Faithlife Sermons

The Parable of the Sower 1

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

The Parable of the Sower
Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23
Pastor Steve Spence
Jan. 18, 2009


I've worked in a factory for some 30 years now.

I see people in the workplace every day.

I see that not very many people

are really living productive spiritual lives.

Everywhere I look I find people who have been exposed to the Bible

and its teachings, but their lives have not been changed by it.

Many have begun well in the Christian life

but for one reason or another they have failed to mature in the faith.

Their growth has been stunted.



There's an old American Indian tale that tells the story of a chief who was sharing with a group of young braves

he was talking about the struggle within.

“It is like two dogs fighting inside of us,” the chief said.

“There's one good dog who wants to do the right

and there's another dog who always wants to do the wrong.

Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight.

And sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight.”

There was a pause and then one of the braves asked
“Who is going to win in the end?”
The chief answered,            ...........     “The one you feed.”

Too many of us in the church have been feeding the wrong dog.

When we feed the dog of worldly desires

he grows into a ferocious beast that controls and ruins our lives.

Jesus told a parable that explains to us

why it is that so many people

who have been exposed to the Word of God

don't live productive spiritual lives.

In this parable Jesus compares our lives or actually our hearts

to various types of ground on which seed has been sown.

From this parable we see that the conditions must be just right

for God’s Word to produce a harvest in our lives

We must cultivate our hearts

so that the right conditions are present in us.

How To Cultivate Your Heart For A Spiritual Harvest

Do you want a spiritual harvest?  Do you really want to grow spiritually?

Well here's how you do it.
1. YOU NEED TO PLOW THE SOIL. (13:3-4, 18-19)


The first type of soil described in this parable is ‘the path’.

Farmers had paths all throughout their fields

and so it was inevitable that some of the seed being scattered

would fall on the paths.

Paths are packed down hard

because of all the people walking on them.

They become so hard that the seed being sown is unable to penetrate the soil and so they stay on top of the ground and become easy picking for hungry birds.

Jesus is talking about people whose hearts are so hard

that the truth of His word cannot penetrate their lives.

Their hearts are so hard that they

WILL NOT even consider turning to God.

Just as a seed cannot grow unless it penetrates the ground

so the seed of God’s word cannot grow unless it can penetrate the heart.

Farmers can remedy this problem in their fields by plowing them.

The plow breaks up the hardened ground

so that when the farmer plants the seeds,

they will be able penetrate the soil.

Just like those farmers some of us need to

plow the soil of our hearts

so that God’s word can get in.

We need to prepare our hearts to receive the word of God.

In 1 Peter 1:13 we are told that we need to “prepare our minds”.

If you are going to get anything out of coming to church on Sundays

you've got to prepare your heart and mind

before you come to the service.

Just like the farmer must prepare his soil before sowing the seed.

Here are some practical things that we can do to prepare ourselves for church.

First, get a good night's sleep.

You’re not going to learn anything if you are too tired to stay awake.

Saturday night is not the night to stay up late watching movies

or playing games or anything else.

It is a night to get to bed early

so that you can come to church well rested

and so that you can give God your best.

Typically Americans get one or two hours less sleep than they need

in order to function at their ideal level.

If you haven’t been getting anything out of church lately

maybe it's because you haven’t been getting to bed early enough.


Second, ask God to open your hearts and give you understanding.

You need to get to bed early on Saturday night

so that you can get up early on Sunday morning

and spend time with God before coming to church.

It is His word that is preached and taught in our Sunday School

and so just maybe you should think about asking Him

to help you understand it.


Third, seek to learn how it applies to your life and not the person sitting next to you.

Anytime you're walking away from a service and think,

“That was great.

I hope so and so was listening because they really needed that” .

Anytime you walk away from a service thinking something like that, you have missed the entire point.

The point of going to church is to hear from God personally.

If you’re taking a look at your life this morning

and you’re realizing that you haven’t been growing spiritually

maybe it’s because you have been hardening your heart

to what God has been trying to teach you.

Just like the farmer and the path,

God has been sowing seeds

but your heart has been too hard to receive them.

It’s time to let God plow the soil of your heart today.

As you can well imagine, plowing is not always a pleasant experience.

God needs to break up the hardness in your heart and it might hurt a little, but the results are well worth it.


2. YOU NEED TO PUT DOWN ROOTS. (13:5-6, 20-21)

The next type of soil that Jesus speaks of is rocky.

He's not talking about soil that has rocks in it,

He's talking about a shallow layer of soil on top of solid rock.

Because of the underlying rock

the plant is not able to put down deep roots.

