What makes good soil

SERMON TOPIC: What makes good soil

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 25 May 2014


Sermon synopsis: A Christian who does not bear fruit for the kingdom is not good soil. You cannot say “I am good soil” when you haven’t produced any harvest. In the parable of the sower Jesus said:

Matt 13:23 “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (NLT)

God expects us to bear fruit:
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last...” (NIV)

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Matthew 13:1-9 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.”

“Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.”

“Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.”

“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The disciples didn’t understand the parable, so Jesus explained.

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. (Matt 13:18-23)

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.


The difference between the good soil and the other soil is simply: THERE WAS A HARVEST.











If you were to ask a farmer what makes good soil, what would he say?

To a farmer, good soil is the soil that renders the best harvest. So the rocky soil, thorny soil, and the soil that is plagued by insects or birds are not good soil, because these conditions all diminish or destroy the harvest.

In the parable of the sower it was the same seed that was sown, but there were different outcomes. The outcome was determined by the quality of the soil.

Q: Are you good soil?


Does giving your energy and resources to the kingdom of God not even make sense to you? Then you are the soil on the pathway, robbed of being fruitful and useful to God by Satan.


“Matt 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.”

Do you give up when times of trouble come? Then you are rocky soil.

Matt 13:20-21 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.”


Are you so preoccupied and busy with simply making a living or with chasing wealth, that you give very little time to God’s work? Then you are thorny soil.

Matt 13:22 “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.”


Are you a Christian not only in name, but actively leading others to Christ, both directly and indirectly by supporting other’s evangelistic or missionary efforts? Then and only then you have fully understood the Gospel and are good soil.

Matt 13:23 “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (NLT)


A Christian who does not bear fruit for the kingdom is not good soil. You cannot say “I am good soil” when you haven’t produced any harvest.

In Jesus’ parable there were different reasons for the soil being unfruitful:

They didn’t understand the gospel.

They gave up when things got tough.

They were too busy making a living or trying to get rich.

But despite the reason, the net result was the same – no harvest! The good soil produced a harvest. The bad soil did not.

Soil that is unfruitful is useless to the sower.


Matt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”


Jesus said we are the salt of the earth. But he also said that if salt doesn’t do it’s job, it is useless.

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. But a light that doesn’t shine is also useless.

Matt 5:14-15 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”


God expects us to bear fruit:

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…”

John 15:5,8 “… If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

If we do not bear fruit we will ultimately be cut off:

John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…”

John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees:

Matt 3:10 “The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And Jesus pronounced this judgement on the chief priests and Pharisees:

Matt 21:43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”


Luke 13:6-9 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ”‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”


Are you salt without taste, a light under a bowl, soil that has no produce, or a barren fig tree? Then you are not fulfilling the purpose you were designed for.

A soldier wounded was told to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, “For the slightly wounded,” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.”


He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For officers” and the other, “For non-officers.”

He entered through the second door and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “Males” and the other, “Females.”

He entered through the first door and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For those with Medical Aid” and the other, “For those without Medical Aid.”

He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street.


When the soldier returned home, his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?”

“Well, Mother,” he replied, “to tell the truth, the people there didn’t actually do anything for me, but you should see how well organized they are!”

The soldier’s comment describes many churches today: really well organized, but accomplishing little.

If our church and members do not support evangelism and missions, we are again as useful as a light under a bowl, flavourless salt, unfruitful soil and a barren fig tree.




In 1964 a 28-year old woman, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was attacked as she returned to her New York apartment late at night. She screamed as she fought for her life for 30 minutes. The New York Times reported that Kitty was stabbed to death while 38 “respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens” silently looked on. Allegedly one man turned up his radio so that he would not hear Genovese’s screams. Eventually a neighbour who saw the attack deliberated before finally getting another neighbour to call the police, saying, “I didn’t want to get involved.”


