The Good Soil Bearing Fruit
In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, the Lord shows us that people can be likened to four different kinds of soil. If we are honest, we must admit that at times we are each of them. Often we are hardened by the traffic of the world and for this reason the Lord’s word has no way to enter. Sometimes the Lord’s word finds an opening in us and begins to grow, but it is frustrated by the rocks of conflicting interest that rise up within us. Even if we find ourselves free of traffic and rocks, we discover that “the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). These are the thorns, always ready to spread out and ruin the entire field.
The Good Soil
How could any of us say we are the good soil? Everyone is defeated. No one can point a finger at anyone else. At best some of us can hide our failure better than others. Yet, all who are saved know the Lord’s touch and have at least a little desire for Him. If we are blessed to be in His presence for even a short time, we value it and count it precious. This is true of every genuine believer, no matter how degraded and backslidden they might be. We all have a soft, tender spot for the Lord. This soft spot is the good soil, the place where the Lord can sow whatever He wants to grow in us with the full expectation that it will bear fruit.
Sometimes as we enjoy the Lord’s table together all our frustrations melt away, and for a few short minutes we fall in love with the Lord all over again. At other times we are in the word and we hear His voice calling our name. As we answer His call we touch Him in a fresh way. Sometimes as we accidentally preach the gospel and see someone get saved, we are reminded of how enjoyable it is to live for Him. All of these are moments free from traffic, rocks, and thorns. These are experiences of the good soil, and in spite of our failures, we all have them. This is the Lord’s mercy.
We all have some good soil. Don’t ask how much is there. We have no way to measure. Some days we may need a microscope to find it, but it is still there. It is enough for God to work with, and He can find it even when we can’t. He just keeps sowing, knowing that some small percentage of what He sows will make it to the good soil.
Talented musicians sometimes experience something like this. They sow the seeds of hard work and diligent practice, but their actual performance can be affected by external factors unrelated to all this sowing. If they are worried or pressured about something in their family life (traffic), their performance may be disappointing. If they don’t like the music and wish they had chosen something else (rocks), it will show. If they are thinking how uncomfortable their chair is, how hot they are, and how underpaid they are (thorns), all their practice will be in vain. But at rare times they perform way beyond what they should be able to do, because for some reason everything negative melts away and they and their music become one. This is the top experience for any musician.
The top experience for Christians is when all the negative things fall away and they and God are one. Then they are enabled to go far beyond what they should be able to do in their Christian life. They are able to yield a crop, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matt. 13:8).
When we do have such an experience of the good soil, we should treasure it. We shouldn’t dwell on all those hours we spent in defeat. Forget about all the times the world occupied us and instead enjoy the times that the Lord is so close to us. As we sing hymns, how we enjoy the Lord and His forgiveness! How we enjoy His living presence! He is so good and precious! At least during this time we are pure before Him. We shouldn’t let Satan steal this enjoyment away by pointing us back to all our failures. Satan can never enjoy the Lord like we just did. All he knows is failure. Our short time being one with the Lord cancels out all our failure.
If we only spend one minute a day with the Lord like this, that is one minute of good soil that can grow something of heavenly value. During that short time, the Lord’s word as the life seed can get in, sprout, and take deep root to grow and eventually bear much fruit. One minute a day means 365 minutes a year. In ten years, we will have spent 3650 minutes as good soil, and in sixty years. It will be 21,900 minutes. That is enough time to bear an abundance of fruit! What overcomers we are! All the time spent with traffic, rocks, and thorns doesn’t even count by comparison. We shouldn’t care how much we are defeated. Rather, we should care how much time we spend as the good soil so heavenly things can grow to satisfy Christ.
Understanding the Word
The Lord said, “The one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it” (Matt.13:23). To understand the word means to put what was spoken together with life application. This is not to simply understand with our mind, but to know how to apply what the Lord speaks to us. Without understanding, we may think the Lord is telling us to do something when in fact He is telling us how to live. We may think He is happy if we go to the meetings when in fact He wants us to consecrate our life to Him. The Lord is after us, not our doing, but this requires our understanding.
