Success in the business world depends on a number of variables. One of those variables is the ability to determine your market. To be successful in business, you must honestly, correctly identify your real market.

It is very easy to get psyched up, hyped up, and heart-and-soul excited about what appears to be an excellent business opportunity. It is very easy to tell yourself these four things. (1) "I have a wonderful product." (2) "There is a real need for my product." (3) "Eighty per cent of the people in Fort Smith have an actual, existing need for my product." (4) "Therefore if I go in business and sell my product, the business cannot fail!"

It is real easy to believe that situation is a "sure thing." On the basis of my enthusiasm and confidence created by the situation, I begin my "cannot miss" business. However, in the face of all my enthusiasm, three sobering facts still stand. (1) Not everyone understands that he or she needs my product. (2) An undetermined number of people understand that they need my product, but they do not want my product. (3) An undetermined number of people understand that they need my product, and they want my product, but will never consider buying my product from me.

Many businesses with an excellent product fail. They do not fail because the product is bad. They do not fail because there is not sufficient need for the product. They fail because people refuse to buy the product.

  1. One of Jesus' best known parables is a kingdom parable we commonly call the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-23; Luke 8:4-15).
    1. The parable was based on a real life occurrence that happened every year.
      1. It was the time of the year to plant your wheat or barley crop.
        1. Bread was their basic, daily food that sustained their lives.
        2. They made much of the bread they ate from the grain that they grew.
        3. As an agricultural society, planting wheat or barley was critical to survival.
      2. They did not have horses, mules, or tractors to cultivate the ground or to plant the crop.
        1. They planted their wheat or barley in a way that we would call primitive today--they sowed it by hand.
        2. When I grew up on the farm, we referred to this kind of planting as broadcasting (has that word every changed meanings!).
        3. They carried their seed in a bag.
        4. They sowed the seed by taking a handful of it and scattering it as they walked through the field.
        5. When you sow seed, If you want a crop, two things are true:
          1. You have to be very generous in scattering seed.
          2. You have little control over where the seed lands.
      3. This sower was scattering his seed.
        1. Some of the seed landed on the pathway that separated the fields.
        2. Some of the seed landed on ground that was so full of rock that there was too little soil for the plants to mature--in days ahead when the sun was hot and the rain stopped, the hot rocks would cook the roots.
        3. Some of the seed fell on ground that had thorns growing on it, and the young plants that came up could not compete with the thorns.
        4. Some of the seed fell on fertile ground, came up, and produced a harvest.
    2. This is one of the few parables that Jesus explained to the disciples.
      1. The seed is the word of God.
      2. The four kinds of soil are the hearts of men and women.
      3. The hard pathway represents the person who hears God's word, the message about God's kingdom, and does not understand.
        1. The seed that fell on the hard path was exposed.
        2. The birds saw it and ate it.
        3. Because this person's heart is hard, Satan snatches away the seed.
      4. The rocky soil is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.
        1. But he does not let an understanding of the message take root in his heart.
        2. When what he learned caused suffering and pain in his life, he fell away.
      5. The thorn patch is the person who hears the word, but he allows the worries of the age and the deceitfulness of riches to choke the word so it does not produce any fruit.
      6. The good soil represented the person who heard, understood, and produced grain.
    3. This parable contains three extremely important, powerful lessons.
      1. The first lesson is that you and I have one of those hearts.
        1. Everyone of us has a hard heart, a rocky heart, a thorny heart, or good a heart.
        2. The basic challenge of the parable is not for you to determine what kind of heart everyone else has.
        3. The basic challenge of the parable is to challenge you to look at your own heart and see what kind of heart you have.
        4. How does your heart react to the word of God?
      2. The second lesson: the seed was sown everywhere--hard hearts, rocky hearts, thorny hearts, good hearts.
        1. Though the seed was scattered over the entire field, the entire field did not contribute to the harvest.
        2. Not everyone will receive and understand God's word.
        3. Not everyone wants to be a citizen of God's kingdom.
        4. The problem is not in the sower; the problem is not in the seed; the problem is in the fact that many people do not want God.
      3. The third lesson: three of the four kinds of hearts produced no harvest for God's word, bore no fruit for God.
        1. Before we start discussing how sad that it is that so many in the world reject Christ, look very carefully at the parable.
        2. The hard hearts never received the word of God, never were a part of God's kingdom.
        3. But two of the hearts did receive the word, did begin life in God's kingdom, but did not accomplish God's purpose.
          1. The rocky heart looked wonderful as the seed sprang to life--the rocky heart felt real joy
            1. But there was not root system to sustain this heart when life got difficult.
            2. The seed came to life temporarily.
            3. When living for God became difficult, they quit.
          2. The thorny heart gave life to the seed.
            1. The problem was not that the seed did not come to life.
            2. The problem was that the new plant could not compete with worry and materialism.
            3. Jesus did not say that the plant was choked to death, but the plant was choked to the point that it produced no harvest.
      4. One of the bad soils never responded to God, but two of the bad soils did respond to God.
        1. Let's put it another way.
        2. One of the bad soils was never in the kingdom of God.
        3. Two of the bad soils were in the kingdom of God.

