And He 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.”
Years ago I had just finished re-seeding my backyard with the help of my wife’s grandfather who was actually a member of the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame. The soil was tilled; the seed was down, watered, and covered with hay. We stood for a moment admiring the work. Then this wise, old man—who had seen it all in the field of agriculture—said, “It still amazes me. We still don’t know how a seed germinates. What energy causes it all to start?”
That was Jesus’ point, too. What happens under the ground, out of sight, out of our control, is a mystery. It is how the Kingdom of God operates. When we pray and ask the Lord for something, it is like planting a seed. Then we wait. Waiting is a core competency for a fruitful walk with God.
It is at this point, in the waiting, where it appears nothing is happening. A seed underground is analogous to those times when we pray and pray and wait and wait. God has neither answered “yes” or “no,” but we are driven to our knees beseeching Him to act in areas beyond our control and line of sight. After a while, we are tempted to dig up the soil to see if that seed is doing anything.
Allow the seed to die (germinate)
Here is the crucial phase for a Christian. We must yield every corner of our will. Consent. Admit dependence. Trust in Him alone (not the answer we seek), and let God be God. Rest in whatever direction the Lord may wisely move us.
It is here, in the absence of visible encouragement, where we run the danger of living by sight alone. We just react: “God’s gone;” “He’s forgotten me;” “He’s not able;” “He doesn’t care;” “I don’t matter.”
Over 100 years ago, Andrew Murray wrote his classic book Waiting on God. He spoke of the same necessary process of dying to oneself and attaching to the Lord with our heart and mind:
“Do believe that in waiting on God, His greatness and your littleness suit and meet each other most wonderfully. Just bow in emptiness and poverty and utter weakness, in humility and meekness, and surrender to His will before His great glory, and be still. As you wait on Him, God draws near. He will reveal Himself as the God who will mightily fulfill His every promise. And, let your heart continually take up the song: ‘Blessed are they that wait for Him.’”
Leave the seed in the ground
This step requires a toughness and spiritual discipline for thinking straight while the Lord operates out of sight. When nothing is happening, something is happening. Remember those many times in Scripture when believers panicked over the Lord’s “slow” response? Hunger and thirst in the desert (Exodus 15:22-16:12). Craving meat in the desert (Numbers 11). Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-40).
In each case, the Lord intervened, but He admonished believers for forgetting who was with them the whole time. Instead of just reacting to the visible crises, God wants us to rehearse the truth about Him and acknowledge what Jesus pointed out in the parable of the seed: God’s work is a mystery and often happens in the unseen realms. And, when He does act, it will be at the point of full ripeness. He will put the sickle to our situation—right on time.
The Lord sometimes delays His answers, but He is never overdue. God calls us to wait for many reasons—many concurrently:
• So that more may be given
• So that a larger purpose can be served
• To build relationship with us
• To tear down unhealthy resistance
• To exercise our muscle of faith
• To re-align our thinking and hearts
• To inflame our hearts to finally receive what God intends to give
• For His glory
In Jesus’ parable of the seed, conspicuously absent is the role of the farmer. Other than tossing the seed, germination progresses through the harvest without the help of the farmer. In fact, Jesus describes the man’s contribution to the process: “he knows not how.” This is what the Kingdom of God is like: God controls it.
There are plenty of places in Scripture where God commands us to take action of various kinds. When the Lord places obvious steps before us, we must act with forthright courage, and when He obviously brings silence and pause to the journey, we must bring courage in the form of faithful persistence in Him. This waiting requires the work of our hearts and minds while He stays silent on the answer. He will speak clearly to us in the interim. Watch Him intercede with encouragement and new revelations from His Word.
Stay steadfast. Refuse to simply react to circumstances. As Jesus says, God’s method during the wait is a mystery, but He controls it. So, let’s wait with joy and anticipation because the Lord In C¬harge loves us and already gave Himself up for us.