In 2003 the office supply superstore Staples introduced a new slogan that was used in all their commercials and advertising promotions, “That was easy.”
Then in 2005, they expanded on it, by featuring a large red push button marked with the word “easy.” It would magically appear whenever someone had a difficult or time consuming task to complete. Originally, the “easy” button was intended only to be a fictitious button, but soon after they began featuring it, customers began contacting the company to inquire how they could buy one. So, they made it a real product and by the end of 2006, they had sold 1.5 million “easy”buttons.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an “easy” button for life? Of course we know that life that doesn’t work that way and that seldom is anything in life easy. However, this preoccupation with having an “easy” button, even if we know that it doesn’t really do anything, seems to indicate our desire for things to be easy and this can also include being a Christian.
The reality is, that following Christ, though rewarding, is not always easy. Often it’s difficult to put God first, to hold your tongue, to avoid using sarcasm, to put others first or to live by God’s Word and standard. There simply is no “easy” button for spiritual growth, because growing in our faith, that is becoming more like Christ, requires effort on your part and a diligent desire to avoid the barriers that so often inhibit growth.
In Matthew 13, in the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and through it, teaches about barriers to growth that keep some people from growing in their faith, while others are able to cultivate the right conditions that allow them to experience significant growth. This parable teaches that spiritual growth is determined by the kind of heart you have and specifically that there are four kinds of hearts, illustrated in the parable, by four different kinds of soil. There is the hard heart, that will not allow the truth and message of God to take root. There is the shallow heart which appears to be fertile, but which cannot sustain long-term commitment and growth because it lacks the deep roots necessary. There is the cluttered heart, which is fertile, willing and eager to receive the message, but too much competition, busyness or an overcrowded schedule, crowds Jesus out and keep him from truly becoming the Lord of their life.
Lastly, there is the perceptive heart, which is the kind of heart which we all should pray for and strive to have. This is the kind of heart that has the kind of good soil, that allows Christ like growth to occur, so that we can hear, understand and put into practice the teachings of God. A perceptive heart is properly ordered and devoted to what is best, while avoiding what is meaningless and harmful.
A story is told about a man who was walking down a country road and saw a young farmer struggling to load hay back onto a cart after it had fallen off. The man said to the young farmer, “You look hot, why don’t you rest for a moment and then I’ll give you a hand.”
The young farmer declined politely saying, “My father wouldn’t approve.”
“Don’t be silly,” the man said. “Everyone is entitled to a break. Come and have a drink of water.”
Again the young man protested that his father would be upset.
Losing his patience just a little, the man said, “Your father must be a real slave driver. Tell me where I can find find him and I’ll give him a piece of my mind!”
“Well,” replied the farmer, “You can tell him whatever you like, just as soon as I get this hay off him.”
The point of that story is someone with a perceptive heart, that allows growth to take place in their faith and life, is one that has a proper perspective and makes the best decisions while investing in things of eternal value.
So, why is it important to have the right kind of “soil,” in our hearts? It’s critically important because spiritual growth, which requires the right kind of heart, helps you to achieve the goal. Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Growth for a follower of Christ is normal, not optional, a process not an event, empowered by God, not me and it is for others, not just myself.