While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant.He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:4-15)
I want to focus on that last verse: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
It's interesting that the people who receive Jesus' word do so because they have a noble and good heart. This means their heart has to be in the right place before hearing the word. How does that happen? Part of it we can accomplish, and part of it is up to God. I found a great article on the subject here, which in summary says that we can prepare our hearts for connection with God through a fixed commitment to the Lord, humbling ourselves before the Lord, and constantly reminding ourselves of what God has done in the past. It's a short read, so I suggest checking it out.
The second part, for me, really emphasizes the need for prayer in evangelism. We can shout truth all day long to an individual, but unless God is involved in the encounter, working in the receiver's heart, it is all for naught. And so, as we go out to share the truth of the gospel, we MUST remember to soak our endeavors in prayer.
Finally, I'd like to point out those last few words: perseverance produces a crop. To be fruitful in our Christian life, making disciples of others, requires great perseverance.
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
So how do we persevere? A single-minded and long-term commitment to the Lord, discipline, and regular communion with God and His church are three key elements. The aforementioned article has some good things to say about our commitment to God, as well as a book I'm currently reading, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I highly recommend the book, as it will certainly challenge your view of discipleship in a good way.
Discipline is one of my least favorite words, but I can't help but accept that it is a big part of the Christian life. I don't know about you, but whenever I have time to spend with God (in His word, through prayer, writing, etc.), there are always a dozen other things I could be doing instead; and sometimes would rather do. However, regularity in our time with God will inevitably lead to regular encounters with God, and when you have encountered God, it changes things. But without the discipline of setting aside time with God, it will rarely happen by itself.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
An excellent source on creating positive habits in pursuit of God for me has been the Every Man a Warrior series. I highly recommend it. (This post feels a bit like a giant advertisement for all-things-Christian, doesn't it? I promise I'm not getting paid by any of these people!)
And then we must encounter God through his church in order to persevere. This can mean a variety of things outside of traditional church attendance (though that is certainly included), but essentially we must connect with God's people in some capacity and with some regularity (again, requiring discipline). Through the body of Christ, we receive accountability, encouragement and correction when we may be tempted to stray; not to mention the fun of hanging with other Christians! We are also challenged in our faith and do the same for others as we all struggle together through life in our pursuit of God.
I've met Christians before who do not seem terribly interested in church-going, and there are seasons when this may be called for; but I encourage you to make sure you are connecting with other believers in some capacity and with some regularity. My personal favorite is through surfing! (Don't know any? Find a Christian Surfers group here.)
This was supposed to be a short post on one verse, but turned into something else...sorry! (but not really...) If you have any thoughts, comment below!