[Jesus] also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
It is both comforting and challenging to know that God can use ALL our efforts at sowing the seeds of HIS Word into people’s hearts, and that by this means HE WILL achieve HIS sovereign purposes. It is easy to feel discouraged when there is little apparent fruit borne from our labours, when we feel a bit like the ‘weeping sower’ of Psalm 126 as he distributes the ‘precious seed’ on the rock-hard, dry ground that seems so characteristic of people’s hearts today. But for the Psalmist after the return from Exile in Babylon, as for the disciples who were listening to Jesus here, we also have the Lord’s promise that there WILL BE a FULL HARVEST and a time for REJOICING, in spite of how things might SEEM to us.
Isaiah, who was given the tough mandate of Isaiah 6:9-10 (cf Mark 4:11-12) at the BEGINNING of his prophetic ministry, was able to take hold of this truth towards the close of his ministry: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:9-11)! The apostle Paul knew that he and Apollos were only to be INSTRUMENTS in the hands of a ‘God [who] made it grow’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
So let’s all be encouraged to keep on taking EVERY opportunity to sow the seed of God’s infallible Word, never letting any opportunity go by (even if the ground DOES seem dry and hard and unreceptive); and let’s trust our faithful God to play his part, even while we sleep – or, perhaps, spend time PRAYING that the Holy Spirit will do his work in the hearts of those we are seeking to reach!
It is also good to keep in mind some other instruction Paul gave to the Corinthians: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from GOD and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). The POWER at work in bringing about the New Birth is the SAME power that called the whole Universe into being OUT OF NOTHING – and it DOES work, even through ‘jars of clay’ like you and me!