What Kind of Soil are You?
God’s first choice for where humankind should live was a garden. The soil in the Garden of Eden was completely fertile and every kind of flower, tree and plant imaginable grew in perfect conditions. Likewise, Adam and Eve had everything they needed in that garden, living in perfect harmony with one another, with God and with nature. Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and were cast out of the garden of Eden, they encountered much harsher growing conditions in the soil of the world of sin and evil than what they had been used to.
In Matthew 19:3-8, Jesus teaches the large crowds the Parable of the Sower:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
In Matthew 13:19-23, Jesus explains the parable to his disciples, likening the condition of each of our hearts to the different types of soil of that fallen world which we now must inhabit until He returns:
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives 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. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a “4th Soil” person!” I want my heart to be good soil for receiving the seed of the Word, and I want to live a life that allows that seed to bear a harvest for the Kingdom of God hundredfold times what was sown!
So, what are the characteristics of 4th Soil people?*
- They obey the Word.
- They successfully pass through suffering and persecution.
- They are generous and not lovers of money.
- They are not consumed with the cares of the world.
- They seek to produce a 100-fold harvest of Kingdom fruit.
They Obey the Word
A 4th Soil person is one who eagerly receives the word and is faithful and obedient in applying the word to their life. They not only are saved, but they understand that they have a seed of faith that must be planted or shared with others to bear fruit in their lives, too! Knowledge of the word alone must not be our end goal, but rather obedience to act on what God has called us to do through his word.** That action includes fulfilling the Great Commission to help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth!
The founders of New Wineskins Missionary Network, Walter and Louise Hannum, were famous for saying, “It’s not the seeds in the apple that matter, but the apples in the seed.” When you cut open an apple, you’ll typically find 6-8 seeds. But, if you plant even one of those seeds in fertile soil, that seed could grow into an apple tree that would continue to bear apples filled with seeds that could potentially grow into an orchard and last for centuries! That’s the 100-fold potential of every seed planted in good soil!
They Successfully Pass through Suffering and Persecution
A 4th Soil person endures suffering and remains faithful to God. I love the story about the California winery whose wines were exquisite in flavor, far superior to other wines made of grapes grown in similar California soil. When asked what made the difference, they explained that they refused to irrigate their vineyard even in severe drought conditions. This practice forced the vines to grow deep roots that would stretch until they found pure ground water. The vines were strengthened by the “persecution” of not being watered superficially from above. Through the suffering of having to endure harsh conditions, the vines were strengthened, lived longer, and produced a sweeter harvest. Oh, that we would be like these vines - allowing God to stretch us to thrive on the deeper “living water” that only He can provide!
They Are Generous and Not Lovers of Money
Matthew 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A 4th Soil person treats money as a tool and a resource to be used in godly ways and for godly purposes. Missiologist Ralph Winter talked about living a “Wartime Lifestyle” where the focus is on spending what is needed to accomplish the mission of world evangelization, not on what will make our lives most pleasant or comfortable. As individual Christians and collectively as the Church, we must understand the deceitfulness of wealth that Jesus talks about in Matthew 13:22.
The great majority of funds donated to Christian causes stays within the church to bless the people already in the church. Only 6% of money donated by Christians goes to missions. In fact, there is more money embezzled from the church every year than is given to missions! In addition, of all the money that is given to missions, only 1% goes to the least reached people groups who make up almost a third of the population on the planet. A 4th Soil person seeks to rectify this imbalance of God’s resources!
They are Not Consumed With the Cares of the World
What are you consumed by? Take an inventory of how much time you spend thinking about and participating in activities that are not bearing Kingdom fruit. The cares of the world are the carnal, frivolous and petty things that we can and do obsess about. Caring for the world, for things that God cares about - the poor, the hungry, the widow, the displaced, the persecuted, and the unreached - is what a 4th Soil person is consumed by! The goals, priorities, interests and passions of 4th soil people are completely different from those who don’t see themselves as living on mission with God.
They Seek to Produce 100-Fold Harvest of Kingdom Fruit
An ancient Egyptian practice was to entomb mummies (people) with wheat seeds in their hands. Someone once calculated how much wheat could have been produced from just a handful of wheat seeds if they had been planted, harvested and replanted over 3,000 years instead of held tightly in a corpse’s hand buried in a tomb. Those seeds would have produced enough wheat to feed the entire world several times over! The point is if we keep the seed of God’s word - His love, forgiveness, service and generosity - tightly clenched in our own hands and hearts, then it loses the potential that it could have had to spiritually feed a dying world!
So what kind of soil are you? May the seed of God’s word be deeply planted in us so that we can become 4th Soil people that will produce 100-fold harvests for God’s Kingdom!
* Profile of a 4th Soil Person published by Global Gates (https://globalgatesinfo.wordpress.com).
** Cultivating “4th Soil” Disciples in Ourselves and Others by Rick Wood, Mission Frontiers magazine, www.missionfrontiers.org.
Jenny Noyes is the Executive Director of New Wineskins Missionary Network. She is a passionate speaker, networker, and evangelist. For fun, Jenny can be found riding ElliptiGOs with her husband Larry, playing tennis, and spending time with her family. You can contact Jenny here.