Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. -- Hosea 10:12
Notice the phrase 'break up your unplowed ground'. It seems that the issue in the Mark 4 parable is soil that has not been plowed. Without the plow's work the soil is hard, shallow and strangled.
Our hearts, like the soil, can be hard, shallow and strangled. Trials, tests, hardships and suffering often reveal these aspects of our hearts. A trial will surface the person that we are on the inside ... what we really believe. A person may say that they "trust the Lord" in their finances, then lose their job and become anxious and agitated ... the trial surfaced a shallowness in their heart faith. Because faith is a heart issue, and really has little to do with our cognitive abilities, we can logically understand the concept of God's provision but until we have experienced it in our hearts we really don't believe it.
Once a hard, shallow or strangled area of our heart is revealed we need to allow God to plow that area of our heart. We first need to identify the heart issue, find its source and allow God to bring truth to the issue. God recently plowed an area of my heart ... here is how it went:
Earlier this year I accepted a ministry position with my church and had been happy serving the Lord in that capacity. A few weeks back I received a phone call from a person offering me a software consulting position that paid very well. I was very attracted to the offer and was tempted to pursue it ... that really frustrated me because I knew that it was not God's will. As I searched my heart in prayer God showed me that because of my childhood insecurity issues I always 'followed the money' when it came to job pursuits. You see my insecurity had a stranglehold on my heart and needed to be plowed. When I allowed God to plow my insecurity issues it set my heart free to follow the Lord vocationally.
It is not the lies that we believe with our minds that are issue ... these lies are a mere reflection of the inner lies. Lies we believe at an experiential heart level result in hearts that are hard, shallow and strangled. Trials expose these lies and only God's plow can bring truth to these areas and make our hearts free.