Over the years, I have seen people come and go in the Kingdom of God. For various reasons people would quit and not follow God anymore. Even in Jesus' ministry people stopped following Him. In this study I am going to explain to you why people do not follow the Lord, even when they hear and respond to the gospel.
JESUS TEACHES IN PARABLES
Mat 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Jesus' answer to them about the above question is lengthy, but basically he said they have eyes and ears that cannot see or hear; unless they should open their eyes and ears [spiritually], and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
What we have to understand about parables, is that it is a natural story that has a spiritual meaning. And these parables were often veiled stories with hidden meanings in them. Jesus often told these parables knowing that only those who really wanted to know the hidden truth in the story would search it out with all their hearts and understand and truly be converted.
GOSPEL PREACHING AND MAN'S RESPONSE
Any time the Word of God is taught or preached to any human being, that person is responsible for how they respond to it. Because God has given all of us a FREE WILL TO CHOOSE, how we desire and respond to the gospel will dictate if a person is really serious about living for God or not.
When a person hears any preaching, teaching, parables or any person testify to them; they may not have any knowledge of the scriptures at that point. And it is a true fact, some scripture at face value is hard for some people to understand when they first read or hear it. The reason this is so, is because God's ways are so much different than the ways and thinking of the world.
However, even though this barrier of knowledge exist, mankind doesn't have an excuse to learn about God and search for truth with all the heart because God has adequately provided his Spirit to help people understand His word; if they will just ask Him.
THE HEART IS A FRAGILE ZONE
When understanding human nature through experience and knowledge, you will come to various conclusions about a human being...
God did not make mankind to be robots, and He doesn't force anyone to live for Him if they do not want to. When a person first hears the gospel, their heart may be already damaged, or they may even be demon possessed. The man of Gadarenes (Luke 8:26-33), was possessed of a legion of devils, but yet, he still chose to fall at Jesus' feet and worship Him; and he was delivered of those devils afterwards. So, man ultimately has to make the choice whether he really wants God with all his heart or not. And as hard as you may try to help, they ultimately have to come to their own decisions.
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Luke 8:5-8 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. (6) And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. (8) And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This parable consists of four soil types; Way Side, Rock (i.e. Stony Ground), Thorns and Good Ground. When Jesus taught this parable, he spoke it to the multitude of people following Him. Some were sinners, some were believers, but it was still to everyone.
Jesus' main point with the parable of the sower, was to point out what the four soil types were and what happens to the seed sown with each type of soil. The parable was very common to the people, because farming was their main-stay to stay alive. Jesus was hoping they would understand what He was trying to teach.
But, what is important, is that Jesus was not teaching them how to farm, but how a person will respond to the seed (the Word) if they truly understand with their heart. And He speaks this parable to them to show each and every person which soil type they are, or could be if they really want to.
THE DISCIPLES WANTED TO KNOW
First point we need to make, is that the disciples wanted to know what the parable meant. Even they didn't get it when they heard it. For we read...
Luke 8:9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
The second point we need to make, is that the seed in the parable is the Word, teaching and preaching of the Gospel. For we read...
Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
THE WAY SIDE
Luke 8:12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
In the natural, the "Way Side" is ground that is in out-of-the-way places; not traditional farming ground. In the spiritual sense, "Way Side" people are those that do not show a real heartfelt interest in God.
When you witness to them, they may agree at face value, but inwardly they are skeptical or they simply just do not understand it. This usually is caused, because the seed (the Word) you just sown in their heart is snatched away by the devil. The devil simply convinces the person to not believe it. And therefore, unless they believe the word they just heard, they can't be saved, because they won't go any further with it at that point in time.
ROCKY (STONY) GROUND
Luke 8:13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
In the natural, Stony Ground is ground that contains large rocks or a multitude of stones. In the spiritual sense, it refers to people who have stony (hard) hearts, emotional wounds, major sin issues and just a bunch of problems. These type of people usually have had a hard life and deal with many things. Sometimes they can be unstable and weak minded.
People who are Stony Ground that hear the word sown in their heart often times will receive the word with joy, believe it and even come to church with you. Some may even fulfill the plan of salvation. These type of people can be worked with if the right people work with them.
