Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Seeds of Grace the Sower’s Journey: Hard Packed Soil

We are in the middle of our study of the parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. Today, we will talk about the seed that falls on the path and is grabbed by the birds before it can take root. This represents people hearing the Word of God and having the devil snatch it away so that they won’t believe and be saved. When Jesus told the parable, he was travelling around Galilee preaching and healing people. He and his disciples travelled together sowing the Word of God among many villages. Many came out to hear the teachings of Jesus from villages far and wide. While many were eager to hear and allow the Word of God to take root in their lives, many others were like the hard-packed ground. The Word of God was trampled and taken away as soon as they heard the teachings of Jesus.

Luke 8:4-8:

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

Luke 8:11-12

The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
When working with hard ground, there are two approaches we can take. Before we discuss the approaches, remember, we are not the dirt. Maybe at some point in our past, we were the dirt, and the Word of God was landing on the hard ground, rocks in the searing heat or thorns and thistles of our life. But at some point, we became fertile soil, and the Word of God took root.

Now we are Sowers of the Word of God. As Sowers, there are two approaches to hard-packed soil. When a path has been well traveled, it becomes hard-packed. The first approach we can take is to cast a lot of seed and hope some of it takes root. The second approach is to work the soil and turn it from hard pack into good soil where the Word of God can take root.
I will share two stories to illustrate both approaches. The first story is from my past as a commodity options trader in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. What I learned from my mentor Bob reminds me of the approach of sowing many seeds.
In 1986, Bob taught me how to trade commodity options. He had been in sales and trading for many years. As I was beginning my trading career, he told me these words, and I have lived by them in various ways for the last 37 years.

He told me that, and I quote, “You will never make a good trade, but you will make money anyway.” Why was this so important? How does it relate to Sowing the Word of God? If I made a trade and I worried it was bad and wouldn’t take root, I had to make another trade to reduce my risk of loss. That led to another trade and another and another.
By the end of the day, I had a huge stack of trading cards with many trades on them. All the trades “bad.” But hold on, when I added them all up over the day, the week, the month and the year, I made money. Some of the trades took root and produced fruit. It was not about any one trade being good, it was about sowing as many trades as I could in any given day. It wasn’t about focusing on one trade, finding the perfect soil to place my trade in. It wasn’t about having a goal of making a certain amount of money and making trades to reach it. Bob taught me not to think about a perfect trade or a money target. I was taught to think only about the process of trading and sowing trades. The market and the nature of making markets would take care of the rest.
Sowing the Word of God is very similar.
Let’s read Mark 4:26-29 where Jesus tells The Parable of the Growing Seed:
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
In my mentor’s advice, “You will never make a good trade, but you will make money anyway,” I see a similarity with sowing the Word of God. In both cases, we focus on the act of sowing, the process, rather than the outcome of each seed.

In trading, it’s not about striking gold with every trade. It’s about the act of trading, sowing seeds without a focus on immediate success. The Mark passage compares the kingdom of God to a man scattering seeds on the ground. The man does not know which seeds will sprout and grow; just as the trader cannot predict which trades will be profitable. It’s the process of sowing that leads to growth and harvest.

Sowing the Word of God isn’t about seeing someone immediately come to Christ every time we tell our testimony or share the gospel message.
The farmer scatters seeds and watches growth happen. The farmer accepts the mysterious reality of crops sprouting and growing to maturity. As followers of Christ, we spread the Word and trust it will find receptive hearts. Seeds are plentiful, and they do not need to land in perfect soil. Trust in the process and God who brings growth.

We must have faith in the process and be diligent in our efforts. For the trader, it’s faith in the trading system and persistently making trades. For the Christian, it’s faith in the power of God’s Word and belief that our efforts will contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom.

How do we execute this first approach of sowing many seeds?

  1. Be a living example of the Word of God sowed in your life.
  2. Share your personal experiences as a follower of Christ.
  3. Offer practical help and prayer to people in need around you.
  4. Do all three as often as possible.

Another thought, when it comes to our church service, Bible studies, carry-in dinner, and food pantry, be invitational. Ask yourself, who can I bring as my +1?
At the core of God’s message of sowing and my mentor’s trading philosophy is one simple idea. Trading little makes little to nothing. If we sow God’s Word sparingly, we’ll harvest little to none.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Illustrates this point. Paul is talking about sowing financial resources into ministry, but it also applies to the act of sowing God’s Word.

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

The second method of Sowing involves hard work to prepare the soil for the seeds.

First, the Sower must remove the rocks from the field. Then they need to plow the soil and break up the hard pack. Next the soil is tilled. Then the farmer adds mulch, compost and other quality organic material for nutrients, maybe sand to keep the clay in the soil from getting hard again. Then he tills the soil again to work it all in. Next the Sower adds fertilizer to give the plants needed nutrition to grow strong. Once the soil is ready, then the Sower plants seed.
I have a fictional story that illustrates this approach of preparing the soil for seeds. It’s a story of Sarah and a friend of hers, Alex, who has had the Word of God snatched away by the devil. Sarah is a devoted follower of Christ, who feels called to share the message of Christ’s love with her close friend, Alex. Alex is a highly skeptical and committed atheist, known for his unwavering stance against religion. He is the “hardened ground,” but she is determined to sow the seeds of faith.

