey.Ē

Gene Appel
Eastside Christian Fellowship
Fullerton, California

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