Title: Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God
Text: Mark 4.21-34
Introduction: Farmers have always amazed me. I must say Farmers and Ranchers. My grandpa was a farmer – a share cropper. Mr. Wade owned the property and my grandpa would farm his land. The produce paid his rent, helped him make a living. As far as I know, my grandpa worked the land until he died at the age of 75 in 1978. Farmers are hard working people. They rise early and work all day. I suppose there might be lazy farmers out there, but I’m guessing they don’t remain farmers.
I think it is the work ethic that amazes me. Usually there is always something to be done. When that work is done, attention is put somewhere else. Something needs tending. Something else needs repair. There are errands to run, equipment to maintain, etc. etc. etc.
The life of a farmer is hard. He must work like all of the everything depends on him, but in the end, he must pray like everything depends on God. The farmer has no power or control over the weather. He can’t make it rain; He can’t cool off the hot summer days; he can’t stop a freeze from hitting. He works, He prays, He waits.
I think often times the Christian life compares to the life of a farmer. For sure, the life of a pastor does. We works the soil of the soul, but we cannot produce a single convert. There are so many adversities we face – and we have no power or control over them. We simply work like it all depends on us, and pray like it all depends on God.
It is William Carey who said: Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. He was an amazing man, the father of the modern missionary movement. He did just what he preached: He expected God to do great things and he attempted to do great things for God.
You have a survey in your bulletin today. I’m asking you to fill that out. Circle three areas of passion or giftedness that you’d like to serve. It fits well with the message today. God has brought you here and placed you here in this body to function. The deacons are tasked with the responsibility of service in the church and they’re always looking for people to help them on their committees and teams. You don’t have to be a member to work. You can wipe tables and vacuum floors and mow and sweep and paint and not have to be a member. There are so many areas of service and we need workers to expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.
We’re in Mark 4 this morning. Mark 4 contains three parables concerning the Kingdom of God. I call them: the soils, the seed, and the size. The three parables deal with seed in some context. This seed is the Word of God as brought by Jesus, the sower. More specifically, the 1st parable is about the responses to the Kingdom of God as seen in the soils. The hard heart never receives it. The rocky ground and the thorny plants never allow it to take root and it easily gets chocked out. The 4th type of soil is receptive and fertile. It produces fruit some 30, 60 and 100 fold. These next two parables deal with the nature of the Kingdom of God. Having covered the 1st parable already, we’ll cover the next two in this section.
A Note about triplets: Mark seems to like them. There are three types of soil that are non-receptive and non-productive; and, there are the three results of the fertile soil. There are three parables concerning the seed. In chapter five, there are three miraculous healings. And the list goes on…
Our focal passage (4.21-34) is broken down into three parts: Part one has two sayings by Jesus, analogies, if you will (21-25) and parts two and three contain two parables concerning the seed (4.26-34). The two parables are a continuation of what he started up in 4.1. The three parables are the seed being sown, the seed being grown and the results being shown.
There are two different audiences being addressed in chapter 4. The chapter moves between the public speaking by the sea to a huge crowd and the small, more intimate conversations of Christ with his disciples (cf.: 4.1a, 10; 21-25 is still in this small group; v 26 and following are back to the larger crowd by the sea. Note v 11, 13, 21, 24 – And he said to them. However, in v 26, it changes.
What we have when we break this passage down is a word of encouragement – an exhortation. The Light of Christ isn’t to be hidden. God himself, will bring the growth and that growth will be exponential in degree. Let’s look first at the analogies he offers his disciples in v 21 and v 24 and find encouragement as we work toward building God’s Kingdom. #1:
I. The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. (21-25)
Exp. Jesus is continuing his private teaching with his disciples. Their work will be to carry on what he has begun. In chapters 1-3 we see Christ is the sower, sowing the seed, the word of God. Some receive it and some reject it. He makes that clear for us in the 1st parable. However, when Christ is gone, these disciples will be given the same task and they will see similar results. They’re watching their master be rejected by the religious leaders – they will receive much of the same treatment.
Now, in this analogy, he’s telling them that his message isn’t to be hidden. That’s not the purpose. It isn’t the purpose of this message to remain hidden anymore than a light is to be hidden when it comes into a darkened room.
The beauty of this passage is seen in its original language. V 21 literally reads: The lamp does not come in order that it might be set under the bushel. That is odd, isn’t it? The English has been changed in order to work, but it isn’t so in the Gk. A lamp doesn’t come into a room; it is brought into a room. A lamp is simply passive to the will of another. But, in our case, the Lamp is a person. The lamp is Jesus. Note:
- The lamp isn’t passive.
- The lamp has a definite article.
Remember, and be encouraged: The Light of Christ is not to be hidden.
A word of caution: if you’re hiding the light of Christ, you’re not using it the right way. A lamp isn’t hidden under a basket, or under a bed. No, it is to be set upon a stand.
Notice what the lamp does in the next verse: it reveals. Rd v 22; fut. Tense: there may be a brief time where this light is concealed by some; however, in the future, all will see.
Now, if you don’t understand the analogy, Christ offers a 2nd analogy to heighten and strengthen his teaching. And he links them with this call to hear. He ends with it in v 23 and begins with it in v 24; If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And v 24, lit.: Watch out to what you hear! Lets keep reading: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. The word measure is used three times in the Gk; the measure with which you measure will be measured to you. Rd v 25;
Ill.: When I was a Youth pastor our kids had a skit they would do for whatever activity we were involved in…i.e.: youth camp, revivals, retreats, choir tour, etc.
