I’ve recently gone back to school. I’m taking a Graduate Diploma in Theology from Asian Theological Seminary, with the intention of adding more units to get higher degrees later on. Since I’m only doing this part-time – having a full-time job in our campus ministry, volunteer preaching around 3-5 times a month, and being a family man – I’m only taking two classes this semester.
It all feels like a muscle I haven’t used in a while – the enrollment process, choosing your classes, the sharing-about-yourself portion in the first day of class. And obviously, there’s the readings and assignments that bring me back to my college years ten years ago.
I learned something new while doing my homework the other night. We were asked to make an Analytical Chart of Matthew 13:1-23. That’s the section of Scripture that contains the Parable of the Sower. In it, Jesus describes how different people respond to hearing the message of Christ.
Here’s part of my homework summarizing the parable.
For the first time I noticed the difference between the Rocky soil and the Thorny one. I used to think they were just the same thing.
Until I realized that while the seed on Rocky soil falls away, i.e. leaves the faith. The one on Thorny soil doesn’t die. It just becomes unfruitful.
So the lesson for us is there are many ways people can respond to God’s word. Everyone in the parable heard the message. (Which was so meta because Jesus was talking about people hearing the message to a great crowd of people listening to His message.) But hearing isn’t enough. How we respond to it determines the result of our lives.
Some people are like the Rocky soil. They are passionate and “on fire” for a short time, but when the difficult times and challenging decisions come they disappear. Their faith doesn’t last.
But I feel many people are like the ones on Thorny soil. They grow up and have all the semblance of being a fine plant, except for one thing – they have no fruit. There’s no evidence of a changed life. There isn’t what the Bible calls the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because of this there is no fruitfulness in their discipleship as well – they aren’t reproducing themselves in others.
What causes this unfruitfulness? The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. It’s when we worry too much about things that aren’t eternal. What are you concerned about right now? What occupies your thoughts, your schedule, and your budget? Now, how much of that will matter in eternity and how much of it is temporary?
If we want our hearing the Word to not be in vain, if we want our lives to count and not be unfruitful, we cannot let the worries of this world and the deceitfulness control us.