“[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 grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” – Mark 4:26-29
This parable provides insights into how the kingdom of heaven grows as well as the nature of ministry and being a witness for Christ and His kingdom.
From the parable of the sower earlier in this chapter (Mark 4:1-20) we know that the seed is the Word of God (4:14). When the man goes out and scatters seed, He is proclaiming the Word of God to people.
After the Word goes out, whatever the man does, the Word takes effect and accomplishes its work. The growth of the seed happens apart from the actions that the man takes, he does not even know how it grows. For a time, he is not able to see its growth while it is underground, he does not know what seed has or has not taken root and will only find out later when he sees fruit of the seed’s growth.
As we are faithful to spread the Word of God, we often have no idea what sticks and what doesn’t. We generally don’t know the effect of the Word until later and in some cases we may never know what the seed God used us to scatter accomplishes. Whatever results occur, they are produced by the Word, not by us. God may use us as the farmer to scatter it, but the growth is from the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul address a dispute in the church over which leader each person is following. He says,
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
We don’t know the full scope of what God and His Word is doing, nor should we think that any of the results from “our” ministry come from anything other than the power of God. He graciously uses His people, but all the glory and credit go to Him.
“Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 115:1
Although we do not bring the growth or know what exactly the Lord may accomplish with His Word, we can be confident in its effectiveness, both in our lives and in the world around us.
“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 55:10-11