Pages Navigation Menu

Concerning rocky soil

Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture…Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. …Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:6, 11, 13

I have a confession to make: Whenever I read the parable of the sower, I’m not very concerned about rocky soil. Instead, my attention is usually riveted on what Jesus said about thorny ground…the type that grows lots of distractions…and worry. Yep, that’s been my personal Achilles heel. Distractions. Worry. And Jesus made it perfectly clear—those things, if not pulled out of your heart and mind as soon as you identify them, will choke God’s Word. And if the Word is choked in you…good luck trusting the Lord to move on your behalf! It is what it is.

This time, however, as I read this parable I couldn’t stop thinking about the rocky soil…and I wanted to dig deeper (pun not intended).

Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy…

There’s something about rocky soil people that is wonderfully endearing. Their eagerness for new adventures and concepts just oozes out of them. When they hear about Jesus and all He provides, they don’t hesitate—they jump right in and get excited about everything they hear. Come on—who doesn’t want to share the Gospel with someone so willing to grab it up?

and these have no firm root…

We want to see results. We want to see receptivity and growth in those with whom we share the gospel. But according to Jesus, what we see on the surface isn’t necessarily an indicator of success; even more significant is this: What’s going on beneath the surface?

Under a shallow layer of topsoil in some people’s hearts lies rock-solid hardness. The composition of that hardness varies from person to person (even as the composition of rock varies, depending upon the circumstances and environment in which it was formed—multiple types of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks exist, each formed in various ways), but unfortunately, that hardness serves as a formidable barrier to healthy root-growth. Tiny roots start to sprout, but they are restricted to the shallow upper layer of soil; the rocky ground below blocks deeper penetration of root systems.

they believe for a while (Luke 8:13)…but are only temporary… (Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:7)

For a while: Impermanent. Momentary. Brief. Passing. Short-term. Temporary. Such an outcome of hearing the Word is, sadly, all too common…but is there a remedy? I am certain there is. But first, we need to understand the results of rocky soil faith so we can address its remedy more effectively.

and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:13; … when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. Mark 4:17

We’ve all seen it; some of us have experienced this sad phenomenon in our own lives. This rocky soil faith, without intervention, will sooner or later create a case of backsliding.

Three environmental scenarios create the conditions in which our more “rocky soil” brothers and sisters fall away according to Luke and Mark.

Temptation. By grace and the Word of God, you are equipped to resist the temptations that come your way; with every one, God prepares a way of escape for you—and as you resist the devil he has to flee from you. However, there are times, for whatever reason, that you are tripped up by temptation and yield to that lust, greed, rage, self-absorption, sloth…whatever it is that you may be more vulnerable to. At some point, maturing Christians recognize their attitude/behavior as sin and ask God for forgiveness and cleansing—and then they get back up out of sin with a repentant heart…because of God’s abundant mercy.

But for our rocky soil faith friends, that’s easier said than done. Somehow the ability to access the grace of God to resist temptation or the mercy of God to receive forgiveness after yielding is found in deeper soil—soil unencumbered by rocky barriers. When temptation arises, a rocky soil person lacks the roots to withstand and trust God to make a way of escape.

And, unlike a deep soil person who has also yielded to temptation (but after facing up to it, repents), the rocky soil brother or sister starts to wonder if following Jesus is worth all the sacrifice of fun, comfort, or peer acceptance. Hence, while one believer looks to God for forgiveness, repentance, and restoration after falling into temptation, the other thinks, “Why bother?” and falls away.

Affliction. Affliction means “trouble, tribulation, oppression, and anguish”. Bad stuff. Stress. Whatever it is you don’t want to happen…like the bumper sticker back in the 80’s stated (my paraphrase!), “It happens.” Jesus said it this way, “[God] lets rain fall on [people] whether they are just or unjust” (Matthew 5:45b, GOD’S Word Translation).

Although a deep soil believer hates affliction as much as the next guy, he purposes to let his roots dig even deeper into the soil of the Word so he can draw up the strength, wisdom, and Bible nutrients to deal with whatever is coming at him. Even when trials seem to persist and afflictions grow more severe, he stands with his deep roots wrapped around Jesus Himself and he refuses to throw away his confidence in God.

But the rocky soil believer has a different experience. When affliction arises—sickness, lack, loneliness, disappointment, frustration, or pain—he falls away. The rocky soil prevents his dwarfed, dehydrated root system from obtaining the rich sustenance available to the deeper soil individual. Because of that blockade, his faith withers, and he no longer sees the sense in believing. If he doesn’t feel better immediately, then just as immediately he falls away.

Persecution because of the Word. Satan hates the Word of God; it was by the Word (“It is written”) that Jesus effectively sent the devil packing when the enemy tempted Him in the wilderness.

Because Satan hates the Word, don’t be surprised if persecution—slander, rejection, or worse—smacks you in the head from time to time. It’s just the devil, and don’t ever forget—he’s a defeated devil.

Again, no one enjoys persecution; if they say they do, I wonder seriously about their sanity! That said, when it arises, the deeper soil believer digs down into God, finding comfort and shelter under the shadow of His wings despite the chaos leveled against him. Unfortunately, the rocky soil believer finds only impenetrable hardness barricading his shriveled roots from the subterranean waters of God just below the surface; as a result, he immediately falls away.

Is there help for a believer who begins his walk of faith with a rocky soil heart? I believe so; but it will require diligence both on the part of Mr. or Ms. Rocky Soil and on the part of those believers who love them and want to help them.

