There’s a very simple Spiritual Self-Assessment Test embedded in the New Testament. It’s in one of the parables or stories told by Jesus. It reflects much about us and our response to God, even over a lifetime. ♦
The Parable of the Sower, sometimes call the Parable of the Soils, involves 3 elements: 1) the seed, 2) the sower, and 3) the soil. There are 4 scenarios where two elements stay the same (the seed and sower), but the soil is presented in 4 distinct ways. The story is straight-forward and if read and applied carefully should leave one fairly certain how they stack up in the eyes of God.
It’s like taking a quick Personal Spiritual Assessment Test.
First, read through the Parable of the Sower either in Matthew 13:1-9 or Mark 4:1-9 or Luke 8:4-8.
Then review the summarized 4 Soil Types below and think about your own personal response to God. Check the one that most applies to you today:
- Open Path – hear about God, but never really take it to heart, so quickly lose it.
- Rocky Ground – hear about God gladly, but no depth or nourishment, so nothing ever takes root.
- Thorns and Weeds – hear about God, but distracted and choked by cares and riches of the world, so ultimately am unfruitful.
- Fertile Soil – hear about God, understand it and hold it fast in an honest and good heart, ultimately yield multiplied fruit.
Now think which of the 4 Soil Types best applies to your past Seasons of Life:
- Youth (< 25 years of age)
- Adult (<26-50 years of age)
- Senior (>51 years of age)
Have you progressed? Regressed? How have you changed?
God is a Patient and Loving Grader
If you’re like most people, you might have seen a little bit of yourself in each of the 4 soil types. As you think through the phases of your maturing life (there’s a lesson here for all ages), you may see high and low points in your faith/response to God.
It is we that change, not God.
Perhaps in your youth you were exuberant in your faith and highly fruitful, only to get lost in your growing adult years and become entangled in the riches and cares of the world and all of its allure. Perhaps your life was still quasi-fruitful, producing smaller yields, but certainly not a hundredfold. Enough to get by, but nowhere near capacity. This was the path I was on.
Again, God is steadfast, patiently waiting; we are the ones riding the roller coaster.
Like a Good Father
God is relentless in his love and pursuit of us. Like a good father, he doesn’t throw in the towel and abandon us. He patiently teaches us but gives us full freedom in our response. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. He’s there all the time.
Ask yourself, What kind of soil do I want to be? Exposed and vulnerable to elements that would take me out and destroy, or hard, rocky, under-watered and shallow, or caught in weeds, thorns and thistles that distract and sap the life from me?
Or simply good, rich soil, deep-rooted, nourished and producing fruitful blessings upon blessings?
The good news is that God will wait for us. He patiently longs for our abiding response, like a parent longing for a wayward child. He watches us rise and fall in our youthful immaturity and even our adult immaturity, ever waiting for the roots to kick in.
It’s never too late.
A Prayer on Highway 280
Several years ago (in my ‘adult’ years) while an Elder in my church, I was questioning the leadership on the topic of good works, missions and “deployment” of the congregation. I was struggling with what seemed to me like “feel-good” Christianity based on well-intentioned service activities and programs.
Driving home from that meeting I took the question to God directly: “What did God want us to really do?” My prayer was earnest and bold. “Lord, I’m confused, what does ‘deployment’ really mean – what do you want your people to really do?
Right around the Palo Alto exit on Highway 280 I got my answer in a most remarkable way. The words “Parable of the Sower” simply came to mind, not audibly, but yet clear as a bell. Very strange to me. Very out of context. I was familiar with this parable but saw no immediate connection. In fact, I could not have recalled for you then what the distinct soil types were without looking them up. I vowed to do so when I returned home.
But then another very odd thing happened. The words “I Am the Vine” came into mind in the same way. Out of the blue. This I knew was from the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John but now I was clearly intrigued as I couldn’t make the connection with these two passages.
Couldn’t wait to get home and unravel this strange mystery!
It hit me like a ton of bricks. We are to be fertile soil so roots can grow deep and be richly nourished (Parable of the Sower). And we are to abide, be connected to the Vine, who is Jesus (I AM the Vine), our source of nourishment, fuel, power, strength, and peace, our connection to God directly now.
When we are connected to the Vine we yield bountiful fruit a hundredfold, directed by Him, not of our own works, lest any man should boast. God is the Sower and the Master in the vineyard. We merely respond and He does the pruning and the soil tending. We’re just to stay as good soil and connected to him, via prayer, the Word, and fellowship with others in the field with us.
He does the fruit-producing, we’re the pass-through vessels, used for His good purposes.
That episode took away the mystery of life for me. No longer was I duty or action bound, but free to respond to His promptings and directing. I needed to stay connected though, not an automatic, but now I knew the key to real life living and fruit production.
Are you living a life that produces good fruit? Are you connected to the Vine?
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. – Matthew 13:16-17