In part one of a message titled, "The Parable of Spiritual Growth," Pastor Greg Laurie of the Harvest Fellowship megachurch spoke about different kinds of hearers of God's Word, to help Christians and seekers negotiate their way to spiritual growth.
The message, part of an ongoing series "What Every Growing Christian Needs to Know," was based on Luke 8, which carries what's known as "The Parable of the Sower." But that can also have "The Parable of Spiritual Growth" as its title, Pastor Laurie said.
The parable tells us why some Christians press on while others do not, he explained, and read the verses:
"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown…
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the Word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
The pastor then explained that the sowing exercise was different during the biblical days. Farmers would fling seeds in an indiscriminate manner to the wind. And that's how we do evangelism, both one-on-one and mass evangelism, he said. The term "broadcast" literally means to sow the seed. So when we put our message on the Internet or television or radio, that's like flinging the seed, he said.
There are hearers who can be called "highway hearers," Laurie continued.
Satan is ready to strike when someone accepts Christ, just like birds who quickly come to eat the seed. No matter what you say to them, no matter how much you encourage them, they don't respond to an invitation to hear the Word of God, the pastor explained.
And then there are people who would readily come to a crusade or a meeting or to church, and also respond to the invitation to accept Christ. "And they are so fired up." They carry big Bibles, start quoting scripture, they sing louder than others, they talk to everyone about their newfound faith, but then suddenly you don't see them any longer in church. "They're the seeds sown on a rocky soil," Laurie pointed out.
They will then tell others that they went to a "Jesus freaks" place and that "it didn't work for me." But the reality is they didn't do their part, Laurie stressed, adding that they are generally impulsive by nature and lose their faith when they face persecution.
If you don't want to be persecuted because of your faith, then you're not going to make it; you cannot be a follower of Jesus, the pastor stated.
The word "persecuted" literally means to be hunted or chased, he explained.
We can "rejoice" when we are persecuted, Laurie said, quoting Matthew 5:11, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."
The megachurch pastor then said, "If you're a believer, these difficulties will not weaken your faith; they'll strengthen it."
He concluded, "Sometimes we build our foundation on a person, and when that person falls away, we fall away. If we build our foundation on a church, and when we see a little hypocrisy and inconsistency, we turn away. … Build your foundation on Christ."