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The Miracle of Growth

Notes & Transcripts

07/14/2009 The Miracle of Growth Knox 16 PC

483/655/626 Psalm 20 Mark 4:26-34

OOPS! When it comes to sharing the gospel, it is not our responsibility to determine in advance who will be receptive and to withhold the message seed from anybody else. Fred Craddock illustrates this with an incident he remembered from his shy teenage years:  
  UGH! "A pretty girl had moved into our town and into our school. She was immediately popular. Admiring her from a distance, I asked her, in the privacy of my mind, to go with me to the movies. I looked at her, then looked at myself, and, in the privacy of my mind, she said no. For days afterward I was both hurt and angry at her rejection of me, a decision she was never allowed to make. "It may be that when we speak to many, only a few will hear, but we have not been called to speak to a few and then complain that there are not many."
Forces of life and growth continue to elude man’s knowledge. Who can explain the life in a seed that grows and multiplies? How could the essence of life lay dormant for 4,000 years in the seeds found in an Egyptian tomb and still spring to full growth when planted? The mystery of life is the issue of the centuries. Scientific advancement only adds to the questions. Where life forces are involved, the adage holds, “We are learning more and more about less and less, and soon we will know everything about nothing.”  
  A second mysterious and miraculous principle of growth for the kingdom of God follows logically. If the nature of life is beyond man’s knowledge, he cannot control its growth, “For the earth yields crops by itself” (v. 28).
The ultimate aim of human knowledge is control. In the field of psychology, for instance, the declared purpose of the field is the prediction and control of human behavior. B. F. Skinner developed the theory of classical conditioning to explain the development of personality and the motives for action. He took his theory one more step in his novel, Walden Two, in which he imagines a perfect society in which human behavior is not only explained, but controlled, by his theory.  
  Skinner is not wrong in searching for the facts to explain human behavior, but he enters the world of fiction when he assumes that we can predict and control human behavior. The control of life remains a mystery, whether in dictating human behavior, growing a crop of grain, or directing the development of the kingdom of God. Our egos also want to control the speed of growth for the kingdom of God. Impatience takes over as we try to short-circuit the process by expecting an instant harvest. Perhaps we are victims of a culture where everything is fast foods and instant relief.
A biochemistry professor at a prestigious university in Europe had been doing research on wheat. Based on the observations he made, he was able to produce artificial grains of wheat so realistic that no one--not even the professor himself--could tell the difference between the real thing and the imitation. You could take a grain and cut a cross section, put it under a microscope, and you still couldn't tell if it was the real wheat or the synthetic. Chemically, the professor's wheat was an exact replica of natural wheat; visually, it was a perfect copy.  
  AHA! There was one sure way to tell the difference. If the professor put some of his grains of wheat into warm, moist earth for a few days, they would not sprout or grow. They appeared to be perfect, they lacked one thing--life! We always find this same distinction between what humans do and what God does. Even when a man or a woman tries every alternative imaginable, the results will be as dead as the artificial seed. Life comes from God, and from Him alone. Life is a mystery and that mystery belongs to God the Father.
WHEE! "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things." Ecclesiastes 11:5. "Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. People toil to search it out, but no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it." Ecclesiastes 8:17. Life itself is a mystery.  
  It is at this time of the year that we see much plant life developing. For a number of years we have been having difficulty in getting one of our clematises to grow and bloom. Until now we have had no success. A friend of ours who has a green thumb gave us a tip. The roots of the clematis do not like a lot of heat. Therefore, you must plant smaller plants of ground and of the spreading variety in front of the clematis. Let those plants absorb the heat and gradually over a number of years but the clematis will bloom.
It is possible that this plant will indeed succeed in the future. But there may be other characteristics which would impede this plant from growing. There are factors of the environment. We had one particular plant, whose name I cannot remember, which died out every spring. This should not happen. After all, the plant is a perennial. But for some unforeseen reason this plant did not succeed.  
