‘Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.’ Mark 4:16-17
Growing plants from seed is always nerve wracking. Seedlings are so vulnerable. As gardeners we cosset these young seeds. We place them in special compost formulated just for small seeds, we keep the soil at an ideal temperature and water them carefully, not too little and not too much. When we dare to put them outside where the wind might blow and the night air become too cold we gradually get them used to the real world by introducing them to real life in stages. The ones I fear for most are those seedlings that bolt away and become long and straggly without strength in their thin stems. When the first new seedlings show a touch of green poking out from the soil it is a matter of rejoicing and I for one rush to tell my wife and force her to come and inspect them as well. Experience however, has taught me to not get over confident. Year after year I have put out what I thought were going to be wonderful new plants that were going to go on and produce bountiful courgettes, beans, Brussel sprouts and so forth only to be disappointed that the harshness of conditions takes its toll and despite early promise some of those much loved plants shrivel and die.
Seed that is scattered fairly randomly over soil, regardless of how good the soil is, faces a much higher probability of not surviving the prevailing conditions in the world. So it is with the gospel or as it is also known the word of God. In Jesus’ story each new seed that germinates is a human heart that has responded to the good news of Jesus and said, “Yes” to his call to repent and follow him. There then often follows a burst of initial momentum. This can be seen as a keenness to go to church, an enjoyment of meeting other believers who are like minded. There is an inner thrill at knowing forgiveness and having hope and purpose that may not have been there before. One can experience love and understanding and the joy of worshiping together can carry people along but if one’s roots are in rocky ground the Christian life can be hard to sustain.
The rocks in Jesus’ story are persecution and tribulation. Jesus was clear, persecution and tribulation are to be expected. He says weigh up the cost before starting on the Christian road. He even said,
‘And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’ Mark 13:13 How to endure to the end becomes the question. How does the church support those new Christians so they can endure and more than endure, thrive? We know Jesus taught the servant is not greater than the master and so his disciples should not expect to be more accepted than he was himself.
Responsibilities go two ways. The individual is responsible for sinking their roots deep into the ground that is the word of God and applying themselves to its teaching. Each disciple is responsible for their own prayer life, to be a part of the whole body of Christ and not to consider they can thrive in isolation. Everybody should develop a realistic expectation of how the world will perceive them.
The church and by that, I mean the collective body of Christians, has a major responsibility to support other Christians who are experiencing tribulation and persecution. Even if it is a common experience of all its members. The body of the church should provide teaching, encouragement even loving correction for any of its members who are suffering. The church should provide love in everyday terms, helping when people need help, giving time to people who need a listening ear, being a prayerful community and crucially showing no partiality so some do not feel outcast or in some way of less value. We should be slow to judge and quick to support. We do not know when it will be ourselves who are finding the Christian road too rocky.
How rocky are you finding the Christian road?
How can you find the support you need to endure and thrive as a Christian?
I Have Decided – Elevation Worship