We’re going to do a bit of a horticultural study today. Farming is used frequently as a way to illustrate certain spiritual truths in the Bible. A thriving farm, a successful planting or a prosperous farmer are all measured by the harvest. The harvest is the goal of the whole process of farming.
For example: Mark 4:14-20 The sower sows the word. 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. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. 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 desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
Jesus isn’t giving land management techniques but, by illustration, He’s measuring the effectiveness of the Word of God when received into a life prepared for it. Just as a hard, shallow, congested garden will compete against the seeds maturing, so a resistant, disinterested, too busy life will rob us from the good effect of the Word of God in our lives.
The problem isn’t with the seeds. It’s the condition of the soils, as with the condition of the heart, that affects the outcome of the harvest. The seeds are fine.
Isa 55:10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Every seed has the potential of a great harvest. And that potential remains regardless of the soil it lands in. However, it is the prepared soil that gives the seed its optimum chance for realizing its great potential.
John 10:10 I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Col 3:16 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…
1 Thess 2:13 And for this cause, we thank God without ceasing, that when you received the Word of God, you received it as the Word of God, not as a word of men, but as it really is the Word of God which also effectually works in you who believe.
All the ground is to do is yield way to the work of the farmer, to receive the seeds the farmer chooses to plant. The ground simply trusts the Farmer to accomplish his purposes.
Good soil is a life presented to God without competition for what He wants to do. It is unrestricted access to the whole field of our lives so that His Word might grow unhindered and produce great results as what He speaks into our lives effectively works to changes us, our circumstances or both.
So step one to producing a good harvest: Provide good soil. Seed planted in good soil will produce a good harvest.
Next: As any good farmer would do, once the seeds have sprouted and produced the plant or tree, he shifts his interest from soil preparation to sustaining the growth. To see that the seeds fully accomplish their goal of a harvest, he now becomes a field worker or vinedresser or gardener.
Remember, the goal is harvest, fruit. The farmer isn’t content with just having a well-groomed plot of dirt. The ground is groomed to receive seed. Now we submit to the grooming process for growth, or for us, removing hindrances so the truth of God will produce God’s results in our lives.
John 15:2-5 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away [to lift up]; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes [make clean by purging (removing undesirable elements); hence, "pruned (purged)"; eliminating what is fruitless by purifying] it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Clean and pruned are from the same word: make pure, purge – lift up
Pruning, cleansing, lifting up is for the purpose of producing fruit in keeping with the goal of harvest. It is the work of the vinedresser.
Submitting to the work of the vinedresser is called Abiding—resting in His ability to accomplish what is best for us.
Luke 13:6-9 And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'
It’s just one fig tree. What does it matter? The goal is harvest. What is a fig tree that doesn’t produce fruit? A shade tree. The farmer is growing crops for harvesting not shade. A fig tree isn’t designed to be a shade tree.
So step two to producing a good harvest: Submit to the Gardner to prune away any unruliness and lift up our sagging branches. A well-tended garden will produce a good harvest.
But there is also the optimum location for a tree to be planted. We’ve all seen trees and bushes growing in what seems impossible places. [pictures] Again, the seed carries the potential to produce a harvest. It will try to accomplish that wherever it can get a grip. But the prosperity of the tree, the successful harvest has to do with being planted where it can get all the resources for life.
Ps 1:1-3 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
David saw the person who stays in the Word of God would be like a tree planted in the optimum location, nourished constantly by the goodness of God and prospering – bearing fruit.
The key word is like. We can live like a tree planted by streams of water. We don’t have to be planted by streams of water to be like a tree planted there.
God’s goal for our lives remains the same: wherever we’re planted produce a harvest. Because wherever we’re planted, we can live close to the Lord. Spiritual fruit grows best the closer we are to the Lord.
So step three to producing a good harvest: Stay close to the Lord. The further we are from God’s resources for our life, the less effective those resources are to make us productive.
Drawing near to God will increase the strength, productivity and health of our lives. Funny to think we can live a godly life by leaving out the God part.
The goal remains the same: harvest. The fruit of our life is the evidence of an abundant life, nurtured by the very presence of God, producing the ability to declare God is good. Our fruit is the evidence God is with us, working in us and through us.
Now, back to the original parable. Notice that the seeds had nothing to do with where they went or on which type of soil they landed. Their job was to embed in soil and grow. Their goal was to create a plant that would produce a harvest.
The potential remains the same. Every seed carries the same hope of a harvest just as every word from God carries the power to change our lives, our circumstances or both. But a question must be asked:
Ezek 17:10 Behold, though it is planted, will it thrive?
Thrive: grow or develop well or vigorously
Will the seed push forward, break out, come mightily – as a sprout coming from the ground? Will it realize its potential?
There is a connective word that has tied three of our scriptures together this morning.
Isaiah: word will not return to Me without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
David: He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf doesn’t wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
Ezek: Behold, though it is planted, will it thrive?
These three words: succeeding, prospers and thrive are all the same word. Two are used as promises, one as a question. But all connect to the process of a life being prepared for what God wants to accomplish in that life.
It is a question coming out of promise. Two say we can. One asks: Will we?
Circus elephant: A baby elephant is trained to stay put with a chain around his ankle, staked to the ground. An adult elephant will stay put because he learned as a baby that if he has a chain around his ankle, staked to the ground he is bound.
What defines our stake in the ground? What’s keeping us from thriving? Can we put a name on our stake? Can we identify something that we believe if we weren’t attached to it we’d be free to thrive? If I had this…If I could do that…If it wasn’t for…If this hadn’t happened…
What is interfering with our harvest?
Is it a soil problem? Do we have junk that’s creating obstacles?
Is it a refusal to abide? Are we unwilling to yield to God’s intentions in shaping my life?
Is it a location problem? Do we expect to grow without drawing near to God?
1. A single seed possesses the possibility of an entire forest.
2. A single Word from God planted in our hearts gives us more potential for a successful and prosperous life than we will ever realize.
3. Though, like a seed that cannot choose where it lands, we can bloom wherever we are planted by drawing near the heart of God.
4. Don’t insult God by telling Him you can’t when He has told you you can.