And even as we immediately condemn those who did nothing to save this young woman’s life, we remember the words of the prophet Nathan when David condemned the rich man who stole his poor neighbour’s only lamb.

You are the man! (2 Sam 12:7)

Are you standing by watching while others perish? Or are you trying to drown out their cries by distracting yourself with other activities?

How many people have you told about the Lord in the last year?

Jude: 22-23 Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them…


Of about 2229 passengers on the Titanic, there were only 713 survivors, while 1516 people perished. 1

When the Titanic began sending out distress signals, the ship Carpathia responded, but the Californian - which was actually the closer ship - did not respond until it was much too late to help.

1 historyonthenet.com/ Titanic/ passengers.htm


The Californian spotted 8 rockets fired from the Titanic but the Captain decided to take no action despite being woken twice. His wireless office had shut down for the night because there was only one operator aboard and he had gone to bed. So they didn’t receive the Titanic’s SOS messages until the office reopened at 5:30 a.m. By the time the Californian reached the scene, the Titanic had sunk and there were just bodies floating in the water.

If the Californian had responded earlier some have suggested another 200 could have been saved. 1

Are we sleeping while others perish? “Asleep In The Light” is a thought-provoking song by Keith Green.

1 Interestingly the Californian was later sunk herself, on 9 November 1915, by a German submarine in the Eastern Mediterranean during World War I. (See http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ SS_Californian)


Do you see, do you see All the people sinking down Don’t you care, don’t you care Are you gonna let them drown?

How can you be so numb Not to care if they come You close your eyes And pretend the job’s done

“Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord” You know it’s all I ever hear No one aches, no one hurts No one even sheds one tear

But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds And He cares for your needs And you just lay back And keep soaking it in, Oh, can’t you see it’s such a sin?


Cause He brings people to your door, And you turn them away As you smile and say, “God bless you, be at peace” And all heaven just weeps Cause Jesus came to your door You left him out on the streets

Open up, open up And give yourself away You see the need, You hear the cries So how can you delay? God’s calling And you’re the one But like Jonah you run He’s told you to speak But you keep holding it in, Oh can’t you see it’s such a sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark And the church just can’t fight Cause it’s asleep in the light How can you be so dead When you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave You can’t even get out of bed


“To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of this world as well. They are at ease while the world burns; and they can furnish many convincing reasons for their conduct, even quoting Scripture if you press them a bit. I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the Fall of Man.” (A.W. Tozer)


Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20)


On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. 1

1 Thomas Wedel, Ecumenical Review, October, 1953, paraphrased in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 99-101.


Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. 1

1 Ibid


As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building. 1

1 Ibid


Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. 1

1 Ibid


But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. 1

1 Ibid


At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. 1

1 Ibid


And do you know what? That is what they did. As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. 1

1 Ibid


History continued to repeat itself.

And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown. 1

1 Ibid


Oswald J. Smith (1889-1986), Canadian pastor, author and missions advocate, said:

“The mission of the church is missions.”

“The supreme task of the Church is the evangelization of the world.”

“Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.”

Well - how are we doing with the great commission we’ve been entrusted with?



Gospel available to 72%









We have been given a Great Commission, but for many Christians it is the Great Omission.

Jesus has not commanded us to go into “most of the world”, but into “all the world”. In Rev 7:9-10 we are told that the redeemed gathered before God’s throne consist of “every nation, tribe, people and language.”

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” (Hudson Taylor)

Despite Jesus’ command to evangelize, 28% of all humans have never even heard of his name.


While Christianity is expanding rapidly in the South and East, in the West (Europe and US) it is in decline, despite all of the church-growth seminars and megachurches which draw mainly on people who already are Christians, taking them from small congregations to bigger ones.