The problem with "Stony Ground" is the seed (the Word) needs to get rooted into the ground. But, what often happens with these types of people is that when temptation, persecution or trouble takes place in their life because of the Word, whether the Word causes internal convictions or external trouble comes because of the Word; they will be offended or upset with God because of the trouble and quit and walk away. Some may feel the Word may be too strict for them to handle and be offended by the Word. Sometimes someone may say something they don't like or comes to realize that church life is too hard.
The hard part with these kind of people is to get them to truly fall in love with God enough to endure the growing process. At first, they just like the thrill of this new church life, but then when it comes time to live right, things brake down. For whatever reason (which are many), some are just not willing to pay a price to live for God and that is because of the "stony heart." Some of these type of people just want to feel good.
Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
In the natural, Thorny ground is ground that have thorn bushes growing everywhere. It can be farming land, near stony or way side ground. In a spiritual sense, "Thorny" people are those who are hard to help spiritually. They either worry more than they should, or are caught up in riches, or just love all kinds of pleasure to much. Typically these are people who are self-sufficient and or have no need of God. The problem with "Thorny" people is they are usually selfish and will often hear what you say, but put you off.
However, "Thorny" people may receive what you say. They may even fulfill the plan of salvation, attend church and enjoy it. But, as time goes forward, the cares of life (worrying over bills and problems), riches and pleasures of this life will choke the word that they once embraced. And therefore become unfruitful, and even quit following God.
All too often, people will not follow God because they have to turn away from some things they love. One man in scripture (Mat 19:16-23) came to Jesus and asked what he has to do to have eternal life. Jesus gave him a list of commands he had already been keeping. But, Jesus asks him to do one thing. Sell all he had, give to the poor and follow Him. But, he went away sorrowful and didn't follow Jesus because he loved his riches.
Luke 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
In the natural, "Good Ground" is good fertile land with very little rocks or thorns. In a spiritual sense "Good Ground" is people who have a sincere good heart, completely fall in love with God, understands the Word, obeys it and lets it take root in their lives and produce fruit.
The good thing about being "Good Ground" is that even if you are a stony or thorny heart before you heard the Word, if you remove the thorns and stones and hear the word, receive it, and completely obey it with all your heart. Then that Word can be rooted in you, and you can be "Good Ground." That is why farmers till the ground before planting seeds; they get the junk out of the way.
When a person is "Good Ground" they will bring forth fruit with patience over time. They do this by constantly digging out stones they see in their life and allowing God to do in them what needs to be done so that a person can be saved. This is someone who is committed to God no matter what comes their way!
ADVICE FOR SAINTS OF GOD
This parable of the sower is not just for sinners. It is a divine principle that applies to your entire walk with God. Although someone who is a "Way Side" person hardly ever finds God, the other three ground types can find God and be saved.
The truth be told, most people who come to God are usually Stony or Thorny ground. I have seen more people quit and stop following God then those who stay. And there is a good reason for that; they are just not committed enough to God to truly be an overcomer and endure some things while God tries to clean their life up.
Being "Good Ground" doesn't mean you came to God with no problems in your life, or you have hardly any scars or sins in your past; NO, you just simply moved some baggage out the way so you could fall in love with God and get rooted in Him.
Do you still have thorns or stones in your life even after fulfilling the plan of salvation (Acts 2:38), then you can get victory over them because you love God and want to please Him. Allowing the sanctification process to cleanse you allows you to get the stones out.
However, be warned. If you don't allow God to get the thorns and stones out of your life, then they will eventually choke out the word and you can spiritually die. This is not a once-saved-always-saved life we live. If sinners can turn from God, so can people who are saints walk away from God too.
When working with people, whether it is before they know God or after, you cannot force people to serve God. You can't force them to change or stop doing certain things. Salvation is personal endeavor that a person has to do on their own. Scripture says that each person is to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Now, that doesn't mean they don't need help from church, preaching or people. What that means is that ultimately, they have to decide to allow God to clean them up by asking Him for help.
For people who try to minister to other people, you have to be aware of human nature and their right to choose good or evil. Since God doesn't force anyone to serve Him, neither can we. However, we can pray for them in intercessory prayer, try to teach them and even bring a word from God to them, but ultimately, it still their choice.
This subject is complex, only because human nature is complex. So many things can help or hinder a person from finding or living a committed life before God. Some may never find God, and some may find God and later quit. That is the unfortunate reality of life.
The best we can do as ministers of people, is to pray for any Word that gets sown in their hearts to find root in "Good Ground." Because, ultimately... that is the best ground of all!