Sunday Sermon: ‘Weeds in the Garden’

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Aren’t you glad to know that the next season is spring? Believe it or not but yesterday I saw some daffodil and crocus shoots peeking out of the ground. I know that there’s a lot of folks who love winter and I hope that you enjoy the cold weather; but for me, I can hardly wait for springtime and summer.

Today I want to talk with you about gardening, but not the kind of gardening we might think. Today we’re about spiritual gardening.

Matthew 13:1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

I. The Soils of Life

This is our third week in this parable and so many of you are beginning to gain a good grasp of what it’s all about. Jesus is the Sower and the seed is the Word of God. The soil is the human heart and by referring to four different types of soil, Jesus is describing four different conditions of the human heart when it comes to spiritual things:

A. Hard Soil

The hard soil is the path way that has been compacted so tightly that the seed cannot penetrate and therefore produce. Spiritually speaking, it’s the non-believer who rejects God and His Word. They’re not sure if there is a God, and if there is, they’re not interested in finding out more about Him. They just want God and Christians to leave them alone.

B. Rocky Soil

The rocky soil is the individual who is ‘kind of’ interested in spiritual things. They attend Christmas and Easter and maybe once or twice more throughout the year. Although they may have somewhere along the way made a profession of faith in Christ, their spirituality doesn’t run very deep. It’s only on the surface and not a true, deep decision of the heart. Whenever they are called upon to make some kind of a commitment or personal sacrifice, they back off.

The really sad part about this kind of individual is that many of them think that they know God, but in reality they don’t. Jesus said – “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) In other words, a saving relationship with Christ is more than periodically paying God some spiritual homage. It’s knowing Him in such a way that it changes who we are and how we act. True salvation places us on a journey of becoming more and more like our Savior.

 C. Soil Preoccupied with Thorns

Matthew 13:7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them…22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

There’s some debate as to who this person is. Are they saved or are they not? Many say they’re not a true Christian. They conclude that this is still another illustration of someone only pretending to be a Christian. I’m inclined to believe that this individual is saved, but not being used by God the way they could be. Let me tell you why I believe this.

For one thing, Jesus spoke of four different types of soil which to me says that there are four different types of individuals: the hard soil, the rocky soil, the thorn infested soil, and the fertile soil. To me this illustrates four different kinds of people:

1) The person who totally rejects God and anything spiritual
2) The person who makes a shallow decision that is not real and genuine
3) The person who gets saved, yet fails to follow the Lord as closely as they should
4) The person who gets saved and who gives their life to Christ and is used by God in a powerful way

 It seems only logical to me that this believer is saved, but not living the way they should for Christ.

Another reason I think this individual is a true believer is because Jesus seems to indicate that at one point and time in their life, they were actually bearing fruit. But then, much like thorns that creep into a garden, life somehow creeps into their relationship with God and eventually chokes out the Word and its fruitfulness (vs. 22)

I not only believe that this is a believer, I believe that it’s many of us, perhaps all of us at some time or another. Much like a garden we grow in the summer, everyday we’re fighting the weeds of life. Friend, if our spiritual garden is left unattended for very long, the weeds will take over.

II. The Weeds of Life

Many of you who are gardeners have heard of what is often called an ‘invasive plant.’ An invasive plant is a plant that eventually will take over. Spiritual weeds are invasive plants. Everyday Satan is scheming as to how he can plant some type of invasive weed into our life so that we will become unfruitful for God’s kingdom. What are some of these invasive plants?

A. The Cares of This World

Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Many of you have heard about the Martha Syndrome. For those of you who haven’t, let me try to explain it to you. Luke 10 tells us about a time when Jesus was visiting in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha was a Type A Personality which means that she had the tendency to be task oriented and highly driven. Type A people are sometimes defined as those who are: ambitious, rigidly organized, and impatient with those who aren’t. ‘Workaholic’ is another term we might use to help describe a Type A Personality.

Because Martha was a Type A Personality, the Bible says that she was struggling over the fact that she had a house full of guests and nothing to feed them. To make matters worse, her sister whose name was Mary, appeared to be more of a Type B personality which means that she was more focused upon relationships and enjoying the moment than what was for lunch. While Martha was laboring in the kitchen, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus.

The stress of the moment eventually got the best of Martha and in utter frustration she went to Jesus and said – “Lord, can’t you see that I’ve got all of this to do and Mary isn’t helping me? (author’s translation Lk 10:40) To which Jesus replied – “Martha, you are so upset over all these things when there is really only one thing worth being concerned about and Mary has discovered it… (author’s translation Luke 10:41-42)

What’s the point of this story? Is Jesus saying that no one should do any work? Is He saying that all we need to do is sit around and have a good time? I don’t think so. Let me remind us that Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. She wasn’t spending her morning on Facebook. I think the point that Jesus was trying to teach, both to Martha and to many of us, is that busyness can keep us from spending quality time with Him.

The word ‘care’ can be translated as the worry or anxiety. We might call it -‘the pressures of life.’ Actually the word ‘care’ means to ‘divide.’ Worry, anxiety, stress and even busyness can cause us to take our eyes off of the Savior and to focus upon our problems. Because I have the tendency to suffer from the Martha Syndrome, I have often wondered what she should have done that would have pleased the Savior. Perhaps, rather than working up a temper while she was whipping up a cake, she should have first spent some quality time with the Savior and then quietly asked for His help and guidance. Don’t forget that Jesus was able to feed a multitude with only a boy’s lunch. He had Simon to pull a coin out of a fishes  mouth. Jesus healed a man’s blindness with some spit and a mixture of mud.

 B. The Deceitfulness of Riches

There’s another kind of invasive weed that attacks our spiritual garden. It’s the pursuit of something better.

Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Worry can choke our usefulness as a Christian and so can wealth. Problems can take our eyes off of the Savior, and so can prosperity. Consider what Paul teaches us about the danger of allowing prosperity to become the god of our life.

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

In other words, a godly life is more valuable than a pocket full of money. A close relationship with the Savior will bring us more lasting satisfaction and happiness than purchasing the latest toy.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

As the old saying goes, “You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul!”

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

In other words, don’t be driven to have more and more. Learn to enjoy what you have and the life God has given to you.

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

Notice that he doesn’t say – “all those who are rich.” It says – “all those who will be rich.” In other words, all those whose primary ambition and goal in life is to get more and more.

III. The Purpose of Life

A. The Love of Money

I knew a man in Ohio who was extremely successful and wealthy; yet the primary focus of his life was not making more money, but winning people to Christ. His factory was right beside the interstate and on the front of his building he place a big cross with these words – CHRIST IS THE ANSWER. His name was Stanley Tam and he wrote  a book about his life entitled – “God Owns My Business.”

Stanley Tam wasn’t always a ‘God-focused’ man. He started out like many folks with the ambition of getting rich as quickly as he could. In his early days he tried a number of business adventures and failed.

“I decided to call it quits, numb with disappointment, I packed my few belongings and headed home to Lima.  Just outside of Columbus, an incredible thing happened.  The Lord seemed to say to me, “Stanley, it doesn’t need to be a disappointment.  You don’t have to go broke.” “There just isn’t enough going for me, Lord.”   Stanley argued. “If I had capital…” “You shouldn’t be concerned about a lack of finances.  All you need is faith in Me.” “I do have faith, God.” “Enough to turn your business over to me? To let me run it for you?” “Take my business, Lord, and if You’ll make it succeed, I’ll honor You in every way I can, I promise!”

Stanley Tam later described this as a ‘covenant’ he had made with God. He went to a lawyer and asked him draw up a legal document that made God his Senior Partner in his business. The lawyer thought he was crazy, but Tam said that he told the lawyer that he would not leave his office until he did what he had asked. He wanted to give 51% of his business to the Lord. And so, with only $25 to his name, and another $12 he had borrowed from his father, Stanley Tam launched out again with a new business where God would receive 51% of all of his business profit. There are several YouTube videos about Stanley Tam and I encourage you to check them out.

Stanley Tam’s new business adventure began to take off and eventually he established a plant that is called US Plastics. Not only did Tam’s business grow, but so did his opportunity to be used by God. One resource I read states that during his lifetime he was able to invest over $140 million dollars in the work of the Lord. Just one of the ministries he supports is in over 42 counties with 1,600 men going door to door sharing the gospel. In 1955, Tam felt the Lord urging him to give the entire business to Him, and thus he eventually turned over 100% to God. [1]

JC Penny, founder of Penny’s Department Store, has a similar testimony. Did you know that it didn’t start out being called ‘Penny’s’, but instead – ‘The Golden Rule Store’? JC Penny’s life verse was Psalm 26:1-2 “I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O Lord, and try me. Test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I will walk in faithfulness to you.”

The Bible doesn’t say – ‘all those who are rich’, but ‘all those who will be rich…’ In other words, all those who primary purpose in life is to get rich – will fall into Satan’s temptations and snares. A man could be rich and have a heart for God, or a man could be poor and be filled with greed and covetousness. The Bible doesn’t say that money itself is evil. The Bible says that it is the ‘love of money’ that destroys many homes and lives.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

It was while these men and women were madly pursuing wealth that they lost focus of God and wandered off into dangerous places that eventually brought them heartache and sorrow.

Jesus explained this spiritual truth in His Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It could be money, or it could be something else. Anything that becomes more important to us than God Himself is a god and an idol. The word ‘master’ is kurios’ which is most often translated as – lord. Jesus is saying that no one can have two lords. No one can be serving two masters at the same time. One will win out over the other. This is true by very definition of the word ‘lord.’ To be someone’s lord means to be their supreme master or ruler.

Who or what is your lord and master? For some people, wealth is their lord. For some people it’s prestige or popularity among their peers. For other people it’s their own personal vanity, or even a hobby.

Why is this such a problem? In just one sentence Jesus explains to us the reason this is such a danger.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 B. The Love of God

Men like Stanley Tam and JC Penny teach us that we can be both successful in life and successful for God. But we should note carefully the order in which this must fall. It was successful for God and then successful in life. It was not the other way around.

Matthew 13:8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Jesus said that God wants to bear fruit through our lives. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8) What kind of fruit are we talking about?

1. Fruit ‘Through’ Us

The first thing that comes to our mind is the fruit God might bear ‘through’ us. How is God going to use us to do something great? Scripture teaches us that God has created us unto ‘good works’. (see Eph 2:10) What are these good works? Obviously it would be sharing the gospel and bringing people to Christ. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps 126:6) Another type of fruit God might bear through us would be serving and caring for those in need.

The fruit God might bear through us would require us ‘doing’ something. But there is another kind of fruit also. It’s the fruit of ‘being’ something. God wants to bear fruit ‘through’ us, but also fruit ‘in’ us.

2. Fruit ‘In’ Us

Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance…” (Galatians 5:22-23) Jesus commended Mary, not for what she was doing, but who she was seeking to become. “Mary has discovered what is most important in life and she has made this her greatest desire. Such a desire will not be restricted.”

We hear of men like Stanley Tam and marvel at how God used them to do something; yet what a lot of people don’t realize is that before his ‘doing’, it was his ‘being.’ One of his daughters said that if she got up early in the morning, she would always find her dad with an open Bible and praying. It has been said that he would often get alone for hours to pray and seek God’s guidance.

 Conclusion

Consider carefully these words spoken by Stanley Tam –

“I gave God my eyes, the things I would look at and watch…my mind, the things I would think about…my ears, the things I would listen to…my mouth, the things I would talk about…my hands, the things I would handle…,my feet, the places I would go…I said – God, you can have every bit of me. You can have my goals and my future.”

Did Stanley Tam reach perfection? Not on this earth. But much like the Apostle Paul, he was in constant pursuit of it. In closing, consider these words spoken by Paul –

Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. NCV

[1] http://www.giantsforgod.com/stanley-tam-us-plastic/

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