Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root . . . in the time of testing they fall away (Luke 8:13).
Back in June we lost a tree in the backyard. By “lost” I mean it came down, falling across the back fence and scraping gutter off the back side my neighbor’s house. The tree was big – very tall, very big around.
What amazed me more than the size of the tree itself was the size of the root ball. When the tree came down it pried up a massive knot of earth and exposed a root system that looked like Medusa’s head. Some roots were massive and thick, others smaller and wiry, it seemed the tree should have stayed upright but it didn’t.
What brought the tree down was a brief but intense thunderstorm. As the storm approached, I surfed TV channels looking for weather warnings. But there was no hurricane watch, no wind advisories. Nothing. Just an intense storm that brought a burst of wind against that tree and down it came.
Jesus explained that when the seed of God’s word falls on shallow soil it appears to produce healthy growth. As best we can tell the seed has taken root. There are signs of life that look promising. But then the storm comes. A moment of testing. When the day of adversity comes it exposes the truth about the soil. It couldn’t sustain long term growth because it had roots that weren’t deep enough to hold or draw nourishment from the ground.
When God’s word falls on soil that lacks depth it produces faith of the same kind.
Shallow soil isn’t known for what it truly is until the day of testing comes. Before that, all seems well. You believe in God and rest in God’s faithfulness, you go to church, you pray from time to time. Your spiritual life seems firmly rooted. And then it happens.
You lose a fortune. You lose a career. Your body begins to fail you. Your spouse leaves you. What you dreamed of and expected never seems to happen. What you’ve dreaded and never expected starts to happen all the time. The day of testing comes, and you wither. The roots that should have sustained you never went deep enough to draw life in the dry season.
Psalm 1 describes a blessed life, the kind of life we all want, as a tree planted by streams of water. The person who lives this kind of life is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law they meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
That’s how our roots go deep. Continually meditating on God’s word. This is what pushes the seed to the core of our being so that when the day of testing comes we don’t dry up.
To meditate is to think or dwell on. You can do this in conversation with others, by memorizing, by writing – any practice that allows you to dwell on and explore God’s word. Start today, because a time of testing is here. If it’s not here, it’s on its way.
O God, plant your word deep in my heart and mind so that in the day of testing I will be able to stand – and not simply stand but flourish. Make me “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 2:3). Amen.