Prepare Our Hearts – October 2

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Friday, October 2, 2020
Mark 4:26-29

 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Earlier this week I was driving our youngest to preschool when Meagan called to ask me to do something for her when I got into the office. Like most children ours are extremely curious, so as soon as I hung up the phone the four-year-old started to pepper me with questions. Her: “Who was that?” Me: “Mommy.” Her: “What did Mommy say?” Me: “She asked me to do something.” Her: “What does Mommy want you to do?” Me: “It would be too hard to explain.” Her: “Tell me what Mommy wants! What does she want? I’m going to keep asking you ‘what’ until you tell me what she wants.” This KGB-style interrogation kept up until I caved to her demands and explained what Mommy wanted (which was apparently so important that now just a few days later I don’t have even the slightest clue what it was). As a father, I am frequently asked questions that I am either unwilling or unable to explain. While most of the time our girls believe I am withholding information from them, the truth is that there are a lot of things in life that I don’t fully understand, like why with only four women in our house we need to buy boxes of 500 hair bands and said hairbands are simultaneously everywhere in the house except in their hair and whenever they need one none can be found.

Like the parents of young children, Jesus was frequently peppered with questions by an anxious audience. Of course, unlike us, Jesus is God, meaning that His knowledge is infinite and there is nothing that He does not understand. The problem Jesus encountered was that the crowds lacked the intellectual capacity to understand His answers to their own questions. The parable Jesus shares in our passage today falls on the heels of the parable of the sower earlier in the chapter. In that parable, Jesus taught that how people respond outwardly to the gospel reveals the condition of their hearts. Although the gospel always has the potentiality to be the power of God unto salvation, the reality is that some people will reject the gospel; not everyone who hears the Word will be saved.

Naturally the parable leads to many other questions like, “How does the kingdom of God work? How do we know that anyone will be saved? What about me?” Regardless of whether these questions were ever asked aloud or merely thought, Jesus responds with yet another parable about scattered seed.

In this parable, Jesus explains that the kingdom is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground and then goes along his merry way. As with every farmer, the man is busy taking care of business and trusts that the crop he planted will grow. He does not anxiously check the crop the morning after it was planted, becoming concerned when no signs of life appear overnight. The farmer knows that he has already done everything he can to ensure a good harvest and the rest is out of his control. He prepared the soil in an area that provided appropriate sunlight, he makes sure it receives adequate water, and he has seen crops grow in this field before, but how exactly does the growing process work? What makes the seed transform into first a blade, then a shoot, then an ear, and finally produce fruit ripe for the harvest? He does not know. But when the harvest is ready, so is the farmer, and he gladly reaps the reward.

Now, what do a grain harvest and non-anxious farmer have to do with the kingdom of God? Jesus is explaining that regardless of how things appear in any given moment, the growth of His kingdom is certain, it is guaranteed. Just like the planted seed, although there may be times with no noticeable activity above the soil, and no two harvests will ever be identical, the kingdom will grow when the gospel has been sown because its growth is determined by the Lord, not the sower.

So do the words of Jesus give us a free pass to live as we want knowing that Jesus will do what He pleases regardless? Not exactly. The Lord has graciously given each of us unique roles to play in His kingdom. Some are especially gifted in sharing the message of salvation, while others are skilled in expounding upon the Word of God in the process of discipleship. Still others minister not through spoken or written word but through gospel hospitality, generous giving, or acts of mercy. Each individual is responsible to use their God-given gifts for the advancement of the kingdom, but even then God is the one who deserves the praise.

In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul explained to the quarrelsome church in Corinth that it is foolish to be concerned with who first shared the gospel with who or to take any pride in believing that we deserve credit if someone comes to faith as a result of our ministry efforts. He says in verse 7: “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” While the one who plants is fulfilling their purpose, and the one who waters is fulfilling their purpose, all human efforts are for naught if the Lord does not do what only He can do; regenerate the heart and cause the Word to mature into faith.

Rather than a call to apathy or a license to live as we please, Jesus’ words are an invitation for His followers to rest securely in the plan and power of God. So often we grow anxious and concerned when God does not act in the way or the speed that we would like Him to. Perhaps like me, there are times when you have grown frustrated or even resentful with God because of the difficulties He has allowed you to experience, or your prayers for unbelieving friends and family members have gone unanswered, or you have not personally attained the depth of spiritual maturity you desire for yourself. Perhaps life hasn’t turned out anything close to what you had hoped that it would be. But Jesus reminds us that even though we can’t always see it, He is working, and while our best-laid plans may fall by the wayside, His plan is better and His ways are higher than anything we could dream or imagine.

We may never have all of our questions answered to our satisfaction and, truth be told, God does not owe us any explanations. But we can be confident that He is merciful and good and knows what He is doing. Before Jesus did His work inside of us to regenerate our hearts, we were dead in our sins and transgressions, powerless to even respond to the gift of grace much less receive it or grow in it. No one can or will come to faith unless the Lord first does a miraculous work in them, and the amazing news is that Jesus is still at work. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus continues to call people out of the kingdom of darkness and welcome them into His kingdom of marvelous light, and He has invited His followers, the citizens of His kingdom, to join Him in this most holy endeavor of ransoming the captives and allowing His light to shine through them pointing the way to life. May we diligently attend to the field of our King and trust Him to provide the bountiful harvest.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You alone are God. You alone have the words of truth, the light of life, and the power to save. We confess that at times we grow weary and anxious and do not trust You as we should. Help our unbelief and remind us that Your power, Your purpose, and Your plan are completely and forever perfect. We thank You for that You have worked in our hearts and provided us gifts that we might join You in Your work in this world. Embolden us and empower us to be Your messengers, Your ambassadors, Your hands and Your feet. We pray that Your kingdom come on earth just as it is in heaven. In Your mighty and merciful name we pray, Amen.