In Matthew 13, Jesus tells his famous parable of the Sower, who wildly scatters seed across a variety of soil types. When we hear this parable, many of us are drawn to the third soil, the one with weeds and thorns, described as “the worries of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth.” We’ve seen how busy schedules and abundant possessions can choke the kingdom life.
But as a new year begins, consider Jesus’ description of the first soil—the footpath. In contrast to modern sidewalks or paved alleys, the footpath Jesus had in mind was likely a dirt track, packed hard from thousands of traveling feet. The soil was there, but the seed could not lodge within it because the dirt was compact and unyielding.
Jesus describes the footpath as those who “hear the message of the kingdom”—those who are familiar with the Christian story—“but do not understand it.” It’s a stark message. But it draws us to assess the worn footpaths in our minds that may be hardened to God’s surprising kingdom. Have we understood the total degree of surrender he required, or the total degree of empowerment he promised? Do we hold narrow expectations about our circumstances that impede God’s ability to act? Are the worship events we’re involved in so airtight that there’s not wiggle room for divine activity to slip in?
As 2014 begins, we’re excited for what God has in store. Recently, we’ve seen God invigorate and provide for our churches in remarkable ways. Our prayer for 2014 is that the hardened soil of our fearful expectations would be broken, so that we are increasingly willing and open for God to move powerfully and abundantly in our midst.