Exponential: A Seed of Faith – sermon on Mark 4:1-9

August 5, 2018

We’re starting a message series today called Exponential. When it comes to faith, when it comes to life, when it comes to God’s blessings, we tend to think addition. We want God to add to our lives. But our God thinks multiplication. And God’s version of multiplication is always exponential. When God multiplies, it’s to the “Nth” degree.

Think all the way back to the Garden of Eden. What did God say to Adam and Eve? God said, be fruitful and … multiply. He didn’t say be fruitful and add. He said be fruitful and multiply.

Last week, we saw Jesus multiplying bread and fish to feed a hungry crowd. What we couldn’t see was the way Jesus’ words were taking root in the hearts of all those people who had come out to listen to his teaching. Jesus was planting the seed of the gospel in over 5000 lives.

Yes, there were twelve baskets full of broken bread and fish left over after that meal, but when Jesus dismissed the crowd, he sent each person away with something more. He had planted a seed of faith in each person there. What would become of those seeds? Jesus tells us in a parable.

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:1-9)

Now, you can take this story at face value: seeds get sown, and where they land determines how well they will grow. Or, you can try to assign meaning to the parts of the parable: The Sower is God, the Word is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the soil is our hearts.

Using this interpretation, and the explanation Jesus will give a few verses later, we might think the point is to do everything we can to become good soil. But we can’t change the kind of soil we are. We can’t make ourselves into better dirt – only God can do that. This kind of interpretation makes the story be about us, the soil.

But the story is not about you; the story is for you. This parable, like all scripture, is really about God and God’s extravagant generosity. It’s about the way God thinks exponential multiplication, even when we are stuck in simple addition.

God does not discriminate between good soil and bad soil. God doesn’t really care about the current condition of your heart, or how well prepared you think you have to be to receive God’s love.

Do you know what green manure is? It’s a crop that is grown as fertilizer. These are plants that improve the quality of the soil when they are plowed back into the ground. God can improve the quality of your soil by the kind of seed he sows.

You don’t have to worry about making yourself into the right kind of dirt, because God wants to invest in you lavishly. God is the Sower, scattering seed liberally, even wastefully, everywhere. God throws the seed of the Kingdom out into the whole wide world, to transform anyone who will accept it. And it’s that transformation that God is investing in.

Seed has to die in order to become something else. It breaks open, and as it grows, it becomes something that is not a seed anymore – it becomes a plant that bears more seed!

The story is not really about trying to be better soil. The story is about the way God breaks into our lives in the person of Jesus Christ to change us. The story is about God’s desire to draw us into the kind of transformation that bears abundantly more than a “normal” crop could possibly bear.

Have you ever felt like you are just settling? Maybe you believed at one point that God would do something amazing in your life. You had faith for miracles. Maybe years ago, you read that book, The Prayer of Jabez. Enlarge my territory God. Bless me in many ways God. Use me to make a big difference!

But the daily routines of your life didn’t change, and you realized one day that you were just settling, and you noticed that this was happening in your inward spiritual life as well as your outward existence.

Maybe it’s been a while since you expected God to do amazing things, and since you haven’t seen God do something significant in a long time, you’re willing to settle for the consolation prize. God just do something. God just do anything. You’ve settled. You’ve lowered your expectations of what God might do. But you have no idea what God may produce through a single seed planted in faith.

Let’s think about Abram and Sarai, that couple we heard about earlier. They had a dream just like other couples to have children. Unfortunately they couldn’t conceive. They just couldn’t get pregnant.

Then God speaks to them and challenges them to take a massive step of faith. We heard it in the reading from Genesis Chapter 12. God says to Abram, “I’m going to make you into a great nation.” And then he goes exponential and says, “You’re going to be the father of many nations.”

Abram and Sarai hear this and they immediately know it’s true. God said it. It will happen. We’re going to be parents. This is the news we’ve been waiting for.

So immediately they start picking baby names. The month comes to an end. They’re waiting. Perhaps this is the month and aww this isn’t the month. We’re not pregnant.

No big deal. God’s word is true. He’s just giving us a month to prepare. Next month is going to be the month. Another month goes by. Certainly this is the month. We’re not pregnant again. Wow, two months. Okay, God’s giving us a little bit more time. Third month, fourth month, fifth month, sixth month, seventh month.

If you’ve lowered your expectation of what God might do, think about how Abram and Sarai must have felt. Genesis 12 God makes a promise. We jump forward to Genesis 15 and we read in Verse 1, ” Some time later.”

“Some time later, the Lord speaks to Abraham” We’re not exactly sure how much time went by but we know at least one decade passed between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15. Some Bible scholars argue much longer than that but we know at least ten years have passed.

“Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, “for I will protect you,'” and reward you and it will all be great. ” But Abram replied, ‘O Sovereign Lord, ” what good are all your blessings “‘when I don’t even have a son?'”

