In a lifetime spent listening to sermons from Adventist pulpits and preaching from Adventist pulpits, I’ve yet to hear one sermon—even one of […]
Published on: 05-01-2019
In a lifetime spent listening to sermons from Adventist pulpits and preaching from Adventist pulpits, I’ve yet to hear one sermon—even one of my own—about this parable of Jesus.
That could be an accident of timing and missed opportunity, but there are likely better reasons the parable some call The Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4:26-30) is routinely underemphasized among Seventh-day Adventists. None of us would ever say it isn’t important; it just doesn’t fit as nicely into our frame as, say, The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, or The Wheat and the Tares.
Perhaps our inattention to (some might say “discomfort with”) this parable of Jesus lies in the fact that Jesus underlines some surprising limits to the role of His disciples in the growth of the kingdom. We are used to stories and sermons that accentuate our responsibility. For 160 years the verbs of this end-time movement have propelled us to remarkable worldwide growth: go, disciple, baptize, teach—and each of these is right and righteous, a commission given by Jesus Himself.
But lest we take undue credit for the kingdom of which He is both the ruler and the true builder, Jesus told this parable of waiting, of wondering, of watching to see what God will do when we have faithfully done the smaller part. We may scatter the seed on the ground, but we cannot make it germinate. We may cultivate the soil and give the fledgling plant its needed water, but we are as powerless to make it sprout, mature, and yield as we are by being anxious to “add a single hour” to the span of our life (Luke 12:25).* There is at the heart of God’s growing kingdom a mystery centered on the unseen work of the Holy Spirit in millions of hearts and minds.
So we are, in Ellen White’s inspired phrase, “colaborers with God”—faithfully planting seed as commanded, and just as faithfully acknowledging that it is the gracious work of God that brings conviction, conversion, transformation, and maturation. When we are moved by grace to love the lost, we scatter seed—and pray. And when the miracle of new life in Christ springs up in someone for whom we have been praying, we give to Jesus the glory for His continuing act of grace—to them and us. With Paul we bow our heads and murmur, “Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
As you hear again the enduring call to join with Jesus in His mission to the lost, pray for a heart made glad by grace—grace received and grace given.