August 8, 1995
My mother’s German Roller canary sings a lovely, rolling melody from his cage hanging in our kitchen. Before he arrived, someone gave mom a small ceramic bird that makes chirping noises whenever anyone bumps or shakes it. Obviously, it is an imitation — anyone can see the difference between it and the one in the cage.
I’ve noticed church goers can be like either kind of bird. Some are happy, even bubbling over in joyful song. They are different, full of life. They make you feel happy. If asked about their joy, they might say “Christ has given it to me. Once I was dead to God and dead in my sin, but now I am alive in Him.”
Other church goers are like the ceramic variety. They attend worship services, even talk about their church or religious experiences (only when bumped?) but something is missing. They might sing with their voices but there is no song in their hearts.
Because Jesus promised “abundant life” to His followers, vibrant joy should be the norm for those who claim to know Him. In fact, His Spirit will produce the “fruit” that is described in Galatians 5 as: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Because God gives joy, why should some Christians be lifeless, even sour, complaining and unhappy? Have they lost their sense of being alive with Christ? Have they lost their spiritual emphasis and focus? Are their lives consumed with problems, money or other things that take them away from God?
Perhaps. In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains that human hearts are like four kinds of soil. When the seed, which is His Word, is planted, one kind is like good soil and produces a good crop but the other three are unable to bear fruit. Jesus tells why. If the sower scatters the seed on hard soil where it cannot penetrate, that is like a person who is told about God and Christ but is so hard of heart they really do not hear the message. To them, it is just noise.
The second soil seems a bit better. That person is at first receptive but when any problems arise because they believe, it can be seen that their hearts are like deadpan. Whatever began to grow can find no root. They begin to resist and finally reject God’s Word. The Holy Spirit cannot produce fruit in their lives.
The third soil also receives the seed and it begins to grow too. However, this person’s life is full of “thistles” which represent the worries and concerns of this life. These things draw that person away from God and His Word and again, there is no fruit produced in them.
While this parable generally describes people who are without any faith, Christians can also have hardness deep down in their hearts. They can resist God during trials and miss out on the joy His Spirit wants to give them. They can become so preoccupied with worldly concerns and current circumstances, that their joy becomes dependant on these things. When all goes right, they smile, but as soon as trouble comes, that kind of joy disappears.
People with “good soil” hearts are receptive to God’s Word, all the time. They are “alive in Him,” not into power trips or worldly pursuits. Like a singing canary, joy flows out effortlessly. It is a part of being alive, being what Christ intends them to be.
On the other hand, a ceramic bird sounds like a bird, even look something like a bird. With considerable work, it could even move like a bird — but it will never be alive nor will it ever produce a real song. With Christ, people at least have the possibility.