Parables Alive! 7. God Brings Growth
7. God Brings Growth
Mark 4: 26 - 29
Because I’m not really handy, I often have no clue how certain things work. Let’s start with this microwave. I know you plug it in and punch some numbers and it cooks your food but I have no idea how it works. I have no clue how this sermon can go through this wireless microphone, be recorded on the computer in the back, uploaded to the website and then download in seconds to a device.
Last week we looked at 4 different soils on which the seed is sown. Since seed sowing can be discouraging and disheartening, today we’re going to study a short story that is found only in the Gospel of Mark. It’s located right after the parable of the sower and its aim is to bring encouragement to us. The parable of the sower demonstrates the importance of the quality of the soil. This parable shows the power of the seed itself. We could summarise it like this: When the seed takes root, there will be fruit. We might not know how God works, but we know that He is working. Let’s listen to this very practical parable…2 main encouragements –
1. We can sow but we can’t make the seed grow v. 27
One of our tasks as Christ followers is to sow the seed of the Word of God: “as if a man should scatter seed on the ground…” That is our responsibility and according to Spurgeon, “Holy seed sowing should be adopted as our highest pursuit.” We must get the seed of God’s Word into the souls of people because if Jesus is to be known, the seed must be sown! After the ground is prepared and cultivated and fertilized, the seed is sown but the sower can’t make the growth happen. He doesn’t dig up the seed to see if germination has taken place. He may water and remove weeds but he doesn’t touch the seed. We can sow but we can’t make the seed sprout. No matter if the farmer is sleeping or doing something else, the growth of the seed is in God’s hands. The farmer goes through his daily routines without exerting any extra energy into the plant to make it sprout.
When good seed goes into good soil, good things happen. When the seed takes root, there will be fruit. Friends, we don’t have to understand how things work in order for them to work. I don’t know how this microwave or microphone work, but that doesn’t stop them from working. According to the last phrase in v. 27, things grow but “he himself does not know how.” In Greek, the word order is quite lively: “How, he does not know.” Ecclesiastes 11: 5 reminds us that the way God works is not always understandable: “As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything.” That verse, and many others, reminds me that God is growing life in the wombs of mothers all over the world right now.
I sometimes hear people say that they don’t share Jesus with people because they think they don’t know enough. Listen: Our part is to sow; God’s part is to make it grow. After establishing the necessity of the new birth, Jesus told Nicodemus that there’s a sense of mystery about the Spirit in John 3: 7, 8: “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” If someone were to ask you to explain exactly how the new birth works, you’d probably struggle a bit. If anyone does ask you this, tell him or her that once they experience it, then they’ll know what it is. What’s true in an agricultural setting is true in the spiritual world. We can sow but we can’t make the seed grow. The beginning is often insignificant. What we see next is that spiritual progress is often imperceptible.
2. Growth is slow but it will eventually show v. 28
The phrase “all by itself” in Greek is where we get the word “automatic.” It’s the idea of being self-acting or without visible cause. We cannot make seed grow; we can’t even explain how it grows. This statement describes the organic growth that explodes underground leading to impressive growth above. Just like the seed germinates out of sight, so too, the seed of the gospel begins to grow before it will show. Martin Luther was spot on when he said, “After I preach my sermon on Sunday…I return home…and I just let the gospel run its course.”
I read recently that a seed that was buried in an Egyptian tomb was found thousands of years later and when it was planted in the ground, it grew! Why? Because there is life in the seed. I love what 1 Peter 1: 23 says about the seed of the Word of God: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” While germination is spontaneous, growth is always gradual. “First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” Check out this time-lapse presentation of how corn germinates and grows. [Show YouTube Video] Watching that video makes me marvel even more at the miracle of growth. An ancient Jewish prayer goes like this: “Blessed are you, O God, King of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth.” I don’t know much about how corn grows, but here are some “fast facts” about how faith grows.
Fast Facts about Spiritual Growth
• It’s normal to not see immediate results from evangelism. Many Christians have given up on witnessing simply because they’ve made an effort and didn’t see any results. Remember that you may simply be the first in a long line of seedsowers before the person is saved. Because the Word is powerful and productive, we need to be patient. The great missionary Hudson Taylor once said that there are 3 qualifications for missionaries: “patience, patience, and patience.”
• It’s normal for a Christian to grow. To say it another way, if you’re not growing, then something is wrong.
• Germination is spontaneous but growth is not instantaneous. While some of us want to have “microwave” faith where everything happens quickly, the truth of the matter is that growth takes time.
• Growth is not always easy to measure. Kingdom growth is often detected only at certain stages because we can’t always see change in our lives from day to day. But, when compared to what you used to be there should be change and visible fruit. 2 Peter 3: 18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
• Be gracious with those who still need to grow. There are hurts, habits and hang-ups that can derail us. New Christians need our love and support as they work out how to live for Christ. It’s often messy, isn’t it? Some habits and sins take a long time to overcome. But with time and the gentle discipleship of older believers, the plant sprouts and matures.
• Be intentional about your own growth. We grow when we want to grow. Or to say it another way: You are as close to God as you want to be. Read your Bible every day. Pray. Serve. Attend and participate in Sunday services. Join a Small Group. Share your faith. Love your neighbours. Get rid of sin in your life. Change your friends. Practice the spiritual disciplines.
• We need to help others grow but ultimately it’s God who brings growth. Have you ever tried to help a person grow but because their heart wasn’t into it, nothing happened? I take great comfort in the fact that God is the one who brings growth. 1 Corinthians 3: 6, 7: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” It’s God’s providence, not the farmer’s power that makes grain grow. Likewise, I can’t make people grow but I can direct them to God who will grow them.
• Sow the seed in your children and wait patiently for it to sprout. Psalm 126: 5, 6: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Sowing eventually leads to harvesting because when the seed takes root, there will be fruit – v. 29. We sow, God is in charge of “grow” and then we get to focus on what will show. If you’re weary of sowing the seed and tired of all the weeds, then you might want to memorize Galatians 6: 9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” We don’t have to know it all before we sow to all because when the seed takes root, there will be fruit.
The Word at Work in the World
We don’t spend nearly enough time celebrating what God’s Word is doing around the world. In spite of all the bad news that we hear, God is on the move and His harvest is coming in! Let’s be honest. Sometimes we can feel like the world is winning, but actually the Word is winning!
John 4: 35: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”
Video – Fanie
God is producing his great and final harvest and it will all come to pass exactly as he says…God has not failed, and the church has not failed. It cannot fail…seed is growing unto harvest, exactly as the Lord Jesus said. It will increase as you allow that seed to be planted in your own heart and God will give the increase.” I’m not sure how all these things work (point to items) and I’m not exactly sure how new life happens…but I know it does.