The 4 grounds 

And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4‬:‭2‬-‭9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This parable speaks of 4 types of ground on which seeds are sown and how the ground’s condition affect the process of growth of the seeds.

The ground represents people’s heart condition and response to the the Word and the “people” can represent both the believers and non-believers. We can probably see the parable from a different light.

The path or wayside. This is a boundary-free open space where everyone walks on. A place where people advocate open attitudes towards faiths. Everything goes for them, truth or falsehood. They seek compromises and middle grounds, therefore do not put up a stand on a conviction – which perhaps they may not have one. They can’t distinguish between the true and the false. Truths spoken to them are “taken away” by the “birds” of liberal theologies and false teachings.

The stoney ground. Stones do not provide the environment for seeds to grow roots though they may still germinate into a young shoot. Seem promising at first. But there is no anchor point for the root to sink into. You probably see initially excited believers caught in the frenzy of “doing church” through joining many programmes and social interactions but are not built up on the Word to grow as intentional disciples. Everything seems good until the storms and winds of life’s circumstances set in, and these fall away. Or it may that, like stones which are cold, a church could have a cold environment of legalistic rituals and traditions that does not display love and acceptance of people. This also lead to a fall away.

The thorny ground. A choking environment. While the shoots wants to sprout and grow, this environment’s focus on the cares of the world and the world’s way of doing things stifle them. Christian movements that pursue consumerism spread the “feel-good” gospel and set people to pursue the wrong things in life. False teachings, like thorns, stifle real growth and they can be very subtle – people are brought to believe they are doing the right thing when they are not. On another note, false teachings can be packaged in attractive camouflage that emphasise on spiritual “fantasies” instead of faith; sights and feelings instead of discipleship. Has not the Bible spoken about such deceptions becoming more and more rampant in the end times?

The good ground. An environment of growth where roots can grow and get deep into the ground, receiving the nutrients they need. There is a personal pursue to know the Word instead of just been fed. Just like the Berea Christians who dig into the word to check “whether what is thought is true”. (Acts 17:11) This is the antidote against deception of false teachings. No more depending on the pulpit messages or Christian conferences to boost personal growth although these have their place to assist growth. Good grounds are not found in conferences but in your closet when you meet with God!

Reflection Pointers:

1. Take sometime to evaluate the conviction of your faith. Is it based purely on the emphasis of some revolutionary Christian movement or on a personal relationship with Jesus on a daily basis?

2. Do you live on “borrowed” faith such as depending solely on weekly pulpit messages or Christian conferences to boost your faith and belief? If your answer is yes, it is time to follow the example of the Berea Christians to dig deep into the Word personally on a daily basis.

Who Watches When You Struggle?

“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭45‬-‭52‬ ‭ESV‬‬

After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus instructed His disciples to get into a boat and proceed to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd and stayed on the mountain to pray. While alone on land, His concern was still on his disciples who are out at sea. In fact He was watching them and “saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.’ Can you see a Masters’ love for His followers? 

You can be sure while many of us are struggling in our progress in any sphere of life – be it a stagnating career, a sickness that does not seem to be healing, a slow difficult process to restore a strained relationship, a recurring financial struggle to keeps ends meet – Jesus is watching – that’s is how personal Jesus was! Thus do not despair when things don’t seem to be moving in your life, He watches, and He knows and He understands! We also read that He later showed up walking on the sea, came into the disciples’ boat and immediately the winds ceased. Yes, when it is the right timing, He will get into your boat as well and calm the winds and waves of circumstances! So keep rowing, and don’t give up!

Jesus walked on the sea and then got into the disciples’ boat. See, He came to resolve their slow progress and it was a 180 degree change – the winds suddenly stopped and they reach the other side speedily. When Jesus step into your boat, transformation will happen!

If you have Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, there is no need to fear! He is always on top of your seas, your winds and your waves and will come into your boat of life to smoothen your journey!

Reflection Pointers

1. Perhaps unknown to you, Jesus is watching over you life even in those “not seeing light at the end of the tunnel” moments and is all willing to walk over to step into your boat of life to turn everything around.

2. While keep rowing and not giving up, take a moment to move your eyes from the oars, winds and waves to look towards Jesus who could be already walking on the sea coming over to you quickly. Prayers, prayers and prayers change things!