Do you believe these words from Jesus:
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. (Mark 4:20)
Christ's promise for Christian fruitfulness is out of this world. 3000%, 6000% or 10 000% is an incredible yield.
Do I dare believe in this kind of growth? To put it another way, Will I hear and welcome this word?
We would believe Jesus if He said "five times what was sown!" We marvel at 300% yield. We settle for two-fold growth. But Jesus promises something so supernaturally grand we must ask, If I believed Jesus' words about Jesus' words how would I treat Jesus' words?
Well Mark 4:20 means I'd hear them and welcome them.
Mark 4:10-12 means I'd hear them with Jesus at the centre - allowing them to draw me to Him.
Mark 4:15 means I'll hear them prayerfully, recognizing the spiritual battle undertaken every time they're heard.
Mark 4:16-17 means I'll cling to them when trouble comes - allowing the trouble to drive me deeper into Christ in His word.
Mark 4:18 means I'll be vigilant against wealth, worry and wanting as powers competing in my heart for attention.
But Jesus promises -- PROMISES -- that hearing and welcoming His word in this way will produce a transformation in our lives beyond belief.
How will the word produce transformation? The way a seed produces growth.
It will be:
Weak Looking but Powerful
Internal but Outgoing
Gradual but Multiplying
First, Weak Looking but Powerful
Tim Keller tells the story of a man from the middle ages who was so terrified of meeting Jesus at the judgement that he commanded a giant marble slab to be put over his grave. Apparently he did this so that, when everyone else was resurrected, he would stay down. Well before the burial was complete and the slab was laid, an acorn fell into the grave. Over the years, a great tree grew, split the slab in two and moved it off the grave.
You might have thought, What chance does a little acorn have against a giant marble slab? No contest, the acorn wins. It looks so weak but it is more powerful than a team of horses. Weak but powerful.
Just like the Word. You say a few words about Jesus, you speak truth into another person's life and it looks pathetic. And yet eternities are changed and lives are transformed.
Second, Internal but Outgoing
Last week a friend of mine told me of the worst pain he'd ever felt in his life. In the midst of it the words came to him: "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) It enabled him to handle that pain with an astonishing peace. Where did that word come from? It had been planted there. And it grew up later with an amazing power to comfort. The word goes in and it comes out organically.
This is not the parable of the Brick Supplier who drops off masonry to four different builders. That would be a story about externals and effort and easily measurable growth. But no, the word goes in like a seed and later, organically, it comes out.
Third, Gradual but Muliplying
Think of this: within a single acorn lies all the genetic information required to produce not only an oak, but from that oak will come scores of new acorns. And from them more trees with hundreds of acorns and so on. Given enough time a single acorn could cover the whole earth in wood.
Luther knew this gradual but multiplying power. When explaining how he opposed the whole Roman church he said this:
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.
That's the power of the word.
So do we believe Jesus when He says, Thirty, Sixty, a Hundred-fold?
This is from a sermon I preached on Mark 4:1-34:
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