Mathew 13: 6b- “They withered because they had no root.”
One of the most daunting aspects of the Christian journey is the ability to discern correctly between the soul and the spirit. Perhaps, more succinctly stated, the work of the human soul versus the direction of the Holy Spirit.
There is a type of good work that seems pious and godly. To all outward appearance, the exterior trappings speak of exceptional outcomes and right intentions. Our human tendency is to assume that all things which appear to give glory to God and call on his name also originate from him.
However, the soul is highly versed in the ability to mimic and imitate. It is afterall where personality is formed and groomed. The soul is also the place in which the will exerts preeminence. Thus, acts of the soul, even religious activities that are intended to ‘impress’ God may have nothing whatsoever to do with what God initiates, wants or directs. These works will have no lasting impact or spiritual results and as a consequence must eventually wither.
What originates from the realm of the soul cannot by its nature (which is soulish) ever produce spiritual fruit. The origins (the seeds) are so different, it is like asking a banana seed to make itself into an orange. They are both plants best grown in the tropics, but that is where the similarity ends.
When the assaults of life threaten, only what is born of the spirit has the power to prevail. While the works of the soul and spirit can appear to come from the same source (which is especially difficult to discern in religious work), the work of the spirit is refined by fire while the work of the soul disintegrates when severely tested.
So, we must learn to avert our gaze from what a thing seems to be and instead ask for the gift of discernment. It is not what something looks like which is important. Rather, the question to be asked is what does a thing originate from? What is the source of this desire, action, reaction, intention? Does it originate from the soul or from the spirit?