When you interact with someone, you may not know for quite a while what lies beneath the surface. However, despite the type of soil upon which an individual enters the kingdom of God, we can’t forget this important Truth: We are co-laborers with God in laying foundations (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-11)…whether that ground be rocky, thorny, or good.

So what might the work of laying good foundations look like? How could this help rocky soil believers survive and eventually grow a decent root supply?

  1. Teach them foundational truths: Who God is; what He did for them in Christ; and who they now are in Christ. Teach them this concerning their new birth: The great exchange has taken place—God has removed from them a heart of stone and has replaced it with a heart of flesh.

 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT).

The good news is this: Rocky soil believers can learn to count on the promise that God has created a tender, responsive heart in place of the stony heart they’ve grown accustomed to. When they feel their faith shaking and can’t seem to find their way, help them to remember what God has done in them—they can take comfort and draw strength from this.

As their lifeline, the more mature Christians in their lives (including you) will likely need to be more hands on with these precious believers, walking and praying them through the inevitable shakings that arise. Keep it simple and remind them—they are God’s property now, and He will cover them. Pull out those wonderful Scriptures that remind them of who they are in Christ and who their God is. Pray with them, and then let them know you will be praying for them (and do it!).

And remind them—God’s given them that new heart, and He longs to help them with everything that concerns them.

  1. God’s Word is a Hammer

“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” Jeremiah 23:29

Rocky soil is, by definition, hard, and it is a barrier to seed growth. So when you know that the Word of God is a Hammer, you can let it break down the rocky soil, while you bring comfort and support to your friend. But how?

Lead your rocky soil friend to a daily discipline of Scripture reading. Whether they start in the book of John or the Psalms or somewhere else, continue to encourage them to prioritize their Bible time daily. Perhaps you can get them a Bible-based devotional book and have them look up the Scriptures they see in it. Maybe hook them up with solid online devotionals and encourage them to stick with reading them daily. (I would recommend veering them away from Christian prophecy sites or books that are all over the place now; these rocky soil believers need the Bible itself.) All the while, the Word will be hammering away at the rocky soil, causing cracks for the tender roots to find their way down to the deeper ground.

During this process, they may be tempted to fall away, nonetheless, as pressures arise. But the Word has been hammering the rocky soil, and your prayers for them have been watering the soil. Stick with them, love and encourage them, and in most cases, they will emerge with deeper roots and a sense of victory on the other side of their trial.

  1. Break up fallow ground

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. Hosea 10:12

What an excellent exhortation for every one of us! I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone through cycles of “hardness” in my Christian walk—anything from harshness and a critical attitude to dullness of heart and lethargy. And I’ll bet I’m not alone in this.

Under seasons in which we go through the motions of our Christianity, lash out judgmentally at others, cower in fear, or drift into complacency, the soil of our hearts grows hard…even for those of us who started this walk with good soil.

And like our friends, Mr. and Ms. Rocky Soil, we, too, must then go back to the basics of our first love…soaking up the truths about Who God is, what He did for us in Christ, and who we are in Him. As we feed once again on these powerful truths, the Word, as a Hammer, breaks up the hardness of our once lush soil, and restores our souls.

I have found a sure way to break up the hardness of my soil when once I recognize it. Here it is: I overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb, the Word of my testimony, and I love not my life even unto death (see Revelation 12:11).

The blood of the Lamb: I’m not in this alone! I’m not expected, by my own power, to overcome this hardening! When I realize that Jesus’ shed blood not only cleansed me of my past sins but is also my present great help and antidote in any kind of trouble, I fall in love with Him all over again. I realize that He went through agony, shedding His blood for me, so that I can walk through whatever circumstances come my way with His help, tenderizing my heart, and leading me by His Spirit.

The Word of my testimony: I have experienced times of near-devastating hopelessness and heavy depths of oppression that stubbornly refused to let go. I’ll bet I’m not alone in that, either. The soil of my heart seemed to harden by the minute. But one day, during a particularly dark season, I decided to look away from my despair to the Lord. I said to Him, “Lord, I’m going to tell you my testimony—all the things You have done for me from way before I was a Christian to now. Lord, act like You’ve never heard it before, because that’s the way I’m going to tell it. Here goes.” Then I proceeded to reach way back to the days when God started making Himself known to me and told Him my story, details and all.

And what do you know? Before I got very far, the oppression started losing its hold. I continued, and joy started bubbling up in my soul. I continued, and soon tears of gratefulness and laughter of great freedom filled my home. And the fallow ground was broken.

I love not my life even unto death: Not many of us will die a martyr’s death. But this verse, nevertheless, applies to every one of us. Remember the verse that reads, “The fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25a)? If you refuse to let go of what others think of you, allowing yourself to let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould (see Romans 12:10, JBP) so you don’t get singled out by them as “weird”, then you may escape man’s heat momentarily, but you put yourself at odds with the Lord…and you harden your heart.

On the other hand, when you choose to obey God despite the cost to your reputation (whether outside the church or in it), He will honor, vindicate, and deliver you;—and you will have guarded the fertile soil of your heart.

God is faithful both to us and to His Word. When we are faithful to His Word, He will provide amazing support.

Trust the Lord as you minister to others to bring about depth of connection to Him in their lives; and trust Him to empower you to be wise with the soil of your own heart, keeping it broken up and prepared for His harvest.

He is faithful.



© 2017, Dorothy Frick