A Hard Lesson for Many Sowers to Learn
When I was a young preacher, I had an important lesson to learn about people responding to my teaching and preaching. In those years, I tended to measure the impact of my efforts by the numbers who responded immediately. I failed to see the many different ways the Bible describes how individuals respond when they are taught.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes some who turned to the Lord when they first hear the gospel. Jesus spoke of the seed, the word, which fell upon this kind of listener. “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matt. 13:20-21). We have all seen this happen in His kingdom. Immediate response is not always a blessing. The truth is that it takes longer to plant the seed and have a hundredfold response.
Mark records a parable of Jesus which is not found in the other gospel accounts. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head” (Mark 4:26-28). The spread of the kingdom involves far more than just sowing the seed. It involves sowing the seed and the waiting day and night before it begins to grow.
However, even after it begins to germinate there is first the blade, then the head and then later there is the grain fully grown and ready to harvest. Paul described the planting of the church in Corinth as him sowing and Apollos watering. Time is so often involved in these matters. Then Paul adds, “God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).
Sometimes we get frustrated when we try to teach others and there is no immediate response. We need to spend more time meditating on this parable in Mark. Our work is to sow the seed and remember that it is God who gives the increase. The power of conversion does not lie in us. Inherent in the seed is the power to change the lives of those we teach. The increase comes from God and not from us.
This is not to say that we should not think there will never be times when individuals immediately obey the gospel. How wonderfully fulfilling is this event when we teach others. But may we never forget that God does not measure us by whether individuals respond to our teaching. The point is that God did not send us to be harvesters, but to be sowers!