I. NOT HAVING ENOUGH EARTH
He said that the first reason is that there is not enough earth. This means that the earth is not deep; there is not much depth to the earth. A person in this condition has just a small amount; everything about him is shallow. There is not much within him; he is very superficial. He is easily satisfied and easily hungry. He takes in little and is satisfied with a little. It is easy for him to rejoice and easy for him to be sorrowful. It is easy for him to laugh and easy for him to cry. He is standing in a shallow place. He is a person living according to his environment, that is, he lives in his emotions. There is nothing in this world that is more shallow than his emotion and environment.
If a tree is large, its roots will surely be big, because it has to go deep into the earth to find water. Some roots go down as far as two or three miles because there is no water on the surface. When roots find no water on the surface, they will go to the depths. They will go down miles for water. One can find palm trees in the middle of the Arabian deserts. They wave with lush greenness under the scorching sun. The reason they can do this is that their roots have stretched themselves to the sweet water; they are no longer afraid of the hot sun. Therefore, even though they are most severely burned, they can absorb the cool water freely because they are not living on the surface of the earth but within the depths of the soil.
Oh, all those who live by their environment or by their feelings are living on shallow ground. Although I have not been working for the Lord for a long time, according to my experience, the most difficult kind of people are those who say "yes" to everything. No matter what you say, they respond with "yes," superficially accepting what you say. They appear to be very attentive. Actually, within them, they have nothing. The people who laugh and cry easily, who are easily affected by the weather, who become happy or sad because of their feelings or environment, are difficult to handle. The people of shallow earth are controlled by their emotions or environment. The deep ones are not that way. What they see is not the environment, but the Lord behind the environment. What they know is not the emotion. They have locked up their emotion and know the Lord from within.
Brothers and sisters, what becomes of those with a little earth? The Lord shows us a profound lesson here. If we are not looking at the Lord behind the environment but are living by our emotion or the environment, we will not be able to hold fast to any doctrine or teaching. What is the Lord doing among us today? He is seeking for some among us to be the overcomers. We will never be able to be the overcomers if we live every day according to the environment without any assurance at all; this is to live by our feelings without the knowledge of the Lord. Many Christians are happy when they progress in a smooth way. But when they encounter any darkness, they feel that everything is depressing. They do not know anything about the work of the Holy Spirit. They are not living by the Lord, but by man’s word, their own thoughts, and the arrangement of the environment. If they live this way, they will immediately fail when the trials come. Once the cross comes to them, they will fall. Therefore, if we fall back at the trials and do not take up the cross to press on, we will not be of much use to the Lord. Rather, we will be shallow, without much of anything, sensitive in our feelings, and living according to our feelings.
II. HAVING NO ROOT
The Lord tells us that the second reason for barrenness is the lack of roots. What is a root? In a tree, the part that can be seen is the trunk, while the part beneath the ground, which cannot be seen, is the root. The branches have life and are visible; the roots are invisible. The roots are buried in the earth. Therefore, the roots refer to the hidden life. Those who do not have any root before the Lord will be dried up in their life. Those who do not have a hidden life, who do everything before men and have nothing special before the Lord, cannot stand the test of the cross. Brothers and sisters, let me ask you honestly, is your living only what is seen by men? Do you have any secret life before the Lord, inside your own room? If your prayers can only be heard in the prayer meetings, if you only read your Bible to others, and if your works are all before men, you do not have any roots. Do you know what the roots are? The roots are the parts that cannot be seen, that are hidden, and that are in secret. The visible parts are not the roots. Therefore, before the Lord you must ask yourself how much of your living is actually before Him? Other than the part of your living, testimony, Bible reading, and prayer that have been done before men, how much has been done in secret? If you do not have a secret or hidden life before God and if you do not have any secret prayer, reading, or obedience, I can say very frankly that you do not have any roots. When the cross comes, it is no wonder that you cannot bear it. The only reason for this is that you lack a crucial, hidden life. Nothing can preserve you as much as a hidden life. If you see that a brother has fallen or failed, or has come into trouble, without asking anyone, you can surely say that prior to this trouble he lost his hidden life. He lost his hidden life during the previous weeks, months, or even years. Your spiritual life depends very much on your hidden life before God. If you cannot sustain a hidden life, you will be weak before the Lord. Therefore, you should realize the importance of the hidden life.
The shutting of the door in Matthew is a kind of root life. What did the Lord say in verse 6:6? He said that when we pray, we should enter into a private room, shut the door, and pray to the Father who is in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will repay us. The Lord is very particular; He said that the Father will see us in secret. Prayer is something that can be seen. We have always thought that prayer is something that is heard; however, the Lord did not say that prayers are heard, but that prayers are seen. Many times when we have no words before the Lord, our attitude alone is precious enough, because God is seeing and not just hearing us. Brothers and sisters, how much of what we are can be seen before God? How much of our living can be seen by God? How many times are we only seen by the Lord and no one else? Or are we doing everything in front of men? Now I have to say a few words particularly to the brothers who are co-workers. No one is as susceptible as the Lord’s workers. We suffer more temptations than others, because it is easier for us to put everything before men; we can even display what we have in secret. Brothers, let me ask again, how much of our lives are seen by God alone and not known by men? How much of our lives are spiritual before God and have never been told to men? How many of us have the experience of Paul, who hid his experience for fourteen years? How many of our things are kept exclusively for God’s enjoyment? If we do not have anything like this, I can honestly say that we do not have any roots. If we do not have a hidden spiritual life and have not been dealt with by God or smitten by Him in a hidden way, everything will be superficial and of no account.
Everything that man has must first be properly tested on the cross and able to stand the test before it can be considered reliable. If a man is deeply rooted in the death of Christ, he may go through trials, but he will still stand. Let me ask you this question: would you still say that you believe, if you are being persecuted for the Lord’s sake to the point of death, with someone saying, "I will kill you if you continue to believe in Jesus"? How do you know that you would not fall back in an attempt to spare your own life? The only protection you have when you go through trials, tribulations, and persecution is to have deep roots. If the roots are not deep, you will surely fail. If the roots are not deep, you will not be able to be an overcomer. If you want to remain standing in that day, you must have deep roots in ordinary times. This means that you must have a hidden life before the Lord and must continually have hidden experiences. Therefore, the only way that we can know that we will not fall in that day is by having an adequate amount of hidden life today.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 11: The Present Testimony (4), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)