Well-rooted in the Word or Withered

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Luke 8:6, 13 “Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture….Those on the rock 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.”

You heard Jesus right. These are people who believe for a while (we are people who have believed for a while) but in a time of testing they fall away. Matthew’s gospel defines this testing a little further as trouble or persecution that comes because of God’s word. This is suffering because of what we believe. Others oppose our Christian faith.

This kind of testing is a universal Christian experience. In some places the testing is severe. You remember about four years ago when about 275 Christian girls were kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, a Muslim terrorist group that opposes educating girls because it prevents them from adopting Islamic teaching as a way of life. All the girls were pressured to convert. Many were forced to marry. According to Boko Haram, as many as 90 have been martyred, and another 100 have converted to Islam.

For you and me, the testing has been more subtle. But the pressure is unrelenting. It is so much a part of the atmosphere in which we live that at times we may not even notice it. While canvassing one day, a woman in the neighborhood asked me what we believed. I wanted to talk about our need for repentance and Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross. She wanted to talk about same-sex marriage and paths to heaven outside of Christianity. She had grown up a Christian. But the spirit of the age in which we live had its way with her heart. She gave up not only a few isolated Christian doctrines. She gave up on Christianity altogether. And though she was polite, she made it clear there was something wrong with me for not “moving on” and letting go of what the Bible teaches.

Jesus never said that following him would be easy. He said, “Take up your cross.” It is easy to be a Christian when you are living in the joy of knowing God loves and forgives you, and when you are surrounded by people who share that faith and support it. That is God’s good seed at work in us. And we don’t have to lose that joy or surrender our faith when it comes under fire.

But we need roots in God’s word to go down deep, because Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword, and he warns that in this world we will have much trouble, and that we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. God’s word is a powerful seed, but we know it will be opposed by others.

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