When a high school graduate is deciding where he wants to go to college and what he should major in, the deciding factor is not the school or the major, but whether he has understanding. There are hundreds of schools he can go to, and each school has hundreds of majors. If he has no spiritual understanding, it makes no difference what he chooses. They are all the same. But if he has insight into what the Lord wants, and understanding in applying His word, he will be able to put things together. His choice will be under Christ’s headship and in the long run will bear much fruit in his life.
This level of understanding requires insight. When we have insight, we know the value of things. Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7). We are earthen vessels created by God, and what we fill our vessel with shows what we value, and therefore how much insight and understanding we have in spiritual things. We can sit through many church conferences and trainings, but if we do not know how to pick up what is valuable, it will do us little good.
Many Christians are zealous, but do not have any insight. They genuinely want to serve and please the Lord, but there is no oneness with Him. They do not have the Lord Himself. Because they lack understanding, they never picked up what is valuable. This is why we must take care of our church life. This is where we can have the proper growth and gain spiritual insight. Without a healthy church life it is hard to develop properly. We only have one life to live and we do not want to waste it. We must learn what is valuable.
Those people represented by the good soil are full of understanding because they are pure in heart, unmixed with other things. The world has its ways but they remain unaffected. There is no conflict of interest between them and the Lord. They want what He wants. Their aim is the Lord Himself because they are one with Him. They have insight into what is heavenly and what is earthly. They are willing to let the Lord’s words of life mature in them and reproduce as fruit.
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
– Matthew 13:23
Fruit bearing is not limited to gospel preaching. If we love the Lord purely, it is easy to get others to do the same. This is to bear fruit. If we are consecrated, others can see in us what it means to be consecrated. If we are pursuers of Christ, others will join us. Whatever the Lord has given us will bear fruit if we let it.
How much fruit? “Some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”. Numbers in the Bible are interesting. They are not always literal. Three in the Bible represents the triune God, six represents man and human responsibility, and ten represents completion. Therefore thirtyfold fruit is up to God, sixtyfold fruit is up to us, and hundredfold fruit is the ultimate completion of fruit bearing.
As long as we are good soil, we are going to bear fruit, but how much fruit is up to us. We each have to make a decision.
Since the number three represents the triune God, thirtyfold fruit is based entirely on the mercy and grace of the triune God. This is why, without doing anything, we somehow become a blessing to the church. Even we don’t understand how it happened. Most of us are like this. When God works through us and people get saved and added to the church, even we are surprised. This happens among us all the time.
Each of us can have thirtyfold fruit as long as we are good soil. If we love the Lord, love the church, are pure before the Lord, and are for the Lord’s interest, we will bear fruit. It may be in the matter of regeneration, love, or consecration, but for sure we will bear fruit. We don’t even need to try. The triune God will see to it. This is the principle of thirtyfold.
When I was first saved I was a senior in high school. I was with a few others who also loved the Lord. Suddenly we realized that we only had one year before we would all graduate and leave that school forever. We became charged to preach the gospel. We had no idea what we were doing. Somehow around 100 students were saved and 60 baptized in four months. This was absolutely the grace of the triune God giving us the thirtyfold fruit. Many among us have had similar experiences.
If we are not satisfied with thirtyfold, we can aspire to sixtyfold. The number three represents the triune God, but the number six is our number. It represents man and makes him responsible. The Lord desires that everyone bear sixtyfold, but that is up to us, not Him, and we too often like to withdraw from our responsibility.
To have sixtyfold fruit, we must take whatever God has given us and develop it to it’s fullest. If we do not develop it, we will never get beyond thirtyfold. We shouldn’t feel that God has given us our spiritual diploma and now we can coast. God never gives us a graduation ceremony. There is always more to experience and develop. But very few want to pay the price to get this. That is why there are so many thirtyfolds and so few sixtyfolds among us.
Some may be very talented with music, but talent is not enough to make them musicians. A real pianist practices six to ten hours a day. If they are not willing to pay this price, they may be able to entertain others with a simple tune, but they will never become musicians. Musical talent is God’s grace, but becoming a musician is their responsibility.
