“And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold… The sower sows the word… Those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:8,14,20
Jesus gives a picture His followers can readily understand in describing how the seed of God’s word takes effect in our lives. The word is powerful; our hearts’ soil– our response to it– makes all the difference. The progress here describes a life that takes in God’s word and because of it, produces fruit in greater measure over time. A grand display of mature godliness doesn’t appear overnight. A seed must nestle in, burst open, take root, and gradually grow; often all this initial movement is unseen, underground in the soil of one’s heart and deep in the recesses of the mind. (Acts 20:32; Hebrews 4:12)
We can take great encouragement from this parable in our own lives, and what we observe and hope for in those we love. We may want instant “fruit”- immediate victory over long-standing habits of sloth, irritability, a crass tongue. We may expect that once we set to task, once we pray, our outlook will transform, our love for the unloveable will quickly sprout, our courage where we were shy will take wing– but most growth is gradual and requires patient plodding. When we allow God’s word to take root, and begin to practice His character and ways as we understand them better, we increasingly produce fruit.
Consider plants that are tucked in the ground, and with time and water and fertile soil, spread their roots, then sprout above the soil’s surface, then unfold in young fresh green, then strengthen and begin to change color and grow and deepen into their purply black array. All the while the seed’s energy and identity runs its course through the stems and leaves, much as God nourishes and imprints us with Himself as we mature and bear fruit. We sow the Word, we meditate on it and taste its goodness; our language begins to change, our reactions soften, our thought-processes are more steady, our compassion deepens, our tone of voice becomes gentler, our efforts have greater clarity and vigor. For others, we accept that small changes are evidence of unseen ones that are being made strong, we rejoice in hints of the Spirit’s work and look expectantly for more. We persevere in hopeful prayer. We know that highly-fertilized greenhouse plants with lots of show seldom last.
Lord my Gardener, daily prepare my heart and sow Your word deep in me. Please keep me persevering, applying, ever growing to bear a hundredfold of fruit for You.