Plow the Hard Places
Last week we talked about plowing the dry places (if you missed it you can check it out here). For the next three weeks, we are going to be camping out in the Parable of the Soils. For the sake of space, I'm not going to post the whole thing here, but I encourage you to read it for yourself in Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:3-20, and Luke 8:5-15. Why three different books, you ask? Because looking at it from three different perspectives gives us a better picture of what Jesus was saying. I'll give you a minute…
...You back now? Good. So here's the takeaway (for all of you who didn't take time to read them): the same farmer scattered the same seed, yet there were four very different outcomes. The difference? The soil.
I grew up in the church. My dad was a deacon and my mom was a Sunday school teacher, they sang in the cantatas and headed up various committees. Between Sunday school, Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday night bible study, AWANA, youth group, VBS, week-long revivals, cantata practice, and all of those committee meetings, some weeks I think I was in the church more often than I was at home. I knew all the language and could answer all the questions but I was wise in my own opinion and filled with a whole bunch of head knowledge with no heart connection. I was hard soil.
It wasn't until years later when I was destitute and spiritually bankrupt that all of that head knowledge began to make its way into my heart and produce fruit. A couple of weeks into my journey of seeking the Lord, I was reading in Hebrews, I believe, when it finally hit me. I no longer just knew with my head but I finally understood with my heart why Jesus had to die, that He was the spotless lamb, the sacrifice for my sin, the one that I couldn't make for myself. I was so excited and something inside of me changed that day. My heart changed. He gave me a heart of flesh for the hard heart of stone that I had been carrying around in my chest for so many years and I began to grow.
Here's the thing though it wasn't some amazing teaching that changed me (for I had sat under a whole lot of good teaching over the years), it wasn't some touch from a holy man, or a moving worship song. No, it was God. Only He could do the work to change my heart, to give me understanding. I found out sometime later that I had many people praying for that very thing to happen. People that I barely knew had me marked because God had marked me and I will forever be grateful for the way they went to war for my soul. Only God was able to change the hard soil of my heart so that it could bear fruit.
“The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don't understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts” - Matthew 13:19
I love how Jesus uses the analogy of a footpath. When I think of a footpath I think of a place that has been compacted or shaped, by the repeated foot traffic of man and beast. These places can be in the midst of fields of great harvest but themselves be barren. They are places overlooked, used for the gain of others. They are not hopeless; they need a plow.
Only God can bring understanding to a hard heart. It doesn't matter how eloquent our words are, it is only God that can open a man’s heart to receive them. In Acts 9:22-23, we see an example of how hard hearts respond to powerful teaching, “Saul's preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn't refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. After a while, some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.” Notice it says they couldn't refute His proofs (not his opinions) so they immediately converted...no? Nope, they instead plotted to kill him. No amount of proof can change a hard heart.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we don't need to testify and speak to the hard places, but if we aren't partnering with God, if we are just trying to use our own human eloquence then we are scattering seed on the footpaths. In order to plow, we must pray!
"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” - Luke 11:9-10
I once heard a pastor say, “God promises an answer to the one who diligently seeks Him. Many of our passionless prayers are not answered for good reason, because it is almost as if we ask God to care about something we care little to nothing about.” There is a persistence necessarily in the prayer life of a believer that is captured in Luke 11. You wouldn't keep knocking at a door if you were just checking if someone was home. When you know they are there you knock until they answer. Pray in the same way! We need to stop praying to see if we will get an answer and instead begin to pray until we see the answer.
We need to stop waiting for the prayer meeting and instead surrender our lives to become it. Everywhere we go and everything we do should be saturated in prayer. We can always grow in it! We can always learn to pray better, know Him more, and reach a deeper place of intimacy.
I love to study revival history! I love learning about how God has moved in the past and seeing the wonders that He has done. One of the threads that I seem to always find is that revival is ushered in on the prayers of the desperate, the sold out. We love to talk about revival but what are we doing to usher it in?
“To desire revival and at the same time neglect personal prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.”
- A.W. Tozer
The devil is not intimidated by our works. In fact, he wants nothing more than for us to be up to our ears in them. As long as they aren't cultivated from a place of prayer, they bear no consequence. So my friends, how badly do you want revival? Do you want it enough to shut off Netflix or to log out of Facebook and begin plowing the ground? Or do we just sing about it on Sunday? Let us put our hands to the plow and drop to our knees and persist! Persist until the ground is soft and the seed is sown! Persist until the harvest is great and our community is awash in light! Persist beloved! Persist!
Written by Amanda Strauser