“ROOTS OR SHOOTS”                                By Pastor YAU

Text: Matthew 13:1-9                                     October 5, 2008.



1)   Words of a writer: In the life of a tree, one key to survival is having more roots than shoots. In his book Oak: The Frame of Civilization, author William Bryant Logan says, “If a tree puts on a lot of top growth but few roots, it is liable of weak-wooded and short-lived. But if a tree puts down a great deal of roots and adds shoots more slowly, however, it is more likely to be long-lived and more resistant to stress and strain.”

2)   Words of the Lord: Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus used a similar analogy in his parable of the sower. “People who hear the word and receive it joyfully are like seeds sown on stony grounds; they spring up quickly but endure only a short while because they have no roots.” People and organizations can be like trees. The fast rise to glory and prominence is exhilarating, but anything that puts up shoots faster than puts down roots is fragile and in danger of breaking, falling or dying.



1)    It is a much easier job: When Jesus told his audience the parable of building a house on the sand, (Matthew 7:24-27) many Bible scholars interpret it as an easy way out---don’t have to put in time, resource and energy to build a strong foundation. All the builder has to do is building what is above the ground. Putting efforts and resource on shoots is a fast way to see “results.” Lots of people take short cuts to get things done in a fast way. They want immediate results.

2)    It is putting on a show: Showing off is an old defect of human being. In the parable of giving, (Matt. 6:1-4) Jesus told of the hypocrites who announced his giving with trumpets to show his good deeds in giving to the poor or the needy. Seeking to show off, even in doing good deeds is out of line with Christian value. These people do things intended to receive glory from fellow men instead of from God. This is very important especially when Christians give to God and His church. There is no need to show off their good deeds.

3)    It is what people can see: In the parable of prayer, (Matt. 6:5-8) Jesus told his audience some people do things, even religious acts, for the purpose that others may see. Putting up shoots is for the same reason: so people can see. No one can see roots but all can see shoots, leaves and flowers. Many people, including some Christians, live their lives for that purpose: showing their whatever so others can see.

4)    It shows what is missing: From what a person does and his intention, it shows the inside of that person: his value, purpose and even character. People who care so much on putting shoots on the outside are those who often neglect putting down roots on the inside. God asked Prophet Samuel to look for the inner quality of a man instead of good looking. He wants us to pay more attention, invest more time and energy to cultivate inner qualities instead of doing things to show off on the outside.



1)   It is first thing first: Anyone who has experience of planting any thing knows before a seed could break the dirt and show a shoot, it has already grown long roots down the ground to begin the growing process. This is true in building a house. You have to take care of a strong foundation, sometimes driving steel columns into the ground, before you can build anything on the ground. Before we can put on the outside any glamour, glory or charm, we first have to put on efforts on the roots or foundation.

2)   It is for continued growth: Without deep roots to draw moisture and nutrition from the ground, no tree or plant may continue to grow, much less to flourish. To neglect cultivating growth of roots is to stifle the future of the tree. The reason that Jesus encouraged disciples to grow “in Him” (John 15:4) was to ensure the supply of spiritual power for their continued growth. So growing roots is not a waste of time, energy or efforts.

3)   It is for sustenance: Everyone knows that the standing power of a tree in time of stress, high winds, depends totally on its roots for survival. It must have roots grown deep and wide to be able to keep the tree from being broken. This is true in Christian life. We much grow deep and wide in our faith to withstand stress and pressures of life. Those who care the look more than the roots will suffer great loss in time of hardship and pressure.

4)   It is for fruit bearing: Everyone knows that the fruit bearing power of a tree or a veggie plant depends totally on the power of the roots to provide necessary of botanic supplies. No tree or plant may bud or bloom or produce fruit if it doesn’t have good roots under the ground. Christian life is the same thing. We need to grow deep in the truth, spread roots wide in our faith so we may be able to bear fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) We should not pay too much attention on how do we look in other’s eyes, we should cultivate our spiritual roots in the Lord to be fruit-bearing disciples to glorify our Father in Heaven.



1)    Lessons important to life: “Then He told them many things in parables.” (13:3) “Told” may be translated “taught” here. Jesus taught the audience many lessons through parables. The Lord used different ways to teach us important lessons we need to pay attention to learn. When we are too busy in things of life, often times we neglect to learn lessons from His word in the Bible. When you have time for TV, fliers, magazine or chatting nonsense on the phone, read the Bible, especially the books of Proverbs, Psalms, the Gospels and the New Testament letters. You will learn something important for your spiritual life.

2)    Lessons of seed sowing: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.” (13:3) Seeds are the origin of trees, plants and all vegetation. If there were no seeds, there won’t be vegetation because only seeds can give life to all vegetation. God in Jesus is the sower who came to this world to sow seeds of life, eternal life. The loving and caring God desires to see grounds grow vegetation with His seeds. He is also loving and caring for human hearts to grow spiritual life from His spiritual seeds, truth in the Bible.

3)    Lessons on Satanic snatch: “Some seeds fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up… when anyone hears the message of the Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” (13:4, 19) Satan, the evil one, works hard to prevent hearts from receiving seeds of God. Satan uses many distractions, human theories, philosophies and even phony religions to prevent men from receiving seed of eternal life.

4)    Lessons on shallow roots: “Some fell on stony grounds 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…the one who received the seed that fell on rocky grounds is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only for a short time.” (13:5-6, 20-21)These are the kind of people who takes the shallow highway in his life and faith. But because of lack of roots to hold his life and faith, he stumbled and fell with no return.

5)    Lessons on thorny grounds: “Other seeds fell on thorny grounds and the thorns grew up and choked the plants. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (13:7, 22)These people may look good from afar because of their seemingly flourishing image, but they are not bearing fruits to glorify God.

6)    Lessons on good soil: “Still other seeds fell on good soil where it produced a crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…The one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (13:8, 23)These are the kind of people who takes the word of God seriously and hold on to his heart and puts into practice. He will bear fruits too many to count.

7)    Lessons on listening: “He who has ears, let him hear.” (13:9)We all have ears but not all are anxious to hear the word of God. This is a personal choice with a consequence: hear it, hold it and act on it and continue to bear multiple times of fruit. Those who do hear and follow God’s teaching will be blessed with power and energy to be fruitful in whatever they do.



1)   Be mindful on shoots: Shoots may be shining branches and leaves. They may be beautiful buds and flowers. Shoots may also be outward shows of glamour, short cuts to success, rapid elevation to fame and prominence. Fast track of success and glory are often dangerous traps or slippery slopes that are certain to lead to rapid downfalls. Do not covet for easy way up or success. They are more of curses than blessing.

2)   Be mindful of roots: Roots are not at all glamorous or attractive but they are the source of our strength and endurance. Take time to grow roots before looking for shoots. A strong foundation is a must if you want your house to stand in time of storms. Grow deep in God’s truth and be willing to follow, to pay a price as required. Your roots in God’s truth and the price you pay will certainly bring in fruits of stability and strength in your life.

3)   Be mindful of salvation: God has promised to bless his faithful in many ways.  The most precious promise God made to men is the gift of salvation through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. Life in Jesus is a sure way to God’s presence and abundance. Trust Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord, build your roots of life in Him and He will bring about shoots that will last forever.