It has been a blessing to our congregation to have a facility of our own. We are now into our third year. One of the challenges has been keeping the landscape plants growing. With the hundreds of plants, we have kept up in keeping them alive. Yet, at this time of the year, there are many ways for a plant to die.
I was recently reflecting on a familiar passage known as the Parable of the Sower. The truth is, it is really a Parable of the Human Heart. A parable of my heart. A parable of your heart. Jesus presents four situations, of which three leading to failure to thrive spiritually and one leading to genuine growth and maturity. These verses do speak of those coming to know the Lord, but can also be applied to our spiritual development or lack of. One of the challenges for followers of Jesus is the threat of complacency. It easily stunts our growth like the blistering heat of day and a lack of water. It is not long before our flower of Godliness withers and our leaves of godliness wilt. Jesus identifies three spiritual climate threats to your vitality as a follower of Christ. A threat that the believer faces in neglecting his spiritual development during the Pacific Northwest Summer.
The first threat is found in abandoning the practice of our faith. Jesus teaches, ““A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.” (Luke 8:5) It is not that we determine to abandon our faith, but it happens due to neglect. The well-traveled paths of our summer activities can become a distraction from our spiritual relationship with the Lord. The abundance of “good things” are like feet creating a path resulting in a hardness heart that makes us indifferent to the much-needed time with our Creator.
The second threat, is the lack of schedule, consistency or routine during this time of the year. It seems like summer affords us more time and flexibility that any other season. It is here that Jesus reminds us of a second danger of this season. “And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” (Luke 8:6) It is during this time of the year that our spiritual shallowness takes its toll on our souls. The skipping of a service, our excuses for not reading the Word, or a list of other justifications only contribute to our spiritual decline.
The third threat, is the abundance of great things to do. I am a pusher for taking family vacations, engaging in summer activities and slowing down during this time of the year. But let’s not let us forget that while these things are good, they do pose a threat when they supplant our spiritual development. Jesus writes about this third danger, “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.” (Luke 8:7)
Our fourth is the one way to grow and thrive during this wonderful season of the year. “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”” (Luke 8:8) Just as neglect of water and care of our plants will lead to their certain demise, the same is for our souls.
Let me offer a couple practical suggestions for growing spiritually during this time of the year. Make it a point to be in the Word and in Fellowship with fellow believers. Use the flexibility schedule to have a daily devotional time. Let me encourage you to make it a point to attend church even when you travel. The truth is there are many ways to die and all them involve neglect. Just like our flowers, gardens and plants need regular care so do we and our souls!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson