In Mark 4, Jesus talks farming.
Well, not really. He tells a parable about sowing the seed of the Word in different soil. You know this one: it’s sown by the side of the road and Satan steals the seed, it’s sown on rocky ground and it starts to grow only to wither when trials come, it’s sown amidst thorns that were never cleared (i.e. a love for this world) and gets choked out. It’s finally sown on fertile ground and the seed flourishes and yields 30, 60, a hundred fold. And Jesus explains that we are the soil.
Any Christian reading the parable wants to be the fertile ground. But how do we do that? How do we prep our hearts and minds so the seed of the Word takes root day after day and produces a bountiful harvest? More immediately, how do we prep our hearts today so we’re ready for the message and worship tomorrow?
I once read a devotional essay by John Piper where he outlined 10 things every Christian should do on a Saturday to be ready for Sunday. I adore lists and structure, and even I was daunted by this. So instead I’ll offer three practical ideas from my experience:
Pray and pray daily. The easiest way to create fertile ground in your heart and mind is to ask God for it. Ask him broadly–Father, prepare me to hear your word and listen to your spirit today. Ask him specifically–Lord, help me keep my manager’s irritating words in perspective today so I can focus on what you have for me instead. Show me where you’re leading me, make me an eager listener of your holy spirit. The scripture is saturated with promises like “draw near to me and I will draw near to you,” “seek and ye shall find,” “ask for wisdom and it will be given to you,” so let’s believe it, and let’s do it.
Expose yourself to Christ daily. Listen to sermons, read the Bible, stare at maps of Israel for hours, talk with a friend about what God is doing in your hearts, pray for your sister, sing worship songs, write worship songs, do things that put your mind on Christ and do them often. This gets you in the habit of thinking about what you hear, what you read, what you talk about, and most importantly, how your faith affects how you live.
Come with an attitude of expectation. We all do it. We wake up the same time every Sunday morning, drive to church, get our handout, sit in the same chair we’ve been sitting in for more than a decade. It’s so easy for church to become routine. You get there and you go on automatic. But remember: Seek and you shall find! Come to church looking for something to learn, looking for something to chew on, looking for a way to bless and be blessed. If you’re so disengaged you don’t realize the Sower is walking right by you, it’s time to wake up.
Need some motivation? I’ll share mine, along with one of the most sobering (to me) verses in the entire Bible:
And [Jesus] said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” (Mark 4:24)
Any verse that says I’ll get what I give leaves me shivering because I know how unfaithful and lazy I can be. But really, this verse shares a common sense truth: Why do we expect God to do huge acts of mercy and power in our lives when all we give Him is 30 seconds of hurried prayer each day?
There’s no magic amount of minutes where we’ve tipped the God-meter in our favor (and let’s never forget we please God not with piety, but by following His will and by accepting and mirroring His grace), so let’s aim for saturation. Let’s be more intentional about adoring our Father, seeking Him, talking to Him, trying to understand Him. For those of you celebrating Lent, give up your chocolate, give up your sugar or your favorite TV show, but remember that Lent is also about preparation. Jesus prepared Himself for His crucifixion; let’s prepare ourselves to be fertile ground for His word.