  Some people start out very strong in the Christian life. Over the years they begin to wear down. And for some reason they give up on faith in Jesus Christ. The reason? Nobody really knows for sure.
As Christians we are only called but to plant the seeds and to water them. We can leave a number of subtle hints with our friends and neighbours around us who do not know Jesus. But we must remember that the major work belongs to God. God is life and he places life within the seeds which he hands us to plant.  
  Composer Don Wyrtzen told the true story of the great pianist Paderewski, who on one occasion was performing in Carnegie Hall. In the audience was a mother and her young son. During the intermission the woman suddenly realized that the boy was no longer at her side. Just then, over the voices of the milling crowd, she heard the distinct notes of "Chopsticks" being played on the piano. The child had found his way onto the stage and was sitting at the magnificent Steinway concert grand. A moment later lovely music could be heard. Paderewski had quietly slipped behind the youngster, placed his talented hands over the boy's and added a beautiful accompaniment to that simple tune.
Very often we get perplexed with the shape and the condition of our bodies. These old bodies are like a seed that must be planted in the ground. Unless a seed dies and falls into the ground it cannot bear any growth. Paul exploits this analogy in his letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15.  
  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just as a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. The old body dies when it goes into the ground and a resurrection body is raised from the seed that dies. The mystery is in the life given by God.
Only God can change the heart of an unbeliever. Only God can convict us of our need of Him. How could I dare explain to you that for several years before accepting Christ, I was given the urge to read the Scriptures in the old King James version, right through each year. This included reading all of the genealogies. Why would a non-Christian be inspired to read the Bible, known as the Word of God?  
  To those whose desire for God is stirred will be part of a harvest at the end of days. This is described in Revelation 14:15. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is right."
The farmer needs to have a lot of patience. For several weeks there will be no sign of life pushing through the ground. You have planted the seed. You have watered the seed. But now the entire growth depends upon God.  
  The most extreme example is the bamboo tree. You can plant a seed from the bamboo tree and then wait for five full years with no results. You keep on nurturing this plant. You fertilize the plant. You water the plant. And you wait. And then in a few short weeks the bamboo tree comes through the ground and grows to an incredible 90 feet high.
The conditions in this culture of Canada have not been good for growth. The church has been declining for some 30 years. But the seeds that are planted contain the mystery of life. It has to be the prayer of the church for these seeds to come to fruition and to have labourers ready to reap the harvest. Jesus calls us to have labourers for the harvest.  
  God takes something seemingly small and insignificant and makes something out of them. The size of the seed does not matter. The mustard seed, known as the smallest seed in the days of Jesus, can grow to be quite a large tree. It will grow to at least 10 feet high. There is plenty of room for all the birds at the air around to come and nest in this tree. This tree which began from a very small seed containing the mystery of life. God has shown over and over again throughout history that he begins with very small things and causes great growth.
We are called to pray without ceasing. The greater work belongs to God. God invites us to be co-creators with Him. It has been this way since the very beginning as revealed in the book of Genesis chapters one and two. Our quest is to join him in this great work. It can never be anything short of that.  
  YEAH! Nature has surprising powers of recovery from disaster. One of the most striking examples of this is offered by the Island of Krakatao in the Straits of Sunda. In 1883, an apparently inactive volcano erupted, splitting mountains from top to bottom, and scattering ground and greenery over a wide area. Nothing was left of the island but lifeless mass, a pile, one hundred feet deep, of burned-out ashes. Scientists of that day declared positively that no animal or vegetable life could possibly have survived this most gigantic eruption of history. Nevertheless, in the next three years flowers and ferns began to peep out of the soil. Their seeds had been carried there by birds, and by the wind and sea. By 1897, many portions of the ground were covered with vegetation. Ten years more and the island was completely covered with trees and palms. After forty years the island was not only covered with plant growth, but also had its natural share of birds, animals, and insects.
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