Oftentimes, we tend to think that our faith or the state of our spirituality is a result of our external environment —where God put us, the friends and family He gave us, the situations or trials He allowed us to encounter, and so forth. While all of these factors certainly influence our lives, they do not control or dictate our spiritual state.
Let’s look at the parable of the sower recorded in Luke 8:5-15. Had Jesus not explained the mystery of the parable to us, one possible interpretation is that we represent the seed, being sown wherever the sower pleases. This would have very well fit our theory that God puts us wherever He wills, which then directly impacts the outcome of our faith. If we go along with this theory, we may go so far as having pity on those who fell in unfortunate places like the rock or thorns, presuming they had no control of their fate.
However, Jesus revealed that the seed is the word of God. Therefore, we, namely our hearts, are the different types of ground. Depending on what kind of heart we have, we can have very different outcomes —losing the word right away, falling away in the time of temptation, being choked by the things of the world, or bearing fruit with patience. Nevertheless, everyone receives the word just the same. God is fair. Although we are so familiar with this teaching, we often forget the responsibility that it comes with.
The fact of the matter is: the onus is on us. We can actively apply the word of God in our daily lives, or let the devil snatch it from our hearts. We can receive the word with joy for only a while, or we can steadfastly hold onto it at all times. We can tend our hearts to become good, or let it infest with thorns. Our external circumstances are no longer the determining factor.
Back to our initial assumption, yes, there are many things in life which make us who we are today. Certain people or situations may have come into our lives for better or for worse. However, if we always attribute our successes or failures to external factors, we will never grow spiritually. We may not be able to change much in our lives, but our hearts is the one thing God allows us to be in control of. And with God’s help, our hearts can change.
We need to realize that a good ground does not just result from the absence of difficulties. It also does not come naturally right after we become Christians or so much as receive the Holy Spirit; it must be cultivated. If there are any obstructions within our hearts, we need not remain in such a state nor feel hopeless. Rather, we should strive to change, work hard to remove them one by one, and, gradually over time, become the good ground that bears good fruit.