As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
File this one under “I never noticed that.”
I’ve probably read this parable a hundred times or more in my life. I even served once on a high school mission trip where the theme was, “A Sower Went Out to Sow”.
Yet the final word here has never stood out in my recollection.
Maybe it’s because I am one of the least naturally patient people I know. Left to my own devices, I’m like The Wolf from Pulp Fiction:
And I get impatient when other people don’t think or talk quickly enough. I listen to most podcasts at 1.6x or faster. I don’t wait for Netflix to auto-play the next episode of a show I’m binging; I click the button and save those seventeen seconds. I tend to enjoy mashups—sometimes because they’re amazing, but also because I don’t have to listen to any one song for too long.
Does any of this sound like you, too?
We all have some elements of this. When we’re young, we want to be older. We look forward to the next milestone with such anticipation that we ignore all the days in between. As soon as the air turns cool, we start thinking of Christmas. Today is November 3; how many days do you remember between Labor Day and Halloween? How many will you remember between here and Thanksgiving? Or between there and Christmas?
As children, we do this with whole years: We can’t wait to go to school at four or five. Then we can’t wait to go to middle school and not be treated like children any more. Then we can’t wait to go to high school and escape the torture that is other middle school students. Then we can’t wait to get a driver’s license and escape our parents; turn 18 and “become adults”; graduate high school and “become adults” again; go to college and escape our homes; turn 21 and get to drink; graduate college; get a job; get married; have kids.
Whew! I’m exhausted.
We compress our days and our years into these milestones that we race toward at breakneck speed, and when we get there—what do we have? A lifetime of moments, and precious little in the middle.
My wife and I aren’t there yet, but I hear from parents that the cycle repeats with your own children, and anticipation and impatience compresses your lives into the lives of your children, and you don’t notice that while your kid grew from four to seven, you also aged three years.
Life Begins At 30
Not really. Life begins when you begin it.
But Jesus began His public ministry at 301, which is really late by our standards.
We send our middle schoolers into the mission field. We send our high school students on cross-country trips to bring Jesus to communities starving for Him. Or sometimes just starving.
This whole piece up to now (except the parents-of-children part) describes my life. I know very intimately the restlessness of today and the pull of tomorrow, the boredom of now and the ceaseless hunger for what’s next.
I am, by nature, the seed that lands on rocky soil.
Remember the four soils?
- The path. Seed that fell here never took root, and was eaten by birds.
- The rock. Seed that fell here sprang up quickly, but was scorched by the sun.
- The thorns. Seed that fell here grew well, but was choked by the thorns.
- The good soil. Seed that fell here grew strongly and yielded a hundred times its seed.
These are Luke’s names, by the way. Matthew and Mark call the second one “rocky soil,” the words I also use, because if it literally landed on a giant rock it wouldn’t grow at all. The problem is not a lack of soil for the roots, but a lack of moisture in the soil.
Anyway, I want to grow up quickly! I don’t want to spend ten years learning to play the piano, I want to learn today! I don’t want to cook a hundred meals, I want to be a chef this afternoon. I don’t want to spend ten thousand hours, I want to spend between ten and thirty minutes and become an expert.
And I sure don’t want to read the Bible or build a ministry over months or years or decades; I want fruit today.
Praise be to God that He has generally squelched those efforts and made me patient not by changing my heart directly, but by changing my life and teaching me patience.
When God says, “Not yet”, patience is really your only option.
And here’s Jesus, unbeknownst to me despite dozens of readings, just teaching that lesson in plain English2! Turns out, if I had had eyes to see and ears to hear, maybe I could have learned this lesson instead of lived it.
Or maybe patience is the point.
Patience Is the Point
The astute reader has noticed that in the middle of an article about patience, I’m looking for a shortcut to learning patience. My heart is pretty well fixed on this idea that I can have what I want when I want it.
Folks who grew up in a certain time and a certain part of the US probably remember a TV commercial that speaks to this craving:
But while you might be able to cash out a structured settlement, you can’t learn patience in an afternoon. And neither, says Jesus, can your ministry bear fruit in a weekend.
Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God, the King of the Universe who upholds creation by the Word of His righteousness, took thirty years to begin His ministry, and fully three years to execute it. To be fair, His ministry has born fruit not a hundred times over but a hundred billion times over, but still. Three years.
Take comfort in this truth, borne out in the life of Christ and the words of Christ. The seeds that fall on the best soil, the ones that will eventually yield massive returns, still take time.
We always want to know how we can apply a Bible verse to our lives. In this one, Jesus helpfully gives us an outline of just what to do:
- Hear the word. Most of the time, for most readers of VerseNotes, this means reading the Bible.
- Hold it fast. Or, as the psalmist wrote, store it up in your heart (Psalm 119:11)—in particular, in an “honest and good heart.” A faithless heart can know the whole Bible and never bear fruit.
- Wait. Okay, actually it says, “bear fruit with patience.” But the fruit bearing is God’s task. Remember, “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Our task is patience.
Today, just reading this post, you have heard the Word. Keep it in mind as you go about your ministry day by day.
And, with patience, watch it bear fruit.
I have to believe He had been ministering at least to his parents, siblings, and friends before then. Nobody who spent much time around Jesus could possibly remain unchanged, even when He was a child or young adult. Imagine, for example, going shopping for a chair or a table or a stool and meeting a man so humble, so meek, so kind, so loving, so compassionate, as Jesus of Nazareth. That chair would change your life. ↩
Or Greek. Or really, He was probably speaking Aramaic, and the gospel authors translated to Greek. ↩