6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: The mysterious workings of God's grace in the believer.


Mark 4:26-34

One year I dug a border outside my living room window. I bought some packets of seeds, dug small troughs, and scattered the seeds randomly in the little troughs before covering them over with light soil (cf. Mark 4:26). Job done.

For a while, nothing seemed to be happening. There was enough rain: but it was not until the first hint of spring sunshine that little shoots began to appear. Even then, nothing looked quite like the colourful illustrations on the seed packets.

A few weeks later we returned from our summer holiday to a riot of colour and beauty which surpassed all expectations. Something had been going on secretly while we were away. ‘It is God who gives the increase’ (1 Corinthians 3:7).

The motif of “sleeping and rising night and day” (Mark 4:27) is a way of counting the passage of time (cf. Genesis 1:13). It may also be a motif for death and resurrection. ‘The seed must die,’ taught Jesus: partly prophesying His own death, and partly demonstrating the radical change that must happen in the lives of those who desired to follow Him (John 12:23-25).

“The earth brings forth fruit of itself,” explained Jesus (Mark 4:28). This appears to be the pattern of things in nature (Genesis 1:11-13; Genesis 8:22). Yet we must not despise the ‘day of small things’ (Zechariah 4:10).

Unlike the flower gardener, for the farmer there comes a day when he must “immediately” put in the sickle “for the harvest has come” (Mark 4:29).

So it is with the kingdom of God. Jesus came into this world, ‘a babe in a manger’ (Luke 2:12). The child grew into a youth (Luke 2:40); the youth into a man (Luke 2:52). He died; He rose again; He ascended into heaven; He shall return.

He gathered around Him a team of unlikely candidates to be His apostles, His ‘sent ones’. The church began with a group of frightened men, holding their meetings behind closed doors. Who but God could have foreseen what would follow?

At Pentecost 3000 were converted (Acts 2:41), and 5000 more after the healing of the lame man (Acts 4:4). Small and despised, the church continued to grow, and will continue to grow until the harvest is come.

Explaining another parable, Jesus said, ‘the seed is the word’ (Mark 4:14). The believer hears the word and receives the word: but this is only the beginning.

Those who sow the seed must not become discouraged when there seems to be so little progress in the lives of those who have received the gospel into their heart. We were not born full grown adults, and neither are we born-again as fully matured Christians.

Our faith, which begins as small as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), is capable of the same phenomenal growth as is demonstrated in the life of the church (Mark 4:30-32).

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