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Archive for the ‘Mark 4’ Category

First of all, I just want to say again how grateful I am for all who came out to work and support our VBS this year. It is encouraging to me to see how many of you came.

It is also a blessing to me to see you working in ministry and using your gifts to work for the kingdom. That’s what its all about, right? I don’t want to mention names, but we have some really gifted, creative, dedicated, hard working people here. And it is a blessing to see you in action.

It is true that we had a lot of kids this year. Wow! Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of ‘post-traumatic VBS stress disorder.’ At times it seemed pretty chaotic and I wondered if the kids were going to take over and we would have to run for cover. And perhaps we will have to address what our capacity is.

But whether we have more or less, what I would like to say today is: When we see the kids running all over, and you’re trying to keep track of them, and keep them quiet and focused to teach them – you can wonder – “Are they getting it?” And closely behind this question you might ask, “Is it worth the work – all the labor and the stress?”

So I want to encourage you this morning by affirming to you that – Yes, it is worth it!

Lets look at Mark 4:26-29, the parable of the growing seed.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This parable teaches us some lessons about the kingdom of God and I want us to apply them to what we have just done in VBS, although they apply to all kinds of ministry.

1. Our role is to scatter seed – v. 26. That is, we are to share with others the good news of Jesus; to spread the message of salvation and new life through him.

  • We did this by teaching and singing Christian songs, telling Bible stories, learning Scripture verses.
  • We hopefully also did this by how we treated the kids – welcoming them, caring for them, loving them – so that they could see the love of Jesus in us.

We want them to come to know and trust in Jesus, as a foundation for a life of following Jesus.

This is what we are called to do – scatter seed. And this is what we did. So we can feel good about that.

2. We don’t know how to make the seed grow – vs. 27-28. As the parable says, the sower “sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself . . ..”  With agriculture, especially in that day, you don’t know how a seed comes to life and grows, you just know that if you pant it, it does.

In the same way, we plant seeds for the kingdom. But the growth of the seed is something that is beyond us. Especially in the realm of the things of the Spirit, it is beyond our understanding or power to force those seeds of the kingdom to grow.

It is like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6, perhaps reflecting on our parable in Mark 4. He planted seeds, but “God gave the growth.” God is the one who works to  make the seeds of the kingdom come to life.

  • In one way this can be frustrating because we want people to get it; to make the seed grow; to make them receive it.
  • But it is also liberating to realize that it is in God’s hands. We don’t have to take on the weight of the world.

We are successful when we are faithful to plant seeds for the kingdom. The growth, the numbers – what the world would focus on as “success” – is in God’s hands.

We fulfill our role and then we leave it to God as he works in the person to receive the message and act on it.

3. We have to remember that there is a process involved in terms of the seed growing – vs. 28-29.  I’m not sure that this is the point of the parable, but there is a lot of emphasis on this. Jesus talks about:

  • first the blade
  • then the ear
  • then the full grain
  • then the ripe grain and the harvest

Paul certainly picks up this idea, once again, in I Corinthians 3:6. He says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” There is a process, with different stages. We can take two things from this:

  • First, we shouldn’t expect someone to get it all at once. We are a part – perhaps small or big – in what God is trying to do in each one of these kids’ lives.
  • And second, from I Corinthians, God uses different people at different stages to further the growth. There is a team work part to this in the broader body of Christ.

We have done some work here this past week, and later we or others will come along to do more work in their lives, watering, tending, pulling weeds – to stretch the metaphor.

4. There will be a time of harvest – v. 29. As this verse says, “But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Now, in this parable the same man both plants and harvests. But often in kingdom work one will plant, others will work with the growth, and still others will harvest. There are lots of people involved.

So often we plant seeds in faith not knowing what will come of it. We have to trust God to use our efforts; to bring about the growth. And we will see the full results of our labors on the final day.

We just never know the real effect of what we are doing when we sow seeds for the kingdom.

It might seem to us, from the point of view of what our eyes can see, that nothing is happening. But from the point of view of the eyes of the Spirit, God is doing and will do an amazing thing with our labors.

What I am saying is that our efforts in planting seeds have an eternal significance, in these kids lives – those who come to church all the time and those from the neighborhood.

Even the one who is misbehaving badly, who appears to be not listening, who is acting out in rebellion or disrespectful. We are planting seeds for the kingdom in their lives.

I have heard a number of adults from the neighborhood talk about how they attended our VBS, some many years ago. One woman, maybe 60 years old, came in this week and asked to use the phone. When she found out that Cedar Street was having VBS she wanted to call her daughter to have the grandkids come. Why? She had come here when she was a kid. She remembered it. And she wanted her grandkids to receive as well.

Another woman, who is now a local pastor, told me that she came to Cedar Street’s VBS. Here she is, now a pastor – bearing fruit for the kingdom in lots of ways. Now, of course, many people sowed into her life, and she had her own home church. But we had, at least, some small part in that; the privilege of sowing kingdom seeds.

Which ones of the kids that you worked with will be touched, will have their lives transformed, might become a pastor or in some other way do great things for the kingdom?

And you know, it isn’t just the quiet one who is well behaved that God reaches. It is often exactly that one that is hard to deal with whom God will use in amazing ways in the future.

So as we think of the kids we have just interacted with – those from our congregation, those from the neighborhood – know this: we have planted seeds for the kingdom. Be encouraged! We are a part, whether small or big – in what God is doing in their lives; in making a difference in their lives.

May God work in each of them to bring about the growth. And may God use us and others in the process still to come.

And I encourage you to keep praying for them in the weeks and months to come.

William Higgins

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