The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, but hearing (from God) requires obedience. So, one could say that faith comes when we exhibit obedience to the Word of God. And since the kind of obedience that pleases God exhibits itself in a consistent walk, obedience must be maintained for a period of time. The parable of the sower – Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8 – is one of the more important parables in the Bible, and makes reference to this time requirement in each soil description.
Soil One – No period of obedience - The word ‘immediate’ is used. This describes an individual not achieving any level of obedience. They don’t understand the command because they are not fully interested in hearing it. They have ears to hear but they don’t fully hear. The good seed does not have time to enter the soil before outside forces steal it away. They simple do not care enough to give the seed the time it deserves.
Soil Two – Insufficient period of obedience - The phrases ‘after a while’ and ‘only temporary’ are used. This obedience lasts until it is tested, and they fail this ‘time of temptation’. This failure is sufficient to interrupt the obedience and the seed does not ripen. No fruit (from the promise) is brought to ‘maturity’.
Soil Three – Inconsistent obedience - In this description a span of time is implied in that the thorns were apparently given time to grow and ‘choke’ the good seed. This describes an up-down inconsistent type of obedience. Yes, the good seed is allowed in, but so are the thorn seeds. Disobedience in the form of irresponsibility allows the thorns to grow, and this in turn causes the good seed to become unfruitful. This individual lacks Godly hunger.
There are two possible scenarios portrayed here. One is where the individual simply wanders off from the things of God, and the effects of the world take over. The other is an ongoing cycle of planting and seed death. The individual starts out well but never quite reaches that necessary level of consistent obedience. This cycle is an accurate picture of the rut that many Christians live in. They are working hard but they are not really going anywhere. Or to say it another way, they are working hard but not really growing anything. The plants are there, but very few if any make it to maturity. The blessings of God are always just out of reach.
Soil Four – Obedience period is reached and accepted - The phrases ‘hold it fast’, ‘with perseverance’, and ‘brings forth’ are used. This is a picture of one who is fully involved with the growing of their seed. These individuals are active and attentive to the seed. Temptations are overcome and thorns are vigorously rooted out in a timely manner. Obedience, responsibility, and perseverance are all necessary, each powered with the determination to continue on as long as it takes.
Once the required level of obedience has been maintained for the appropriate amount of time, God’s acceptance comes. This is the concept of ‘witness’ that Hebrews 11 talks about. It is at this moment that faith occurs in the heart, and if that faith is then acted upon – in continued obedience – the continued obedience is now called believing. Believing is simply acting consistent with a knowing from God – a knowing of what you have and of what you know to do. This knowing is based on the Word of God, and is the result of the fully ripened seed of the promise having come alive in the heart.
Believing is simply acting consistent with a knowing from God
Let me add that perfect obedience in this world is unattainable, except for and by Jesus Himself. Therefore, God doesn’t require perfect obedience, but rather a certain level of obedience, and this level is decided by Him and Him alone. Grace and mercy become big factors here, and remember, the measure you give out to others is the measure God will give to you. Big grace to others means big grace back to you. Now, go out and plant a good future with the Word of God.