Sarah recognizes that the path to helping Alex find faith requires diligent preparation, much like a farmer preparing hard ground for planting.

1. Removing Stones: Sarah begins by removing the metaphorical stones in their friendship. She listens to Alex’s doubts and concerns without judgment, creating an environment where he feels safe expressing his views.

2. Plowing the Ground: Instead of pushing her beliefs on Alex, Sarah engages in meaningful conversations about faith when he is open to discussing it. She respects his boundaries and recognizes that plowing the ground requires patience.

3. Tilling the Ground: Sarah introduces Alex to the Christian life, inviting him to small group studies where he can learn about Jesus and outreach ministries where he can witness the impact of faith in action. These experiences till the soil of his heart, making it more receptive to the message of Christ.

4. Adding Good Soil and Compost: Sarah also surrounds Alex with a supportive community of believers who welcome him with open arms. This community provides the rich “soil” where seeds of faith can take root.

5. Fertilizing the Ground: Through acts of kindness and unwavering friendship, Sarah fertilizes the ground of Alex’s heart. She shows Christ’s love through her actions, demonstrating that faith is not just a belief but a way of living.

6. Keeping People from Walking on the Tilled Ground: Sarah protects the budding faith in Alex by shielding him from harsh criticisms and negative influences. She encourages him to ask questions, seek answers, and explore his doubts in a safe space.

Over time, the cumulative effect of these efforts will begin to show. Alex, once a skeptic, may start attending church gatherings with Sarah. He may find himself drawn to the love and acceptance he witnesses in the Christian community. Seeds of faith, scattered through countless conversations, acts of kindness, and shared experiences, may take root.

By Sarah preparing the ground, the seeds of faith can take hold. Alex has received the care he needs to open his heart to Christ and the transformation of the Gospel.

Just as the farmer tends to the soil, Sarah’s persistent love and faith prepares the ground in Alex’s heart. Through her efforts and the work of the Holy Spirit, Alex becomes fertile soil, and the seeds of faith find a home. This story shows it takes time, patience, and a lot of care to sow the seeds of faith in the hardest of hearts.

In John Wesley’s sermon called “The Almost Christian,” he says that we as Sowers need to concern ourselves with reaching all for Christ. We speak of the power of a true relationship with Christ. We stress the Word of God and help it take root in their hearts. We are there when the attacks of the devil come, and we lead them to genuine belief and salvation. It requires nurturing and guiding them towards a faith that goes beyond surface-level intentions, ensuring that the Word of God remains firmly planted in their lives, producing lasting fruit in the form of true faith and salvation.

Here at Place of Grace Fellowship, we are the Sowers of MacArthur Park, at our workplaces and in our families. It can seem like hard ground. It can seem like devil birds are all around. We must have faith! Let’s sow lots of seeds with confidence in the Holy Spirit working through us to grow the kingdom of God. Let’s prepare the soil, whatever it takes, to sow the Word of God in those who are lost and hardened.

Removing Stones: Create a Safe Environment.

Meet them where they are. Be genuinely interested in them. Sincerely ask them about their views and experiences.

Plowing the Ground: Initiate Conversations about Faith.

Find natural opportunities to talk about how your faith influences your life. Ask them why they believe what they believe. You don’t need to debate them; just share your story.

Tilling the Ground: Offer Resources for Life.

Invite people to programs like GriefShare and groups like our quilting group that are relevant to them. Invite them to volunteer at the food pantry that they may see the impact of faith in a practical way.

Add Good Soil and Compost: Offer hospitality and community.

Welcome people into our church family with open arms. Don’t judge; offer hope, grace and love. Help them grow in their understanding and curiosity about faith when they have questions.

Fertilizing the Ground: Demonstrate love and kindness.

Be a consistent presence in times of distress, offering prayer and comfort, and in times of joy, celebrating with them. Follow the teachings of Christ, applying them day-to-day, person-to-person, as a powerful witness to our faith.

Plant the Seeds: Share the Gospel

After laying the foundational work of building trust, initiating meaningful conversations, and demonstrating the Christian way of life, share the Gospel.
Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father,

The Parable of the Sower reminds us of the precious Word of God. May we sow it in our hearts and in the hearts of those around us. We pray for Your guidance to nurture and cultivate the Word of God in the lives of people around us that they may bear fruit.

Lord, help us to be diligent and patient Sowers of Your Word. Give us the wisdom to prepare the soil and the strength to remove stones of doubt and fear. May we have your love that we may provide nutrients of kindness and compassion. Help us to scatter seeds generously. Help us to trust in Your grace to bring forth growth.

We pray for those who have not yet received Your Word. Soften their hearts to be receptive. Make us Your hands and feet in the world. May we spread Your love and truth wherever we go.

May our lives reflect the joy and hope found in Your Word. May we be a living testimony to Your grace and show the world the power of Your love.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we pray,

Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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