In gardening or farming, sun gives life to well-rooted plants, but death to others. That is why, in Jesus’ parable of the sower, seedlings in rocky places and scorched by the sun represent people who hear the word of God and fall away in times of trouble and persecution.
American Christians may not suffer persecution, or at least not to the extent that Christians in other places and times have, but no one gets through life without trouble and affliction. I don’t suppose that many would compare persecution, trouble, and affliction to the sun, but Jesus did.
The sun is good; it gives power and light. The sun is dangerous; it burns and blights. In our bodies, vitamin D comes from the sun, but so does skin cancer. The same sun that feeds plants most of the time kills them and dries them up in times of drought.
Although we don’t like to admit it, persecution, trouble, and affliction are good, at least for people in whom the word of God has taken root. It gives the power and light we need to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2), but if the word has not taken root, that same power causes people to fall away.
How many people have gone to church for years, undergone some kind of trial, prayed frantically, not gotten what they wanted, and then declared that all that religion stuff doesn’t work. Of course religion doesn’t work, if religion means going through all the motions at church. Faith does work, but only to the extent that a person has given up his or her own will to seek God’s.
Jesus’ parable speaks not of drought, but of sowing seed on rocky places–poor soil where seedlings do not take root. Ancient farmers lacked our machinery for preparing soil and planting seed. I’m sure they did their best to confine the seed to the best soil, but they could only throw it. The wind, if any, determined where it fell. Whatever fell on the path, the rocks, or among thorns did not last.
When the seed is God’s word, as in the parable, the sower has no business determining what the soil is like. The person who hears it bears responsibility for what to do about it. We are the soil in which Jesus by various means plants the word. Every Christian must seek to understand, let it take root, and prevent it from being choked out. God intends the holy seed (the word) to produce a robust crop of faith.
Affliction will come. No one gets through life without it. It is up to each one of us to determine whether the word of God has put down deep enough roots in our spirit so that affliction will benefit us by growing our faith, or merely scorch the holy seedling until it dies.