Warning here: Unless you are pretty close to my age (Randy writing), you might be lost in this opening illustration.
I remember a particular men’s hair product being advertised frequently on black and white TV when I was a kid. It was for something called “Brylcreem.” You put this stuff in your hair – just a dab of it, mind you – and it would make everything unruly come perfectly together. The jingle went like this: “Brylcreem — A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! Brylcreem — You’ll look so debonaire. Brylcreem — The gals’ll all pursue ya; they’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!”
A lot of folks are into “a little dab’ll do ya” sort of faith. You just expose yourself to a little bit of it here and there, and wow, it goes a long, long way.
In our passage in Mark 4, Jesus spoke of this kind of perspective with the second of the four soils he would mention in his parable…
5 Some seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
The shallow nature of soil can sometimes be seen even in a person’s lawn. I have two of these conditions in my own large yard.
Being rather far into the country, we have a septic system rather than sewer connections. There is a main distribution box made of concrete that is in the back yard, rather shallow under the surface. I was worried when we built the house that I may not be able to find it if I needed to, but there’s no concern about that. Except in very wet and cool conditions, the square outline of the box location is often obvious, as the heat of the sun burns away the grass above it due to the shallow roots.
As well in my yard, I have the common Western Maryland condition of limestone rock outcroppings. A few places they stick clearly out of the ground, and I need to be careful that my mower does not experience intimate fellowship with the rock. But other places are only minimally covered by the soil, and in dry periods I am reminded of the stone just under the surface.
Again as Jesus returned later to tell the disciples of the meaning of the parable, he said this …
16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 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.
The meaning here is that certain people start out quickly in faith. They have a joyful experience, perhaps at a retreat, a concert, a conference, or even a church service attended. It is fresh and exciting, though it lasts about as long as a green banana before it turns rather quickly to yellow, and then to brown.
I call this sort of person a “dabbler” in faith. So what makes people only dabble in a relationship with God?
The text tells us the two main things that happen: troubles in life, and persecution. Both are inevitable in this world, a spiritual sort of “death and taxes” thing.
Troubles – We live in a fallen world with broken bodies that are falling apart. Beyond that we live here with everyone else who is as broken as we are. Nothing is more discouraging than the physical stuff that wears on us in a chronic way, or the relational stuff gone awry.
Persecution – Jesus said it would happen, saying that as the world persecuted him, it would persecute his followers. The Scriptures say that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. The world hates truth and the God of truth.
But if all you have is a dab of faith to rely upon when trials or persecutions find their way to your address, it aint’ agonna do ya.
Dabblers are not against church, they actually like it for the most part … that is, when they get there because there wasn’t anything else to do that week. They have hopes of coming regularly, but honestly, something else always come up. They want to be regular in Scripture reading and some sort of enrichment, but they never get started or make the arrangement to do it.
You don’t dabble into food once a month or so. You don’t brush your teeth every couple of weeks, just to get by. You don’t change the oil in your car once every other year. So why would dabbling in faith work out?