This article is part of a series from Colin Smith, the author of Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through The Beatitudes, which will be available to order in December 2016 at lifeway.com/momentumstudy. Read part one, part two, and part three.
Those [seeds] that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” —Mark 4:20
Sowing the seed is our work. Changing hearts is God’s work. And both are needed if there is to be a great harvest.
God will be faithful in preparing the ground.
The whole point of Jesus’ story here is that where the seed is sown, there will be an abundant harvest. God is always at work to plow up hard and stony ground.
In The Gospel of Mark, William Lane makes the point that the plowing was normally done after the sowing: “The parable of the sower is faithful to the life situation of Palestinian agriculture, in which plowing follows sowing. The sower is not careless when he scatters the seed on the path or among the thorns or on ground which has no depth of soil. He does so intentionally, for the path on which the villagers have trodden…will be plowed up to receive the seed.”
That’s a marvelous encouragement. You may share the Word of God, and as far as you are concerned, it fell on hard ground. But you do not know where God will be plowing next week! When the plow comes, the seed gets tipped into the open ground and everything is changed. God will be faithful in plowing; therefore, we must be intentional in scattering the seed.
We must be intentional about sowing the seed.
Plowed-up soil won’t raise a harvest unless the seed is sown! What a tragedy it would be if God were to open the heart of someone near to us and we did not plant the seed.
The finest seed will not raise a harvest if it is still in the barn! It must be sown in the ground. When you sow the seed, you don’t dump a whole pile of it in one place. You have to scatter it widely.
Scatter the seed indiscriminately because you do not know where God is plowing the ground. You do not know where He was plowing last week. You do not know where God will be plowing next week. So scatter the seed widely!
If we are serious about extending Christ’s kingdom, this will be the core of our ministry. How many pastors are responsible for the ministry of sowing the Word? All of us. How many members of the congregation are called to be sowers of the Word? All of us.
The ministry of those who lead and teach others is twofold: (1) to sow the Word of God in our own lives, and (2) to sow the Word of God in the lives of others.
And Jesus says this will bring a harvest: 30, 60, even 100 times what was sown. Thirty times what was sown would be a bumper crop. Sixty or 100 times what was sown would be a harvest greater than anyone, at least in Jesus’ day, could imagine.
God can do more than you think in your life through His Word. God can do more than you think in the lives of other people by His Word. When the Word of God gets into the soil of your life, there is no telling what God will raise up in and through you.
How will God establish His kingdom in a world that rejects the King? How can we hope to see hard-hearted, shallow, choked-up people living under the blessing of God’s rule?
We sow the seed. God plows the ground. And there will be a great harvest.
On the last day there will be a great multitude surrounding the throne, praising the Lamb and living under the full blessing of the rule of God. How did they get there? God’s people sowed the seed. God’s Spirit plowed up the ground. And there was a great harvest!
Colin Smith (MPhil, London School of Theology) is Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, a multi-campus church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and his ministry extends through his radio program Unlocking the Bible. He is also committed to mentoring next-generation pastors, missionaries, and church-planters through The Orchard Network. Colin and his wife, Karen, have two married sons and four grand-daughters.