The Unseen Work We Cannot Do

Mark 4 records the parable of the sower and the soils. You can also find it in Matthew 13 and Luke 8. I love this parable because Jesus clearly explains its meaning, unlike some of the other parables where we are left to examine the lesson in the context of other scriptures to dig out the treasures of truth Jesus meant for us to have.

The parable is simple. The seed is the word, so the sower is anyone who speaks the gospel or shares truth from God’s Word. There are four kinds of results from this spiritual gardening.

  1. The word is immediately stolen by Satan and taken away. (No fruit)
  2. The word is received with joy but has no root. Affliction and persecution cause the listener to fall away. (No fruit)
  3. The word takes root but is quickly choked out by the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things. (No fruit)
  4. The word is accepted by a good and honest heart. (Bears thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold fruit)

It’s clear from this parable that whether the gospel bears fruit isn’t the concern of the sower; his responsibility is simply to keep sowing. It’s also not a matter of the seed. The word is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It never returns void.

Isaiah 55:10-11 – For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

The determining factor for how the word bears fruit is the condition of the heart of the listener. As those who desire for others to hear and respond to the good news about Jesus and the wonderful, life-changing truth of His Word, it’s difficult not to want to “make it happen.” We can, of course, help others see the condition of their own hearts and consider the distractions that are keeping the word from taking root, but ultimately, the results are out of our hands.

Jesus further clarifies this in another short parable in this same chapter.

Mark 4:26-29 – And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Have you ever had this experience? You share the gospel with someone and think the person isn’t listening at all. You walk away fully convinced that person will never come to believe in Jesus. You’re actually surprised to hear (days, months, years later) that they have come to salvation and are serving God faithfully.

How a person responds to the gospel depends on the work of the Holy Spirit in their heart, and that takes place in the unseen. God has to speak to us, enlighten our understanding, and give us spiritual life. And this happens without our help, often when we least expect it.

What’s our takeaway?

Don’t give up on people.

Don’t get discouraged if they seem uninterested and don’t respond.

Keep sharing the powerful word of God and trust Him to do what only He can do.

John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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