Application – Moral: love isn’t love unless you give it away. And, if you don’t give it away, you don’t really have it. And these two analogies are teaching us that this message of light is something that isn’t to be hidden, but rather to be shared. If it isn’t shared, it isn’t really light. And, it must be shared in abundance. It matches the 1st parable. Where it isn’t sown, it isn’t grown; however, we’re commanded to go and sow, in order that we might reap 30, 60, even 100 fold!
Transition: So this 1st word of encouragement Jesus shares with his disciples is The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. Now Jesus moves back to the parables and to the larger crowd or audience. Here, Jesus offers us a 2nd word of encouragement:
II. God Brings Growth to His Kingdom (26-29)
exp.: I’ll never forget traveling to the Shepherd’s Conference in California some years ago and hearing Dr. John MacArthur preach this text (v26-29). Did you know that this parable is contained in no other gospels? You’ll find it only here in Mark. In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the different types of soil the seed is sown in, among, or upon. That parable taught of the different types of soils and their receptivity to the seed. Here, Christ teaches of the seed and its innate ability to germinate and develop on its own.
The teaching is straightforward and simple: The Word of God (seed) has the ability all on its own to bring about growth and success. The Word of God is powerful and effective. It can accomplish so much on its own. It is the Word that is heard and it, all on it’s own, brings about the change, the growth, and the fruit. Two Truths we learn about the Kingdom’s growth.
Truth #1: There is a mystery to this growth. Only God knows what he is doing.
app.: We’re told a man scatters seed. Then, he works; night and day, he sleeps, he rises, he works, he sleeps, he rises – he goes about his life. The seed sprouts and grows – and the man knows not how. The man sows, he works – but what we learn here is that the results are not up to the man. There is a mystery surrounding the process. The results belong to God. And here we learn a 2nd Truth.
Truth #2: There is a certainty to this growth.
The 1st word in v 28 is the Gk word for which we get our English word automatic: αὐτομάτη. Lit.: Automatically the earth bears fruit. It isn’t up to you to make the seed germinate. It isn’t up to you to make it sprout. It isn’t up to you to produce a blade, a stalk, a stem, the grain. Your job is simply to sow the Word and let it do its work in the soil of another’s soul. And v 29 tells us that there will be a harvest: that sown seed will grow and bring about a tremendous harvest.
I think there is an apocalyptic feel to this verse. V 29 sounds very much like the book of Revelation. Revelation 14.15f: 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
I must stop here and say I believe this day is close. I also believe that many who are here will experience this in our lifetime. I know, I know, I must sound foolish to many. Thousands of years have past and it hasn’t happened. This past week, Israel celebrated it 68th birthday! It was in May of 1948 that Israel became a nation…again. After nearly 2000 years of non-existence, Israel came home and declared her independence. If I understand the Word correctly, within that generation, these things will come to fruition. If a generation is 70 years, then things will take place within the next two years. If a generation is 100 years – which I get from Genesis 15, then these things will take place in the next 32 years.
In one sense, yes, this sounds singular. You sow the seed of God into a person’s heart. They hear and all on it’s own, by its own work, the person is saved. The seed reaps fruit. But in another sense, the kingdom of God is sown among a people – and all on it’s own it grows. It starts with a man from Nazareth. He is homeless and simple. He picks a few followers – a rag tag group of men: a zealot, a tax collector, a traitor, a kid, and some fishermen. It grows – and we don’t know how, but it will grow into something tremendous and huge.
t.s.: And that really is the lesson of this last parable in v 30-33; Our 1st Word of encouragement is: To let the Light of Christ Shine. The 2nd word of encouragement is to know w/ certainty that God will bring the growth. #3…
III. Growth of the Kingdom will be Exponentially Incomparable (30-33)
exp.: rd v 30; rd v 31-32; now, there are those who have said the Bible can be disclaimed at this point, the mustard seed, is not the smallest seed in the world. Let me note for you that Christ’s goal here isn’t botany. It isn’t to teach agricultural principles. Christ’s purpose here is to teach on the Kingdom and to illustrate these truths from what the people already know. Here, Christ takes a proverb that was very common to them. He takes them from where they are and what they know to where he wants them to be. That’s what every good teacher does. In their ancient sayings, in one of their own proverbs, they knew of this mustard seed and how small it was compared to the tree it would become. It was in many common gardens. It looks like shaking pepper into your hand. And yet it becomes this tree. Amazing! But don’t miss the point: a very little becomes tremendously huge.
We see that for the individual. We see that for the Kingdom.
When Christ came the 1st time, he taught and preached and healed. It was small at first, but his 2nd coming will be different by far. He will come in power and glory. One day, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, people group will be gathered around the throne. Myriads upon myriads of people will be worshipping around the throne of God. How small it once was. How magnificent it will be.
Conclusion: What a great word for us today. You may be struggling today in your walk, in your faith. You’ve worked long and hard and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. It may feel like you’ve failed even. Listen, don’t give up and don’t give in. I’m reminded of how Paul encouraged the Galatian believers:
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Therefore, let your light shine before men. Don’t hide it! God will use it to bring growth and an eventual magnificent harvest. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.