Summary: Message shows how God uses trials to allow our faith to be tested.
Steve Hanchett, pastor
Berry Road Baptist Church
“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
Here we find another test of faith. It could also be looked at as a test of love. We already spoke about how the prime characteristic of a Christian is love and especially love for Christ. That love for Christ is deep and strong. And one of the evidences that a work of God has happened in our hearts is that we love Christ that we will not abandon our walk with Him when it brings trouble to our lives.
In this parable Jesus describes a person who apparently make some sort of commitment or profession of faith. As a matter of fact they respond very quickly and with great enthusiasm to the message of the gospel. There is every reason to believe from outward appearances that this person has genuinely been converted.
But to come to that conclusion would be a mistake. For it seems that just as quickly as this person makes a show of Christianity, it is all abandoned. And the reason it is abandoned is because the very same message that brought such joy has also brought with it a great deal of trouble. And the trouble or the cost of recieving the message does not seem to be worth it to this person so they abandon the word. This person sacrifices eternal salvation for short-term peace.
Jesus uses two words, “tribulation” and “persecution.” Both words imply that the reason trouble has come is because of this person’s profession of faith. And we see clearly that this is what Jesus is saying. For he says these things, “arise because of the word.”
This should not surprise us. Remember what the Scriptures say:
“In the world you will have tribulation.” John 16:33
“We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
“We told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened and now you know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:4
This is not meant to discourage us. Actually, this frank honesty about what to expect in living for Jesus is meant to encourage us. It is intended by the Lord to keep us from being caught off-guard. Someone might think that God has forsaken them when they find themselves abused or hated because of their faith in Christ. So God warns us ahead of time that these things are to be expected.
Recieving the message of the gospel certainly is a cause for joy. Nothing could be more wonderful than to know that your sins are forgiven and that you have entered into a relationship with God. What could be more exciting than to know that you are assured a place in heaven? But we should also recognize that there is not only a great blessing in knowing Christ, there is a great cost as well.
This is why Jesus emphasized so often the cost of following Him. The told those who indicated that they wished to be His disciple that discipleship to Jesus required a resolute decision. There is no room for reluctance. A man that puts his hand to the plow is not fit for the Kingdom of God. You can’t come to Christ with your own qualifications and demands about how and when you will or will not follow. Jesus demands an absolute, irrevocable, clear-cut decision.
Jesus also told those who wished to follow Him that discipleship to him required a radical decision. He recognized that a decision to follow Christ may mean a decision to risk rejection by family and friends. Jesus understood and clearly communicated that to follow Him meant that we had to cut off anything that stood in the way of our walk with Him. Further, this decision to follow Christ was so radical that Jesus said it meant that a person had to die to themselves. Discipleship to Jesus means that everything and everyone has to be laid at His feet and surrendored to His Lordship.
Not only is this a radical decision, and a resolute decision, it is a risky decision as well. When a person chooses to follow Christ they put themselves at risk of experiencing persecution and tribulation. As Jesus says in this passage there is an offense that comes with the gospel. The word that He uses in the Greek has come to us in English as the world scandal. The gospel of Christ is either a rock on which a person can anchor His life or it is a stone over which people trip to their own destruction.