Understand me when I say that the real reason the plant dies

is not because of the trial of the scorching sun,

It's because it doesn’t have deep enough roots to deal with the trial.

The same trial that destroys one plant

Helps another plant grow strong.

Everything depends on the roots.

If the roots are shallow the plant will be scorched and die.

However, if the roots are deep, the plant will thrive.

The sun is absolutely necessary for a plant to grow.

Without the sunlight photosynthesis can't take place

and the plant will die.

So the trial that devastates the plant with shallow roots

will be a source of life to the plant with deep roots.

We need to put down roots

so that we can persevere in the face of difficulties.


There was a ten year old boy who decided to study judo

despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master.

The boy was doing well,

so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training,

the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches.

The third match proved to be more difficult,

but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged;

the boy deftly used his one move to win the match.
Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced.

For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched.

Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out.

He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.
“No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake;

he dropped his guard.

Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him.

The boy had won the match and the tournament.

He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match.

Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind:

“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered.

First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo.

And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength

because his roots went down deep as he mastered that one technique.

The reason that so many Christians wilt when they face the scorching heat of trials and tribulations is that they have shallow root systems.

They have failed to “go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1).

The Bible teaches us that it is very important that we

keep hold of the deep truths of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:9).


That is why Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be

“rooted and established in love” (3:17).

A shallow Christianity simply cannot survive times of trouble.

But those who are not content with a shallow religion

those who choose to go deeper in the faith will discover that:

“the chains that seem to bind them,

serve only to remind them,

they drop powerless behind them...”

Is your Christianity    shallow or deep?

Are the troubles of life knocking you out or making you stronger?

Let me share a secret:

You cannot go too deep.

No matter how much you have grown in the faith

you still have more growing to do.

There is no such thing as having arrived spiritually.

Here are some practical ways to put down deep roots.

First, go to church every Sunday.

The Bible actually commands us to not skip church.

(Hebrews 10:25) says

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...”


God knows that we can’t grow alone.

We need each other's love, encouragement, and support.

That's why He says not to skip church.

We need to follow in the footsteps of more mature believers

as they follow Christ.

We need to experience worship with each other

and hear the Word of God proclaimed.

Second, read the Bible and pray every single day.

God is a person and you can’t grow a relationship with a person

without spending quality time with that person.

Prayer and Bible study is having a conversation with God.

God speaks to you through the Bible

and you speak to Him through prayer.

There has probably never been a divorce in history

in which one of the key problems wasn’t communication.

When communication is cut off there can be no meaningful relationship.

We must communicate with God every day.

Oh and don’t forget to do what God tells you to do.

There is no quicker way to stunt your spiritual growth

than through a lack of obedience.

Remember, disobedience isn’t only doing something wrong;

it is also not doing what you know you are supposed to do.

If you have not been growing spiritually

and God’s word has not been producing fruit in your life

then you need to plow the soil

                      and put down roots.

But there is also one more thing you need to do.



The third type of soil that Jesus talked about was thorny or weedy soil.

Thorns grow up quickly and they choke out the plants.

Weeds consume the water and nutrients

that should be used for the plants nourishment and so they die.

Thorns represent the cares of life

and the desire for wealth.

They choke the Word of God right out of people's lives.

The pursuit of worldly wealth consumes energy

that should be used in the pursuit of spiritual wealth

and so we die spiritually.


An interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

It was an interview of six top executives,

all of them making six-figure salaries.

That means that they made somewhere between $100,000

and $1 million a year.
Now you are probably thinking , “If I made even $100,000 a year,

I’d be in great shape.

No worries, and no problems.”

In the interview each one was asked, “What is your greatest fear?”

Each answered pretty much the same, using different words.

Their greatest fear was that they would not have enough.

When they were asked, “How much is enough?”

they always answered, “a little more.”


The world’s goods never completely satisfy.

You find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,

and the price of gold falls.

You strike oil, and the oil market deteriorates.

Your ship come in, and it sinks in the harbor.

There was an article in the Wednesday, June 26, 2002

issue of the Colorado Springs Gazette

on page six of the Business section by Michelle Singletary titled

“How much is enough in the pursuit of money?”

She began by writing about Karen Hughes, counselor to President Bush,

who decided to leave the White House so that she could return home to Texas and spend more time with her husband and teenage son.

Turning down the pursuit of fame and fortune for family

is a radical concept these days.

Ms. Singletary quotes workplace consultant Pamela York Klainer

from her book “How Much Is Enough?

Harness the Power of Your Money Story -- And Change Your Life”

in which she writes:

“In our American culture money has moved to the center stage.”

“Money, Klainer points out, ‘has gone well beyond its literal function as a way to provide for our essential needs

and has become, in itself, an essential need.

We’re working harder and earning more,

yet we continue to be driven, restless, unsatisfied.’”

Ms. Singletary also writes,

“Klainer warns that for too many men and women

vigorously pursuing money and success,

work has become the center of their lives

around which most other things --

friendship, volunteer service, spirituality and family needs -- revolve.”

As I study the Bible I realize

that a life like this is actually inside out.

Our Christianity should be the center of our lives

around which friendship, ministry, family needs, and work revolve.

If “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth”

are choking out your spiritual development,

you need to restructure your life.

Stop making the pursuit of worldly wealth your highest objective and make the pursuit of spiritual riches your greatest goal.

Jesus said, “Do not worry, about,

‘What shall we eat?’ or

‘What shall we drink?’ or

‘What shall we wear?’...

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31,33).

Here are some practical steps for putting God first in your life.


First, start tithing.

If God doesn’t have your pocketbook, He doesn’t have your heart either.

If you’re not giving God the first part of your income

you’re only fooling yourself if you think you’re giving Him

first place in your life.

Tithing is the Biblical command to give God the first ten percent of your income.

That means before you pay Uncle Sam

and before you pay the bills

you give ten percent to God

and He promises that the remaining 90%

will be sufficient to meet your needs, not your greeds.

Second, start giving offerings above and beyond your tithe.

Start supporting a missionary.

Give to the special denominational offerings

that we take up throughout the year.

Start giving sacrificially above your tithe.

This is exactly backwards to the behavior of the typical American.

When you start giving in these ways you are saying to God:

“I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”


Third, start serving others.

Get involved in a ministry.

Get your focus off of your needs

and start focusing on the needs of others.

It will totally revolutionize your life to stop worrying about yourself

and start caring about others.

The rich man and mirror story:

There’s an old fable about a miserable rich man

who went to visit a rabbi.

The rabbi took the rich man by the hand and led him to a window.

"Look out there," he said. The rich man looked into the street.

"What do you see?" asked the rabbi.

"I see men, women, and children," answered the rich man.

Again the rabbi took him by the hand and this time led him to a mirror.

"Now what do you see?" "Now I see myself," the rich man replied.

Then the rabbi said, "Behold, in the window there is glass, and in the mirror there is glass.

But the glass of the mirror is covered with a little silver representing wealth,

and no sooner is the silver added than you stop seeing others,

and you only see yourself.


If you really want a spiritually productive life,

I'm here to tell you that you can have it.



Hold your breath Illustration:

One day a student came to Plato and asked him how he could come to have true knowledge and wisdom.

The teacher told the student to follow him and he led him to the river.

The teacher waded out into the river and called for his student to join him.

When he did, the teacher told the student to dunk himself under the water.

The student thought that this was a bizarre request, but he did as the great teacher told him.

As soon as his head was under the water the teacher put his hands on his students head and held him under the water.

The student fought desperately, but he was unable to break his teacher hold.

The teacher held his student under water until the student began to weaken and lose his strength. Then he released him and the student shot up and began to gasp for air desperately.

The teacher said,

“When you desire knowledge as desperately as you desired to breathe the air you just breathed -- then you shall find it.”

Jesus said something similar: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).


If you truly want to live a spiritually productive life

Then plow the soil       Prepare your heart to receive God's Word.

Put down roots           Persevere through life's trials.

Pull the weeds             pursue spiritual riches instead of worldly wealth.

If you do these things then you will have good soil

and the seed of God’s word will produce a bountiful harvest in your life.

Jesus said that the harvest would yield

“a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”.

In those days a sevenfold harvest was considered to be a good harvest

so a harvest of even thirtyfold would have been miraculous

not to mention sixty or a hundredfold.

When you make your life match God’s model

then the results are miraculous.


Pastor Steven L. Dow
Heritage Wesleyan Church

Please email me if you use this sermon or a revision of it in your church.

Study Guide:

Matthew 13:1-8,18-23 (page 968)
June 30, 2002

How to Cultivate Your Heart for a Spiritual Harvest

1. YOU NEED TO __________ THE SOIL. (13:3-4,18-19)
Prepare your heart to receive God’s word.

“Prepare your minds for action.” 1 Peter 1:13

2. YOU NEED __________ ROOTS. (13:5-6, 20-21) Persevere in the face of difficulties.

“Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” Hebrews 6:1

“They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” 1 Timothy 3:9

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love...”
Ephesian 3:17

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...” Hebrews 10:25

3. YOU NEED TO __________ THE WEEDS. (13:7,22)
Pursue spiritual riches, not worldly wealth.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31,33

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Related Media
Related Sermons