When my father-in-law and mother-in-law moved to Oregon one of the first things they did was begin a garden. After a few years their garden covered a city lot and was wonderful. There were perfectly spaced rows of just about any vegetable you could grow in southern Oregon. They were growing healthy and weed free. We lived about 200 miles away and came down three or four times a summer and I remember being in awe of Papa’s beautiful garden. At some point in this part of our life I tried to grow a little 4’ by 12’ garden. It was nearly a complete disaster; I couldn’t even get my tomatoes to turn red. I think I was able to grow some zucchini, but you can almost do that accidently. It did dawn on me later that while I was failing at gardening I was also raising a family and working full time. Papa on the other hand was growing a garden.
In Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 Jesus speaks of another gardener and of his soil and the crop that did and did not come up. This is a wonderful story and the applications to my life are many. Papa’s garden was always well tilled and there was a pile of rocks off to one side and weeds were not permitted to grow there.
Jesus told of seed that fell on the hard packed earth of the path. This seed was quickly eaten by birds. . Have you ever been in a meeting and heard something said that just didn’t make sense to you, but you knew the one speaking was a godly person who had great wisdom and a life that always demonstrated the love of Jesus. This has happened to me and if I pursued what I had heard eventually it became clear to me that what was said was true. Mostly the hard soil of my heart just needed to be broken up and made tender to hear and receive what God wanted me to learn and I needed to be ready to let God’s word find a place where it could grow into good fruit. I suspect this also is a picture of those whose hearts are so hard that they will simply not see or hear the Gospel. For these we must pray that God will find the way to soften the soil of their heart. This is not a pleasant experience for the one having it but the end is glorious. We must be a little hard hearted to pray this prayer. We must have a heart for the things of God and not for the things of man.
I mentioned the pile of rocks off to the side of Papa’s garden. These were the rocks that had occupied the ground where Papa’s garden now was. They had been carefully loaded into wheel barrows and piled to the side as the garden was developing over the years. I have been to meetings where the word of God was tremendously powerful and I left with full determination to become what I had heard. Then a few days later all was forgotten and I could only remember that it had been a good meeting. Some of the rocks from Papa’s garden plot were pretty big and some only the size of a golf ball, but they all had to be removed because a seed could not send roots into those rocks. There are rocks in the garden of my heart. Some of these are firm ideas of how things ought to be or how they are. They may be fears about what would happen if I step out in faith in a certain area. They can be all sorts of things, but when I hear a word of God that is right and true and I want it to grow I need to search for these hard places that will not allow the seed of God’s word to take root. Then pray for grace to remove them.
I have never been able to make any kind of garden patch weed free. I mentioned that Papa’s garden was large and weed free. I also mentioned the secret. I would spend a few minutes once or twice a week pulling weeds while Papa spent at least 4 hours a day constantly hoeing and pulling weeds. Jesus said that the weeds were the cares of the world, the love of money and the lust for other things. According to Jesus these things choke the word. Weed seeds come from everywhere. Some lie dormant in the soil for years undetectable then spring up without any warning. Some will blow in on the wind. This is a very clear picture of how the cares and lusts can come in and choke God’s word in my life and the only hope of success is constant vigilance and diligence to find them and pull them out without hesitation.
The good soil is productive. But the good soil is pure. We can go to the garden store and purchase good soil for planting. This has been carefully sifted and cooked to destroy any harmful seeds that remain. Sometimes nutrients are added to promote the growth of the plants we choose to grow. In the same way, the soil of my heart must be sifted and purified, sometimes by the extreme heat of fiery trials. Only then is the word of God free to grow and produce 30, 60 or 100 fold.