Which Kind of Soil Am I?
1. A Tale of Two Cities - Iconium
In Paul’s first missionary journey, we see a pattern of how the ministry unfolded: the gospel was preached, then came division and persecution, but eventually it led to the growth of the church.
At Iconium, this pattern also applies. Paul and Barnabas had evangelistic success there, but the successful ministry was followed by opposition as the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the apostles, forcing them out of Iconium.
The unbelieving Jews had already filled their hearts with their own knowledge that there was no room left for Jesus. In the Parable of the Sower (see Matthew 13:1-23), a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Some seed falls along the path, some on rocky soil, and some among thorns. In these cases, the seed is taken away or fails to produce a crop, but when it falls on good soil it grows and bears fruit. Jesus explains, “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it” (Matthew 13:23 NIV).
Which kind of soil are you? What would you do in the face of opposition, slander and persecution? Bow down before God and pray, for “God shows favour to the humble” (James 4:6 NIV).
2. A Tale of Two Cities - Lystra
In Lystra, Paul healed a lame man as he was preaching and saw the lame man had faith. Jesus says in Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (NIV). The right attitude to pray is to let God’s Will be done.
Then the excited crowd declared Paul and Barnabas to be Greek gods, visiting the earth. Paul asked the crowd to recognise the true God, who is the only Creator, Provider and Satisfier, instead of worshipping him and Barnabas, but suffered persecution. Yet the Living God called some pagans to turn around and stand strong with the apostles. We don’t have to live in fear when we hold on to our faith. We can live unafraid.
When there are hardships, slander or violence, it is easy to see who is on Jesus’ side. And persecution comes not only from outside, but also from within. We may be feeling persecuted by all the stress in our lives. Do not be afraid. Paul was persecuted. Christ was persecuted. Everyone who believes in Christ will be persecuted.
But “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28 NIV), for God’s kingdom has invaded this wounded world through Jesus’ Word and Spirit! No matter which kind of soil you are now, just come to Jesus and repent. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV).