When I was a teenager, I worked in a rurally-orientated retail store.
A large part of my day-to-day working life was spent interacting with people. Being somewhat of a ‘people person’ though, I enjoyed getting to know our customer base. I felt it was important when they came into the shop that a friendly, familiar face greeted them.
Then one day, my dad had an idea.
“I’m telling you,” he smiled, “I could walk into the shop as a customer, pick something to purchase, then have you personally sell it to me at the counter. You wouldn’t even know it was me you were serving!”
“Dad, come on,” I said. “There’s no way you would even get into the shop, let alone have me serve you, without me recognising you! “It just would never happen, I know you too well!
“You’re on,” was his simple reply. Needless to say, a week or so later, he did exactly what he was purportedly planning. And he’d certainly gone to great lengths to disguise himself in order to do so, might I add!
Now. Here’s where he and I debate some of the aspects of this story to this day. He says I had no clue it was him – I say I admit I wasn’t certain it was him, but also not 100 percent sure it wasn’t him!
At one point during the sales transaction I even said, ”oh, come on dad!”
But the assistant manager replying, “Jeremy, just serve the customer,” meant I backed off.
Whatever the case may be, I have to hand it to him – he was in the shop, I served him and I didn’t really know for sure it was him.
Here’s why I share the story in this context – and I probably haven’t even told my dad this.
That story is a memory which subsequently comes to mind regularly as Jesus teaches me things about walking with Him.
Usually it’s the thought, “…huh, Dad was right in front of me, and I didn’t really know it…”
Recently, as I read the parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-20, the story of my dad I’ve just shared came to mind again – and God laid something fresh on my heart. Let me explain.
Actually, as well as being in Mark, the parable is actually also recorded in both Matthew’s gospel (chapter 13 verses one to 23) and in Luke’s gospel (chapter eight, verses four to 15).
In Mark four, beginning in verse three, Scripture tells us Jesus shared how a farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But, when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no root.
Verses seven and eight say, “…other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” – Mark 4:7-8 (NIV).
In Mark’s account, the parable finishes in verse eight – and in verse 10 Jesus’ disciples begin to ask questions about the story. So, from verses 14 Jesus explains.
“…the farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” – Mark 4:14-17 (NIV).
He goes on to say that still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
In between the parable itself and the explanation we’ve just looked at, is verse nine which, as yet, you may have noticed I’ve not mentioned. But as I read it, something hit home. May it also encourage you.
As we know, the parable is about God’s Word and the responses – and varying heart attitudes – of those who hear it. In verse nine there’s a thought-provoking statement made by Jesus.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” – Mark 4:9 (NIV). Wow. That made me reflect again and ask, “What’s my response when He speaks? Am I alert and listening as one who has ears to hear and eyes to see?”
I need to be, if I am to be open and available to the ways in which God wants to use me.
With the story of my dad in mind, perhaps part of the reason I missed the fact that he was right in front of me – even though I was sure that could never happen – had to do with the fact I wasn’t looking or watching for him.
In John, Jesus tells us that one of the hallmarks of His followers is that we will both hear and know His voice and then listen to it. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me,” John 10:27 (NIV)
In Matthew, we’re told of another hallmark – that as Christians we are called to be both ‘salt and light’. “You are the salt of the earth…” Matthew 5:13a and “You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:14a
Jesus clearly operated in this during His earthly ministry and is most certainly our example on this front – whatever He saw the Father doing, He did (John 5:19).
The verse in John 10 tells us that as we follow Him and walk out our daily lives, He will speak and we will hear His voice. Matthew 5 tells us what we’re called to be when we hear it. It’s my heart that I would be that light and salt – a Godly influence – wherever my walk with Jesus takes me – thus reflecting His heart for others.
We as Christians are each called to be accurate representations of Jesus and His heart and to bring His influence to situations and opportunities He leads us into as we journey with Him.
I don’t always get this right, but every time I interact with people – be they those I know well – or those I’ve met briefly in passing before – my heart is that I ask ‘how would Jesus interact in this conversation?’ Then, listen to His voice and leading for the answer, and act accordingly.
As we firstly hear His voice, may we then be bold and step out to be used of Him in the ways He would have us be His hands and feet.
However that may look. I’ve heard it said that God is not looking so much for our ability, as He is our availability.
And seeking God’s truth – and allowing Him to grow us and shape us – takes a willingness to be challenged and changed.
So, don’t be like me in the story of my dad – I missed something happening right in front of me because I wasn’t looking for it.
May we always be sensitive to Jesus’ leading and guiding – and have ears to hear His voice and eyes to see how He would have us be salt and light as we walk each day with Him.
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By Jeremy Smith
About the author
Jeremy Smith is the editor of, and one of the writers for, Authentic Magazine.
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