A daily devotion for January 7th
1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
9Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
" 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"
13Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."
21He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
24"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
26He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
He 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(Mark 4:26-27).
This is a secret of the kingdom of God, and to me it is one of the most encouraging of all the parables Jesus ever uttered. He is speaking of how this rule of God increases, how it grows in a life. He explains it as a coming to harvest by a patient expectation that God will work. The key of this whole passage is,
the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. That is, there are forces at work that will be faithful to perform their work—whether a farmer stews and frets about it or not. Farmers do what they can do, what is expected of them. But then God must work. And God will work. And in the confidence of that, this farmer rests secure. As Jesus draws the picture this farmer goes out to sow. It is hard work as he sows the field, but this is what he can do. But then he goes home and goes to bed. He does not sit up all night biting his fingernails, wondering if the seed fell in the right places or whether it will take root. Nor does he rise the next morning and go out and dig it up to see whether or not it has sprouted yet. He rests secure in the fact that God is at work, that He has a part in this process, and He must do it; no one can do it for Him. But he will faithfully perform it. So the farmer rests secure, knowing that as the seed grows there are stages that are observable:
first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. It is only as the grain is ripe that he is called into action again. When the harvest is ready, then he is to act once more.
This is exactly what Paul describes for us in that passage in 1 Corinthians 3:9a:
For we are God's fellow workers. This is the way we ought to expect Him to work. It involves a witness first, perhaps a word of teaching or exhortation to someone—or to ourselves. And then an inevitable process begins, one that takes time and patience and allows God to work. One of the most destructive forces at work in the church today is our insistent demand for instant results. We want to have immediate conversions, immediate responses every time we speak. We tend not to allow time for the Word to take root and grow and come to harvest.
I have watched a boy in Peninsula Bible Church (PBC) growing up since grade school. I watched him come into adolescence and enter into a period of deep and bitter rebellion against God. I watched his parents, hurt and crushed by his attitudes, yet nevertheless praying for him—saying what they could to him—but above all holding him up in prayer. I watched the whole process as the seed that had been sown in his heart took root and began to grow. There were tiny observable signs of change occurring. Gradually he came back to the Lord. And as an adult young man, he asked me to fill out a reference for him to go to seminary. That is the Word growing secretly. The sower knows not how it happens but can rest secure in this.
Our Lord is teaching us the fantastic truth that God is at work. It does not all depend on us!
Thank You, Lord that I can trust that as I do my part and sow the seed of Your Word wherever I can, You will do the rest.
Life Application: We have the privilege of sowing the fertile seed of the gospel. Do we trust the sovereign work of the Spirit to produce a harvest, or rely on our own effectiveness?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.