By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8
I’ve been thinking a lot about my heart lately. Just to be on the safe side, I went for my yearly checkup. You can’t be too careful about these things, you know.
I was glad to find out that my cholesterol level is low and my blood pressure’s exactly where it should be. Lord willing, I will have no heart problems in the near future — at least not the physical heart kind.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about my spiritual heart.
Your heart is the most important part of you. It’s the “you” that will live forever. It’s the place where you make decisions about whom you will love and whom you will forgive and with whom you will forbear. It’s your heart that relates to God.
Jesus had the heart on His mind when He told the “parable of the sower” in Mark 4. More rightly it should be called “the parable of the soils” since it talks more about the kinds of soils the seed finds, each representing the human heart. The seed represents God’s Word, in that it contains life and produces something great when it takes root.
So how does your heart respond when God’s Word is planted in your life? That was exactly Jesus’ point in this parable.
Is your heart hard? “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown. And when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them” (v.15).
Do you find yourself saying, “I read God’s Word but an hour later I can’t remember what I read.” Or “I hear God’s Word taught in church but I’ve already forgotten what I heard by the time I get to the parking lot.” The enemy has snatched away that seed that was sown into your heart because the soil was hard and the seed didn’t penetrate. He just plucked it off the surface.
Now, don’t deceive yourself. Don’t just dismiss this one. Honestly ask yourself, do I have a hard heart?
Is your heart shallow?
“In a similar way, these are the ones on whom the seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the Word, immediately receive it with joy” (v 16-17).
People with shallow hearts respond quickly to the gospel. They’re like, “Man, I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear this!” They embrace it and swallow it whole. Then we rush them up to the front of the church when they’ve only been a believer for 14 minutes and we’re like, “Listen to this powerful testimony of this person who’s come to know the Lord!” Within a week they have a book out. And within two years, they’re back in the world.
Giving your life to Christ is not easy. The tragic fact is that the gospel often gets watered down. The result is people who never come to grips with their own sin and who don’t see the need to repent. Jesus never did that. He held up the hard part and encouraged people to count the cost.
Often it’s only in hard times that you find out who the real believers are. The ones who follow even harder after God during trials, those are the children of God. When affliction comes, they don’t bail, they’re not up and down like a rock. They keep on going.
Is your heart crowded?
“And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard the Word, but the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things enter in and choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful.” (vs. 18-19).
Soil cannot germinate seed when the nutrients are spent nurturing weeds. In the same way, your heart cannot respond to the Word when it’s focused on other things.
Like what? Look at the Scripture: worries of the world. What’s up ahead? What’s going to happen to me? Will I be okay? Fear. Fear about security . . . about safety . . . about reputation. You say, “Everyone struggles with that.” Yes — but do we calculate the cost of worry? We could be growing stronger and more fruitful for God if worry wasn’t choking our lives.
The second thing that chokes the Word is the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things. Money is such a liar. “I’ll make you happy, secure, and successful. Just a little more cash and you’ll be set, baby.” Lies. You won’t be trusting God unless you make a choice to trust Him.
Is your heart fruitful?
“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil. They hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold” (verse 20).
That’s the heart I want — fruitful. When a farmer plants a seed, a phenomenal return would be eight to one. Ten to one is bumper crop. 30:1, 60:1, 100:1 — that’s supernatural. Only God can produce that kind of responsiveness in the soil of a human heart.
For some of you, this message is a great encouragement. “Yes Lord, my life is fruitful, please bear more fruit through me.” When a Christian is planted, he bears the fruit of the Spirit. You say, “Well, I don’t have as much joy or patience or peace in my life as I should.” Well, are you growing in that? You say, “Well, I’ll try harder.” Don’t try harder; you don’t produce the fruit — the Spirit of God produces the fruit, you will bear the fruit. Jesus said,
“And this is your Father glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8).
I pray this would be our desire: “Lord, I want to enlarge my capacity to receive Your Word. Change me. Bear fruit in my life. Lord, till the soil of my heart so I am more receptive to You. Help me not to resent Your work in me, even where it’s painful to plough up that fallow ground. Help me to embrace Your Word that is sown in my heart.”
Copyright © 2004 Walk in the Word. Used by permission.
Dr. James MacDonald is the Bible teacher on the daily national radio program Walk in the Word. If you enjoyed this devotional, visit James at walkintheword.com