Jesus taught in parables. The Gospel of Mark (chapter 4) contains a teaching that reveals much about the heart condition of mankind.
"He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:1-10).
If you don't get it on the first reading, that's okay. Read it again. Even his closest disciples had to have him explain it further a few verses later. Leaving the expanded explanation in the Bible for you to read on your own, let me offer a few tidbits here.
For years I only understood this parable to describe an initial conversion experience as a response to the message of God's grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That interpretation is certain, and I also believe this parable applies to everyday situations and ongoing followership of Christ.
The seed represents God's message to a person and the soil is a person's response.
There are four basic types of receptivity to what God speaks to humankind. The first can be described as distraction. When a person is too busy, or too pre-occupied with so-called important things, the Creator's master design has no place of value in a person's life. An example of this might be when a person develops a preventable health problem, but tries to ignore the symptoms and avoids the simplest of adjustments to correct (ie. diet to consume less salt to lower blood pressure). The laws of nature apply to all persons, for all times, in all places. Pain is sometimes a message to encourage a change for improving health.
The second type of response gives a message from God some value initially, but then old behaviors and habits override the new message. The soil may be hard or contains rocks that do not allow roots to take hold. The soil does not contain supporting nutrients to grow a healthy plant. An example of this might be a person is excited enough about a particular diet to lose weight by working it a few months, and then gain the weight back after losing interest.
The third type of soil contain too many competing messages. The good seed is valued and begins to grow, but competing pursuits become weeds and thorns that overtake the healthy plant. Negative messages crowd out the positive messages and the soil can no longer support a healthy plant. An example might be a person who overcomes an addiction to alcohol only to start drinking again because of the bad influence of a friend or an additional stressor entered his life. A job, relationship, hobby, or even a good cause can steer your life out of balance and rob you of energy and focus.
Fourthly, the soil produces a good crop. The plant flourishes and yields the kind of fruit it was designed to produce. It provides abundance of enjoyment and provision for pro-creative seeds for replanting. For example, a person who is using his time and talent for abundance in his own life and family, and also to help others improve their quality of life as well.
Jesus taught in parables to reveal the heart condition because he knew mere knowledge of the truth is not enough. A person must engage both the mind and heart in order for transformation of behavior. When Jesus explains this parable further in verses 11-12 of Mark chapter 4, He quotes the prophet Isaiah saying, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Isaiah 6:9-10). Forgiveness and healing come through receiving with gratitude the message from God and applying it in practice. Hearing sounds and seeing sights are merely sensory seeds that must be processed through the soil of the heart.
Which type of soil are you? Are you the one type of soil in some circumstances and another type at other times? Do you think you hear certain kinds of messages better than others? What messages are easiest for you to hear? What are the hardest? These may be difficult questions to answer, but trying to answer questions like these may help you discern the condition of your heart. Why is the condition of your heart important? One reason is given in an ancient Proverb, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23). Without good soil, a seed does not sink below the earth's crust, cannot take root with space to grow, cannot survive the crowding of the weeds, and simply will not produce a crop. But if the soil is cared for with plowing, watering, and cultivating, an abundant harvest is the reward. Plowing, watering, and cultivating may be likened to softening of your heart in areas of harness. Watering may involve feeding your spirit inspirational content of faith and hope. Cultivating is intentionally "weeding out" negative influences and turning away from activities that lead down a destructive path.
May I encourage you to make the effort to ensure your heart is the soil prepared for abundance.
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.comby Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry