When my wife and I took advantage of the market and purchased our first home in the spring of 2009, we were excited. We were in a great neighborhood on a quiet street with friendly neighbors. The only drawback to purchasing this home was the amount of work it would take to make our front and back yard look presentable. Due to the sagging economy, the house had sat unoccupied for two years.
As summer approached, I quickly realized that I had a large bare spot in my front yard. The ground in my neighborhood wasn't particularly fertile and I received very little help from my broken sprinkler system. I had my work cut out for me. In spite of my efforts to fertilize and reseed, the only thing that would grow in the large spot was weeds! But hey, at least they were green.
In an act of frustration, I took a shovel to my giant bare spot. Only when I started breaking up the ground did grass finally began to grow. That first summer I discovered the difficult task of getting the ground ready to produce.
In the mist of my battle with the front yard, God spoke to me through Matthew 13:1-23—the parable of the sower. We have all heard this parable in a salvation message of some sort. But the Lord asked me to examine the passage from a different angle. He asked that I look at it in relation to my heart: "What are the hard, rocky, thorny, or 'good soil' portions of your heart, Robert?" I had to confess, I had never thought about my heart this way before.
As I began to study the passage, I found that the word "good" in the Greek is kalos, which deontes, "that which is well adapted to its circumstances or ends" (Vine, Unger, & White, 1996). In other words, the good soil is soil that has been prepared.
As a leader, I had to ask myself what was I doing to prepare the soil of my heart? Thinking of my front yard, I realized that if I wanted to cultivate the kind of things that will produce a crop in my spiritual life, I needed to cultivate the soil of my heart and the soil of those around me. What was I doing to cultivate my soil? What was I doing to break up the hard places of my heart? What was I doing to remove the rocks from my heart's soil? What was I doing to remove the thorns? What was I doing to serve others in the same capacity?
God told Hosea (10:12) to "Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you" (emphasis mine). Like Hosea, we need to break up our fallow soil to achieve the kind of harvest we desire. But it doesn't come easy. It takes spiritual sweat. What does this work look like? It definitely will include Bible study, prayer, and service to God while waiting expectantly for Him to act. It also might mean creating new daily routines. If we, as leaders, neglect to cultivate our soil, we can be sure that what we do not want growing in our hearts will take root and expand.
If we want to produce a spiritual harvest, what are we doing to prepare the soil of our hearts? The farmer prepares the ground with all his might, yet the fruit is from the Lord. We just need to be faithful, grab a shovel, and watch God produce.
Vine, W.E., Unger, M.F., White, W. (Eds.). (1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Robert Thomason is the professor for Leadership and Identity Development at the Focus leadership Institute. He recently completed his education at Azusa Pacific University and is a graduate of the Focus Leadership Institute (Spring 2001). Robert is blessed to live in Colorado Springs with his beautiful bride, Elena, and their three incredible children Trae, Isabel, and Brooklyn.