The Word of God is not like any other word. It relays a message, true. It tells of the good news that Jesus died on the cross for all sinners and freely forgives all, who put their trust in him. Yet even more than a simple message, even a good one, the Word of God is powerful. It has the power to penetrate the stone hard heart of the unbeliever and create a burning faith. Our Lord spoke through Isaiah, "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)
The Word of God has power to save, yet not everyone who hears God's word has faith and is saved. This is not the fault of God's Word nor is it a weakness of God. The only one to blame for the rejection of God's Word and faith is the one, who rejects it. You can't blame anyone else for your unbelief, let alone God! Neither is God's word proved weak when it is rejected. Even in the unbeliever it works, but not for salvation. Our Savior Jesus says, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." (John 12:48)
Many hear the Word of God, which has power to save. Yet not everyone who hears it is saved. Jesus tells a parable, which divides those who hear God's Word into four groups.
The first group is where the seed is scattered on the path. It gets trampled underfoot and the birds of the air devour it. Jesus says these are the ones, who hear the word of God, but the devil snatches the word from their hearts, so that they do not believe and are not saved. The devil snatches the word from your heart by lying to you. He says, "Did God really say?" And so we even have many churches and pastors, who question God's Word. They pick at it and choose what they want and don't want to believe. They trample God's word under their feet and rule over it as if it were their disposable property. And so many are led astray, taught even from pulpits to question and doubt God's Word. And yet even in such dangerous spiritual environments, God's Word is still powerful enough to break through and create faith. There are even some who belong to heterodox congregations, which question God's Word, but when they hear God's Word they believe it by power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet even in faithful parishes, the devil takes a seat in the pew. He pecks at your ear, "Did God really say? Do I need to believe that?" He makes you think that the Word of God is any other word, for you to judge according to your own wisdom. In this way, many hear the Word of God, but they aren't transformed by it. Their faith isn't formed by what God promises nor is their life guided by God's council. They take and leave what they want like at a restaurant buffet.
Of course Satan can also simply make you not listen. You hear, yes, but the Scripture lessons and sermon are but white noise, like the humming of a boiler or the whirling of a fan. You can sit and hear it, yet not grasp a single word. So pay attention! Listen to God's Word! Don't let Satan take it from your heart.
Then there is the seed that falls on the rocks. These people hear the Word of God and receive it with joy! They actually believe that Jesus is their Savior, that their sins are forgiven and they have new life promised for them. Yet their faith has no roots. When testing comes, they soon fall away. Their faith is shallow, superficial, just skin deep. They are concerned about frivolous things instead of the deep mysteries of God. They value their flesh, which will die and decay more than the promise of eternal life with Christ. So, when persecution comes, they give in. And not even the great persecutions of the early Church or what is still being practiced on the far parts of the globe. There are accounts in history of churches being lit on fire, when the church was full of worshiping Christians, who refused to sacrifice to a false god. Christians have been crucified, fed to animals, and even today they are beheaded for their faith in Christ. Many escaped such attacks on the body, yet they did it in exchange for their soul.
But many don't even need such attacks to fall away. Their soil is much shallower than that. Some fear ridicule by their friends, they don't want to seem too religious. Or sometimes God's Word says something they don't want to hear. They're fine saying that they are sinners, but when God's Word addresses their personal sin, that's just too much. Sickness and financial ruin, which should drive them closer to God's word push them away. Even the sin of other Christians shakes their faith until they are uprooted. A healthy plant would be able to endure the noonday heat, but these have nor moisture to endure.
Next is the seed that fell and its roots went down deep, but it grew among the thorns. These are they who hear the Word of God and believe for a while, but the riches and pleasures of this life choke the word and their faith doesn't mature.
I've always marveled how Jesus looks St. Peter in the face and says, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny me three times." (Luke 22:34) And although Peter would deny it, promising to die before he would deny Christ, still he looks at his denial through the rear view mirror when the rooster wakes him from his unbelief. How can Peter hear the clear warning from Christ and set his mind against denying Christ, yet, still deny him just a few short hours later? Well, look at us? Look at yourself. Jesus looks you in the eye and says, "The cares and pleasures of this life will choke the word out of your life." And do you still permit the thorns to grow? How many hear this warning so often from the pulpit and read it from the Bible, hear it from their Christian loved ones, yet still let these earthborne cares steal the word from their heart?
And it isn't even just the sinful pleasures of this life, like drunkenness and fornication, which choke the word, so that their faith dies. Work has become the great excuse for not coming to church and hearing God's word, you'd think only the unemployed would have faith! Sports, that are meant to teach children discipline and let them have fun to release the stress of school become thorns to choke out even the little children. There is no time for prayer or God's Word or worship. And there are many other cares and pleasures in this life, money, vacation, friends, family, marriage, and the list goes on. Many of these are gifts from God, yet they become objects of worship. And so they choke out faith so that it doesn't mature.
It doesn't mature, so it dies. If faith doesn't mature, if it doesn't grow, it will shrivel and die. And so the Christian must constantly hold on to the Word of God. You are not saved, because you once confessed Christ, because you once repented of your sins, because you once held fast to Jesus' forgiveness. You are saved when you endure in this faith until your end. And so you must hold fast to this word until your end.
This brings us to the last group: the seed that fell on good soil. These are they who hear the Word of God and hold fast to it with an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience. Like the Virigin Mary, these Christians cherish God's Word and ponder it in their hearts. These Christians are fruitful. This means their faith has matured. They actively repent, because they are honest with themselves and let the Word of God rule them. They practice love, forgiving those who sin against them and looking to help their neighbor. They grow to maturity in their faith. Yet they do this with patience.
They endure the cross. They endure the scorching heat, the high winds, the drenching rains and the droughts. They forsake the pleasures of this life and endure persecution and they frequently tell the devil to shut his trap. As good soil must be broken up and hoed, so these Christians let the Word of God work on them, breaking them up, so that they turn from their sins. God's Word works in them to form them into little christs. And so the Word of God must work in each of us.
Our Lord Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24) And so he spoke of his own passion and death and burial in the tomb. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He was sown into the ground as a dead man. Yet, he rose from the dead to bear much fruit. You are that fruit. The power of God's Word is the Gospel that Jesus died for the sins of all people. The reason God's Word does not return empty is because Christ accomplished what he was sent into the world to do. He became like you with flesh and blood, trials and tribulations. He did not sin, but took your sin from you to make it his own. And Jesus took your sins to the grave, burying them in the ground forever. This is the power of your salvation. This is why the seed sown in you today has the strength to bolster your faith, to bind you where you are broken, and to give you the patience needed to continue in this faith.
All Scripture is about Jesus. Hold fast to Jesus with a good and honest heart. Put your sins on him. Trust in him. Learn more about him. Receive his body and his blood for you. Jesus is your salvation. When Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear let him hear," he is telling you to listen to what Jesus has done for you and continues to do for you. This parable is about Jesus. Cherish Jesus and he will strengthen you in this faith to life everlasting.