  2. When I was a college student and a young preacher, evangelizing the world was stressed in many ways.
    1. A lot of emphasis was placed on bringing the lost of the world to Christ.
      1. The need for missionaries was stressed.
      2. The importance of evangelizing our nation was stressed.
    2. One of the models used to promote the power and the success of evangelism was a specific one-on-one model.
      1. The model: if every Christian converted one person to Christ every year, then every person in the world would become a Christian in "X" number of years.
        1. This model has a basic flaw seen in its basic assumption.
        2. That assumption was that every person could be converted to Christ.
        3. According to Jesus, that assumption is not correct.
      2. Not even Jesus could convert everyone in the nation of Israel, a nation that believed in the living God.
        1. Multitudes wanted the benefit of Jesus' power.
        2. Few wanted the benefit of Jesus' teachings.
        3. The majority of people in first century Israel did not respond positively to Jesus' resurrection.
        4. The majority of the first century world did not respond positively to the gospel.
      3. In those days there were hard hearts, rocky hearts, and thorny hearts.
      4. Today there continue to be hard hearts, rocky hearts, and thorny hearts.
      5. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he explained reality in this way:
        John 3:19-21 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
        1. There always has been and there always will be evil people who love the darkness of evil and hate the light that Jesus brings.
        2. People who practice evil hate Jesus' light.
        3. People who practice evil refuse to come to the light because they are afraid that their deeds will be exposed.
        4. Only those who practice the truth come closer and closer to the light.
        5. They want to see and understand who they are and what they do.
        6. They know that they cannot fight the evil in their lives if they love the evil or if they are blind to the evil.
        7. A person can be blind to the evil by living in the darkness and refusing to come close to the light.

  3. Let's ask some essential questions.
    1. Does God love all people, the entire world?
      1. Jesus said God did in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world..."
      2. Paul said so in Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,"
      3. Peter said so in 2 Peter 3:9, God does not want any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.
    2. Did Jesus die for sins of all people?
      1. Jesus said so in John 12:32, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me."
      2. Paul said so in 1 Timothy 1:15, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
      3. Peter said so in Acts 10:43, "Through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins."
    3. Will all repent as God wishes or accept the forgiveness that Jesus wishes to give them? No.
      1. The opportunity exists.
      2. Not everyone sees it as an opportunity.
      3. Not everyone will accept the opportunity.

Do you remember Jesus' statement to the disciples, "Look at the fields! They are ripe and ready for harvest" (John 4:35). Do you know who Jesus was watching when he said that? Samaritans. The Jews regarded Samaritans as outcasts, as non-people. Jews would not have looked at any Samaritans as a harvest for God. Jesus did. He saw their hearts, and their hearts were good soil.

[Prayer: Help us sow and trust You for the increase.]

Someone says, "What we need to do is convince people that they need to be baptized." I disagree. What we need to do is to convert people to Christ. People who are baptized, but are not converted are rocky soil or thorny soil. People who are baptized because they are converted to Christ are good soil. What kind of soil would Jesus call you? Look at your heart. Are you converted to Christ? Or, have you just been baptized?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 6 February 2000

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