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. 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)
I’ve been reflecting on the way that God is at work and the things that he is doing in our lives. This passage from Mark in which Jesus is teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God, was part of one of my daily readings recently. It reminded me of a couple of things that I have been reflecting on: firstly that God’s work goes on regardless of us; and secondly that in the secrecy of our lives, where no one is watching, there are amazing things that God is doing.
The Greek word that Mark uses here for ‘all by itself’ is the same one from which we get the English word ‘automatic’. Jesus is saying to us that the Kingdom grows automatically. Just as the seed grows in the soil without anyone making it happen, the seeds of the Kingdom have within themselves the power to grow. Of course Jesus would have known enough about farming to know that the seed grows when the conditions are favourable (he told us that in the parable of the sower). He wants us to know that the Kingdom does not grow through human effort but because of the work of the Holy Spirit who gives it life.
We have been taught since we were little that hard work brings rewards. We know that there are exceptions to that and that there is not a simple relationship between hard work and riches. Nonetheless it seems like a very good plan to instil in the next generation the idea that it is a good thing to work because success is more likely to be achieved through hard work than laziness.
We carry that idea into our spiritual lives. The more hard work we put into this the better the likely outcome. The Kingdom will grow more and we will become more like Jesus. But where should we invest that hard work? First of all in our relationships: our relationship with God and with the people around us. Our relationship with God is the key to all that we are but it is meant to have an impact not just on us but on the people around us. As we know God more we share more godliness with those that share our lives. There are times when making sure the soil is in good condition for the seed to grow means a lot of hard work but most of our effort needs to be in building our relationship with Jesus and the people He has given us to love and to be a neighbour.
So what about those amazing things that God does in secret? It is my immense privilege to be with people when great crises are occurring and when God is doing amazing things in their lives. These are not my stories to share but they are very real. In the secrecy of people’s lives God is at work rebuilding, sifting, correcting, setting people back on the right path. Sometimes we are tempted to give up praying for people that we love but God never gives up on them and many years later we get to see the results of those prayers. It’s been my privilege to see broken lives rebuilt; to see people who felt lost find the way and be led to faith. Never stop praying.
God’s Kingdom is growing by the Spirit’s power – not mine or yours. But I want to give everything in my power to help that happen.
Yours in Christ