We can’t just say we are musicians. We can’t get hired by an orchestra and tell them we are trying our best. We can’t just try our best; we must work to become our best. We can’t just say we are gospel preachers. We must daily try all kinds of ways to preach the gospel, memorize gospel verses, read biographies of great gospel preachers, and help others to preach the gospel. If musicians practice six to ten hours a day, then how about us? Then our thirtyfold will start to become sixtyfold. This part does not come by God’s grace, it comes by our labor.
If we want this, we must fully give ourselves to the Lord and tell Him we want to grow to the top, according to what He has given us. But here is a warning: Over the years I have seen so many talented saints make up their minds to gain the top, the best, and the highest. They were sincere and genuine in their desire. But when frustrations and disappointments came they backed off. They played politics and took an easier road. It is not easy to pay the price to bear sixtyfold fruit.
It is not simply a matter of desire. All the thirtyfolds have desire. To become a sixtyfold, desire is only the beginning. It is more a matter of how many hours we spend developing what we desire, how diligently we invest ourselves in it, and how we spend our life and being for whatever is best for the Lord’s interest. This is practical. So many love the Lord their entire life, but at the end, they cannot say they have their sixtyfold. They know that a lot the Lord has given them has not been developed. Sixtyfold doesn’t come easily.
Do we even think about it? Do we want our sixtyfold to be fully developed? I fear that it is not even in our consideration. More often we begin to love the Lord but then get involved in a religious life. The Lord desires us to be fully committed. We must pray, “Lord I do not want to lose what You have given to me. I want your gift to be fully developed. No matter if what You have sown into me is great or small, I want it to become a full sixtyfold.”
The Lord said that some of what He sowed into the good soil would bear fruit a hundredfold. Ten represents completion. It means we go beyond what the Lord has given to us, to develop it to its ultimate completion as a ministry. Very few attain to this.
The sign of the hundredfold is that they are never satisfied with what they have. They always want more. They continually fight to grow, to mature, to develop. They waste their life on the Lord’s interest. They break through all the obstacles. It is no longer just God and it is no longer just them. It has become something greater. A ministry begins to develop. This is the highest blessing to the church.
This does not come by a divine miracle. A hundredfold means we go beyond what the Lord has given to us. Those who aspire to this have more zeal, more love, more diligence, more labor, more consecration, and more advanced oneness with Christ. They struggle to break through what they have until they enter another realm. Here they operate to bear fruit a hundredfold.
I read of a famous Cello player, already known as one of the best in the world, who went to Germany to study metallurgy. To most of us there seems to be no connection between the cello and metallurgy, but this musician saw it as necessary to break through to the next level of His playing. He was a fighter, never satisfied with what he had, always wanting more. I know of no other musicians who have gone to such an extreme. That is to go beyond sixtyfold to a hundredfold.
God desires people who first fully develop the talent the Lord has given them. This is to be sixtyfold. Then He would have them break through and develop way beyond that until they come to the completion of their ministry. This is to be a hundredfold. Here they are totally one with the Lord. They are with Him in resurrection. They are with Him in a heavenly, mystical realm. They are with Him in His divine operation. They have advanced to be so one with Christ.
I don’t talk much about the hundredfold because it is so beyond most of us. But can we aspire to become sixtyfold? So few brothers who come to their older age can testify that they have come up to the full stature of what the Lord has given them. Most realize something is short. However, it is never too late. There is always time for us to be the good ground. There is always time to tell the Lord, “I want to have sixtyfold. I want whatever You have given to me, be it great or small, to come to its fullest. I don’t want to be common. I want to be very serious before You.”
If we are content to be thirtyfold, we can just enjoy the church life and the Christ we already have. As long as there is some good soil, thirtyfold fruit will be there. It is all God’s grace. But if we want to be sixtyfold, we have to mean business. We have to give ourselves and let ourselves be consumed by developing whatever the Lord has given to us. If we want to go beyond thirtyfold, we must give up our right to waste our life. Our life belongs to the Lord. We must fight that our life become sixtyfold or even hundredfold. Then there is great value to the Lord.