What good is all that you give me, when I don’t even have someone to leave it to after I die? I’ve waited for a decade or more of what appears to be unfulfilled promises and unrealized expectations. Month after month, at least 120 disappointments. Where are you God? Why aren’t you doing what I thought you were gonna do?

Some of you may have your own version of the story, I don’t know what it is. You have a goal. God I know you’re gonna help us pay off that first credit card by this summer. I can just sense it. Summer comes and you have more on that credit card than you did when you set your goal. Where are you God?

God I know you’re gonna hear my prayer. My dad is gonna become a follower of Jesus. A year goes by and your dad is meaner than he’s ever been before. Nowhere close to coming to faith in Christ.

God by next Christmas, I can just see it, by next Christmas I will at least be dating the person that will be my spouse by next Christmas. Next Christmas comes and you haven’t been within 10 feet of someone that’s remotely attracted to you. God where are you? God did you forget about me? God are you even there?

You see from Abraham’s point of view nothing was happening. There was a promise and a lot of time, but no evidence of God working during that time. So Abraham thinks, “Instead of being father of many nations, I’m gonna lower my expectations. Just give me a son. One son. That’s all I want.”

Maybe you’ve been praying for something but nothing has happened. You’ve been trusting that God would do something. That God would hear your prayer. That God would bring a miracle. God would change something. God would move upon someone. God would make a provision. You’ve been praying and you’ve been believing, but nothing has happened.

But just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean that God isn’t doing something. When a seed gets planted in the ground, you don’t see what’s happening under the surface. You have no idea what God may produce through a single seed planted in faith.

God is still sending the sun, God is still sending the rain. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not working. Eventually, that seed is going to break open, and it’s going to take root.

Abraham had the same problem that so many of us have. He had a very limited perspective. He was stuck in a tent, telling God what he didn’t see. God I don’t see you working. I don’t see anything happening God. You told me that many nations stuff. I don’t even see a son.

Can you relate? God I’m not married yet. Have you noticed my biological clock is ticking? God, I’m buried in debt. Doing a stupid job that doesn’t pay very well, and there is no way I’m gonna get out of this. God the test results came back. It’s not good. I don’t know if you’re paying attention. I don’t see you anywhere. God you’re not doing what I wanted. Our perspective is limited.

But if God met all your expectations he would never have the chance to exceed them.

Abraham’s in this tent telling God what he doesn’t see. His perspective is limited. In Verse 5 of Genesis 15 we read this. “Then the Lord took Abram outside.” Get out here Abram. Come outside where you can see things from God’s viewpoint.

That’s what God is calling you toward, too. God wants to get you outside of your limited perspective. God’s calling you out of your unmet expectations. Genesis 15:5 reads, “Then the Lord took Abram outside “and said to him, “‘Look up into the sky “‘and count the stars if you can. “‘That’s how many descendants you will have!'”

I hope you understand that you are one of those stars. Galatians 3:29 says “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.” You are a seed of Abraham. Abraham was thinking addition. God was thinking multiplication. Abraham was thinking a son. God was thinking a nation, and many nations beyond that. God goes for the exponential.

Abraham was thinking of a son. God was also thinking of you, thousands and thousands of years later through history. You can never measure God’s unlimited power by your limited expectations.

One seed. One prayer prayed. One prayer prayed. One gift given. You may not see it today. It may take weeks. It may take months. It may take years for that seed to take root and produce fruit. But one seed, one prayer, one gift can initiate an exponential growth of spiritual fruit.

You have no idea what our God may produce through a single seed sown in faith.

God may not do exactly what you want him to do in the moment but our God is still working in all things to bring about good to those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose.

You may say, but I don’t have a lot of faith. I’m hurting. I haven’t seen God at work. Jesus says if you have ears, you need to hear this. Our God is working. Our God is with you. Our God is for you. Our God is powerful. He is the God of salvation. He is the God of forgiveness. He is the God of breakthroughs. He is the God of miracles.

If you’ve started to lower your expectations of God, understand this. God’s promises are true. God’s word is alive and his presence is with us to this day. Scripture says that we serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine. Not addition, multiplication.

You have no idea what God can do through a single seed planted in faith, and if you haven’t figured it out yet your life is a seed.

You have no idea how many lives can be touched, how many lives can be changed, and how much glory can be brought to our Father through one seed, one life given in faith.

As you come to this Table today, and you take a small bit of broken bread and sip a little cup of juice, know that Christ is planting a seed in you. It’s a seed of faith. Don’t worry about what kind of soil you are. Don’t worry that you can’t see what God is doing under the surface. Don’t worry about how long it’s going to take to bear fruit. Because we have no idea what our God can do through one life devoted to him. But God does.

Portions of this sermon are adapted from Craig Groeschel’s message, Exponential: From A Single Seed, used with permission and available through the Life.Church Open Network of free resources. 

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