"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up." (NIV)
What, we may ask, is the cause of this hardened state? Why would a person insulate them self against the Word of God? The answer is given to us by the writer of Hebrews. He says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God...so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (3:12-13) Indeed, the answer is plain, sin is the cause of a hardened heart. But sin has many forms and it would be worth our while to name a couple in the short time we have.
Indifference, or apathy, is a prime reason for hardheartedness. It creeps in slow, undetected, and little by little the effect is made complete, until one might mistake flesh for stone. Let me ask you, have you ever sat under the teaching of the Word of God and had your heart pricked by the truth only to walk out the door and do nothing in response to the moving of the Spirit? Doing so is like a tiny shot of Novocaine to the soul. The next time you hear the Word the prick will be a little bit less noticeable, and less the next, and the next, until no feeling is left.
Another culprit is desire. The Apostle James warned that, "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (Js. 1:14-15) Is not death often characterized by the absence of feeling--of sensation? When we speak of someone having a dead limb do we not mean that it is lifeless, unresponsive and incapable of feeling the prick of a pin? This, James says, is the effect of desire. Listen carefully, your desires are often your worst enemies. And though it may seem strange that "feelings" can leave us numb, we must understand the difference between lower, base desires and higher, noble ones. This is why Peter admonishes us this way: "prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled." (1:13) When we speak of self-control are we not speaking of disciplining ourselves to submit our lower desires to reason--to the truth? This is why he says we must prepare our minds. And, incidentally, Dr. Feel Good is a quack!
This is quickly becoming more than a "Daily Bible Thought," but I must clarify one point before concluding. Psalm 37:4 tells us "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." The principle we must not miss is that when we submit our desires to God's desires, he transforms our low desires to mirror his own higher desires. We then will have our desires fulfilled because our Heavenly Father only gives gifts which are good for the soul.
So, does this part of the parable describe your inner life? Are you hardened against the Word of God? Breaking up the hardened soil of any heart will require painful decisions. There may be sinful desires to lay down, but look to God and trust that he will help you.