Get in your car some evening this week. Get out of town. Let the radio rest in silence for right now. Listen to the sounds of the countryside. Notice the honest smells of soil and living things on the evening air. Turn off the air conditioner and roll down all the windows. Drive slowly down a country road with the cool of evening coming on. Breathe deep and look close. Do you see it? Do you feel it? There is abundance all around you.
Field on field rises and falls before you laden with growing things. The world around you is bursting with life. Roadside stands spill over with fresh garden produce. Big, red, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes, like you can’t buy in the store. Sweet, sweet corn will only be here for a swift season. Blueberries are plump and abundant. Green beans with the life still in them, unlike the lifeless things you eat from a can the rest of the year. Leaves are large and dark shades of green. Branches of fruit trees are beginning to bend under the weight of their bounty.
That is the way I remember my grandpas’ farm, except for a spot on the very top of the hill beyond the west pasture. The field there was always planted with corn or sown with hay but there was an area about the size of a small house, where nothing ever grew. It was as barren as a concrete slab, an ugly patch of dry hard earth. It was planted every year, watered, spread with fertilizer and manure and soaked with rain the same as all the other ground around it, but nothing ever grew there. It was fallow ground. It was poisoned.
Grandpa always said it was because there had been an old gas well there and when they took it out the ground was ruined by salt water. I’m not sure of all the reasons, but it was as lifeless as stone. It was especially obvious this time of the year where everything around it was in the full flush of life.
My grandpa planted crops in the ground. I plant truth in the heart. I am a communicator of truth, like my grandfather was a planter of seed. Not just any truth, God’s truth, life-giving truth, truth that results in life if received and death if ignored. Truth like the seed of life. Communicating the truth of God is a little like being a farmer. When I write or speak or counsel I am sowing seed. Like the pictures you have seen of the farmer with a sack over his shoulder broadcasting seed in a wide arch, I am broadcasting seed every day. And the seed is very good. Not because it is mine. I didn’t create the seed of God’s truth and I can’t improve it. I can’t make it grow. I just take handfuls of it every day and cast it out on the soil of people’s hearts.
Some of that seed eventually becomes rich, rich produce in the garden of God. Every day I see growing things all around me, things busting with spiritual vitality. There is evidence of spiritual growth. I hate to admit it but there are some patches of dry barren earth close at hand, too. The woman who gets preoccupied with other things and never really finds time for things the matter most. The man whose heart is hardened by pride or jealousy or closed with hurt. He doesn’t realize how barren a life can be when a heart is hardened to the seed of truth. He can’t hear or he won’t and the life-giving seed lies dormant on the surface of his hard heart. Sometimes a person will occupy a pew for years and get soaked with the water of life, his heart will be sown with truth year after year and he will still go away hard and barren week after week.
-The man who rejects the message of the Gospel.
-The young woman who puts it off another week.
-The father of young children who lives for his work.
-The feuding church-members who nurse a grudge and refuse to set it right.
I was not the first to notice this. Jesus told a story about it. We usually call it the four kinds of soil. In the story Satan snatches away seed, some falls on ground that is hard, some is choked to death by weeds after a fine start.
The Enemy does not want people to hear this message so he loves the hard soil of discontent or distraction. He loves to swoop down and snatch up the seed. He loves to disrupt the truth from taking root and bearing fruit in a life or a family.
Pray this never happens to you. You will stop listening or you will stop attending church. You will close your heart or harden your heart and the seed, which would burst forth in life in good soil, will lie on the hard dry ground and do nothing. But your life will be barren. God deliver people from barren lives when they could have lush fruit.
If that is happening to you, I pray you will see it for what it is before it is too late. Your children need to see God at work in your family right now. Someday when you look back and see that God’s best fruit never grew in your life you will regret that you let that happen. You will wish you had softened your heart. You will wish you had not been distracted by things that, in the light of eternity, will be exposed as the cheap imitations they are. You will wish you forgave. You will wish you softened your heart. You will wish you had listened. Nothing beautiful will grow in your life. Your life will be a patch of dry earth strewn with the dust and stones of bitter regret. All you will have to show for your years will be the shell a barren life. Don’t ever let that happen. You and those you love the most in the world will be the ones who suffer.
This is a good time of the year to take a drive in the country think about abundance and ask God to make the soil of your heart soft. Listen when you hear God’s truth. It has the seed of life in it. Don’t ever let your heart get so hard nothing grows there.