The late Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopalian bishop, summed up the situation this way: “In the Great Commission the Lord has called us to be--like Peter--fishers of men. We’ve turned the commission around so that we have become merely keepers of the aquarium. Occasionally I take some fish out of your fishbowl and put them into mine, and you do the same with my bowl. But we’re all tending the same fish.” 1

1 Em Griffin, The Mindchangers, Tyndale House, 1976, p. 151.


Instead of simply stealing sheep from other congregations, we should be taking the gospel to those who have never heard or responded to it yet.

Rom 15:20-21 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” (Oswald J. Smith)


Jesus told the twelve, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” (Matt 10:14)

So if the people you have told about the gospel are not responding, find someone else to tell.

“God requires no person to spend his or her life reiterating the gospel to people who will not receive it. He wants everyone to have an opportunity to hear. Then He would have us move on to other areas. The mistake of the church has been that she sits down to convert all the people in one country to the neglect of the great masses who have never had the chance to hear the gospel - not even once!” (A.B. Simpson)


Don’t just stand there – do something!

Paul Powell wrote in his book The Complete Disciple, “Many churches today remind me of a labouring crew trying to gather in a harvest while they sit in the tool shed. They go to the tool shed every Sunday and they study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and then get up and go home. Then they come back that night, study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes and grease their tractors and go home again. They come back Wednesday night, and again study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and get up and go home. They do this week in and week out, year in and year out, and nobody ever goes out into the fields to gather in the harvest.”


Do something even if you encounter criticism:

A woman once approached the great evangelist D. L. Moody to complain. She said, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like the way you do evangelism!” “Well, ma’am, let me ask you, how do you do it?” Moody asked. She replied, “I don’t!” Moody responded, “Well, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”


In order to get to the point where you can reap a harvest, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifice beforehand:

Psalm 126:5-7 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

The following article is based on a sermon by missionary Del Tarr who served 14 years in West Africa. His story points out the price some people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.


Del Tarr (1934-)

I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of savannah more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert.


In the Sahel, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands and feet.


The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year’s food, of course, must all be grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.


October and November...these are beautiful months. The granaries are full - the harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday’s Cream of Wheat.


The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.

December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal. Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day.

By February, the evening meal diminishes. The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don’t stay well on half a meal a day.

April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.


Then, inevitably, it happens. A six-or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. “Daddy! Daddy! We’ve got grain!” he shouts. “Son, you know we haven’t had grain for weeks.” “Yes, we have!” the boy insists. “Out in the hut where we keep the goats – there’s a leather sack hanging up on the wall - I reached up and put my hand down in there - Daddy, there’s grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!”


The father stands motionless. “Son, we can’t do that,” he softly explains. “That’s next year’s seed grain. It’s the only thing between us and starvation. We’re waiting for the rains, and then we must use it.” The rains finally arrive in May, and when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt!

Why? Because he believes in the harvest.


The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, “Brother and sisters, this is God’s law of the harvest. Don’t expect to rejoice later on unless you have been willing to sow in tears.” And I want to ask you: How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don’t mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, “I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this - but I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy.”


Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.


There was an incident that occurred in connection with an encampment of Shantung soldiers located at Shanghai. One day a dog came into their camp with some pages from a book in his mouth. The soldiers caught the dog and began to read the papers. They were pages from a Bible being printed in their language. They became very interested and followed the dog to a Christian hospital, asking for more of this kind of literature. 1

1 Walter B. Knight, Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations (Eerdman: Grand Rapids, 1956)


The Christian hospital was glad to help. This brought forth an opportunity for Dr. Goforth and a Chinese evangelist to visit the camp. 200 men were enrolled as inquirers. 1

If God can use a dog to deliver his Word, then can’t he use you?

This dog was more successful in evangelising than most Christians today, being instrumental in 200 men receiving the gospel.

1 Ibid


Jonathan Goforth (1859 -1936) first Canadian Presbyterian missionary to China

Make yourself and your resources available to God so that you can be salt that brings flavour, a light that shines in a dark world, a fruit-bearing fig tree, and good soil that produces an abundant harvest.



Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. ( Lockman.org)