Cultivating Receptive Soil
Having had the privilege to preach for nearly 15 years now, the truths of Mark 4 have always been a challenge to me as a person, and as a preacher. Jesus speaks of four types of ground that the seed of His Word falls on as it is communicated. The "wayside", "stony ground", "among thorns", and "good ground". Each were made recipients of the Word of God in the same way, but they each responded to the Word differently. We are tempted to think of the reception as not being the choice of the ground, but Jesus' interpretation of this parable gives light to factors that were allowed to affect the reception of the soil.
The wayside was too hard, and accessible to the devil, to truly receive the seed. Teaching that those that are determined to live apart from God, have to their destruction an ally in this cause, as the devil comes along to distract, explain away, or discourage any thought of receiving the Word given.
The stony ground was grateful for the prospect of change in its perilously parched pattern of living, but having no real depth. However, the excitement and difference a "religious"change may seem to be, will often cave to the calamities of life as there is no true depth of relationship.
The thorny ground is intriguing, as it appears that when God's word has been received, there is a start to growth. This is where many Christians seem to find themselves. They sense the conviction of the Lord, they understand a need for growth, but as they do, the roots and thorns of toxic surroundings begin to sap away at any prospect of life and vibrancy. Whether it is frustrations, ungodly relationships, desire for wealth, or a lust for the "norm", at some point the Word of God is choked out of its receptiveness in the heart of the hearer. The believer wilts, and the prospects of fruit are greatly diminished.
The final type of ground, which I believe most would at least desire to cultivate is the good ground. Ground that resists the devil, refuses to succumb to inward or outward pressures, and humbly submits to the growth process that takes place in the heart of the believer submitted to God's Word and way.
At any point, we can find ourselves cultivating any one of these types of soil. As we come to our Bibles, to church worship meetings, or other spiritual type of activity, we come, I hope, expecting something from the Lord. To bless, and be blessed. To serve, and be ministered unto. To feed others, and to be fed. Yet how often do we limit the potential for these things because we have allowed our circumstances, lack of proper prioritization, or pressures steal the seed of God's Word as it is presented. Maybe this week, we can look at all that is around us, and ask ourselves, is this cultivating a heart to respond to God's Word, or is it corrupting the soil and hindering God's Word? Imagine how effective God's Word will be if we allow it to fall into soil purposefully cultivated, and ready to receive its life giving instruction.
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it." - Isaiah 55:11
Mark 4:1-20 (King James Version)
 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.  And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:  And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.  And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.  And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.  And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables:  That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and [their] sins should be forgiven them.  And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?  The sower soweth the word.  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive [it], and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.