He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”Mark 4:26-29
Dallas Willard, on this passage:
Here’s what I found out years ago, and if I hadn’t I would’ve been out of the business thirty or forty years ago, and it’s this: you don’t have to make it happen. The little parable that Jesus tells in Mark about the farmer that goes out and sows seed and then takes a nap? There is a little phrase in there that says, “The farmer knoweth not how this works.” There’s a plant coming up out of the dirt, and pretty soon there’s something edible there. But although the farmer doesn’t know how it happens, you can be sure it’s going to happen, and that takes the load off of you. You don’t have to make this happen. This is one of the most important things for pastors to understand. Don’t try to get people to do anything; just speak the word of the gospel, live as a disciple, lovingly teach, be with people, and it will happen.“The Gospel of the Kingdom” an interview with Keith Giles, in Renewing the Christian Mind, p. 226.
The other day I was part of a discussion about the felt need to “do” something in ministry moments where the person we are with is stuck. Our friend is disappointed with God, the divine will is opaque, they are confused with what is next, or they are flummoxed due to relationship difficulties.
We want to say the right thing, fix the problem, offer sound advice, provide good counsel, quote the right Bible verse, dispense sage wisdom, or prescribe the right action. But sometimes, we don’t need to do anything other than listen, be present, and pray. God is “doing” all that needs to be done, and we are watching and waiting for God to reveal, act, and direct accordingly. As a minister, it is important to remember that you are not the only actor. God may be hidden, but God is present, and God is most assuredly working.
Notice there is something to be done. Rather than tell or solve, however, we sow, rest, and then see what comes up. We then harvest at the right moment. As Willard says, “Don’t try to get people to do anything; just speak the word of the gospel, live as a disciple, lovingly teach, be with people, and it will happen.” We do what is ours to do. But we don’t have to make anything happen. That is God’s business.
Screaming at a seed does not cause it to sprout. It will do that on its own, in its own time, as God appoints. It will happen.