How Can I Work With God In Evangelism?
In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus discusses the parable of the 4 soils. Each soil represents a condition of the human heart and its receptivity to the Gospel message. After teaching on this subject for a number of years, seeing people come to Christ, and watching their development after repentance—I believe this parable could provide the greatest insight into God’s process of redemption. When you understand His process, it enables you join Him as a personal witness instead of trying to push Christ on others.
You will need your Bibles for these posts. Find your Bible and follow along.
Our goal through these posts are (1) To become specialists in good soil [I want us to see where God is working and join Him there], and (2) I want us to recognize the four basic ways that people respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is no question that some people are more open to the Gospel than others. If you have shared Christ with a handful of people, you will know that some people are very close to faith and others are very standoffish. That does not mean that some who are closed today, might not be open to the Gospel tomorrow. The goal of sharing the Gospel of Christ is not to “close the deal” with every encounter. The goal is to faithfully share, and trust Him to call them within His timing.
You and I cannot save anyone, but we can confuse a lot of people. I’ll share more of what I mean by that as we go further.
I said a moment ago that our first goal is to become specialists in good soil. Where in Scripture do we find a basis for this goal?
John 4:35-38 says, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
There are 5 truths we can learn from this passage:
(1) Without the guidance of God, there is a tendency to underestimate the spiritual readiness of those around us. “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’”
(2) Jesus wants us to be observant of the condition of the fields around us. “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields. . .” The word ‘behold’ speaks of more than a casual glance. It is a lingering stare. He says, “Stare at, look at, lift up your eyes and look at the fields.”
(3) The fields symbolically refer to humanity and eternal life. “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life…”
(4) Sowing and reaping work together. “…Both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together…one sows and another reaps.”
(5) This text is written for practical application. “I sent you to reap…”
Another passage that helps us become specialists in the good soil is Mark 4:26-29. “The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seeds on the ground. He sleeps and gets up night and day while the seeds sprout and grow, although he doesn’t know how. The ground produces grain by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, he immediately swings his sickle because the harvest time has come.”
There are 4 primary truths that we can learn from this passage:
(1) We begin by scattering seeds on the ground around us.
“The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seeds on the ground.” What are the seeds spoken of in this passage? While this passage does not specifically indicate the identity of the seeds, we do find other Scripture references that help clarify the mystery.
In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus gives the parable of the soils. We find a man scattering seed on the ground, and Jesus clearly identifies the seed. “Now this is what the parable means. The seed is God’s word.” Therefore, if we are going to practically sow seeds on the ground around us, we must find a way of sharing the Word of God.
A second passage is James 3:18. It gives even more clarification on the identity of the seeds. “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” This verse has confused people for years. Farming practices speak of sowing seeds, not fruit. Yet this passage specifically addresses sowing the “fruit of righteousness.”
Warren Wiersbe addressed this concept by saying, “There is a vast difference between man-made results and God-given fruit. Fruit is the product of life, and fruit has in it the seeds for more fruit. Usually it is the seed that is sown, but here it is the fruit that is sown. As we share the fruit of God with others, they are fed and satisfied, and they in turn bear fruit.”
The fruit of God is God living through us. A good list to help would be the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.
When this information is taken together, we see that a believer who walks in the wisdom of God will have “good conduct” (James 3:13) that results in “the fruit of righteousness . . . sown in peace” (James 3:18). Therefore, by our lifestyle we are constantly sowing “the fruit of righteousness.”
Here’s an example of both forms of seed working together. For a year and a half, our church held another service for a homeless population at the corner of Tropicana and Decatur in Las Vegas. After 4 weeks of meeting together, I asked the group, “What do you want in life?” One of the ladies said, “When I would come to your church, it seemed like everyone was happy.” She said, “That’s what I want. I want to be happy.”
I told her that we have problems like everyone else, but it’s God who give us joy in the context of our relationship with Him. I then shared that God’s goal is not our happiness but that we may know Him. I opened my Bible and shared John 17:3. “And this is eternal life that they may know you.” She said, “That’s what I want.” I was able to share the Gospel with the group and 4 people prayed to receive Christ on that Sunday.
Two things happened in that story. First, due to people expressing joy at church, the “fruit of righteousness was sown in peace.” God used believers’ actions to sow seeds in her life. Second, when I answered her question, I shared Scripture—John 17:3. At that moment, God took the fruit of righteousness and the seed of the Word, and I became like “like the man who scatters seeds on the ground” (Mark 4:26).
By allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the conversation, there were no uncomfortable feelings of trying to force a presentation on someone. I was simply answering a lady’s question. God allowed us to join with Him in sowing seed, and He brought about salvation.
What is needed in practically sowing the seed?
The Word of God. (Luke 8:11) (Bible)
The Fruit of Righteousness. (James 3:18) (Behavior)
The first truth from Mark 4:26-29 is by far the most intensive, but necessary for a clear understanding of what God requires of His people.
(2) Scattering seeds should be a part of everyday life.
“He sleeps and gets up night and day while the seeds sprout and grow. . .” If we are to be a personal witness for Christ, it is imperative that our witness is a natural and normal part of our daily lives. When Jesus gave the Great Commission to the church (go and make disciples), it’s better translated, as you go, make disciples.
(3) Seeds mature in definitive stages.
“The ground produces grain by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe…the harvest time has come.” Why did the farmer NOT harvest the grain when it was only a stalk? The plant had not progressed to maturity. Sadly, by failing to wait upon the promptings of God, Christians are “swinging the sickle” at people who are not ready for salvation.
It is interesting to note that “soil preparation” and “plant growth” are both solely in the hands of God. Scripture clearly indicates that believers are to plant seed, water seed, and reap the harvest in due season. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). We find no mention of “the Christian plow” or the “soul-winner’s shovel.” The soil of a person’s heart is prepared by God.
Pay close attention to the exact words of Jesus in Mark 4:27. “He sleeps and gets up night and day while the seeds sprout and grow, although he doesn’t know how.”
Why doesn’t the farmer know how the seeds sprout and grow? Because plant growth is not his department. Growth is the byproduct of life, and life is in the hands of God.
(4) We should observe and evaluate the fields.
“He sleeps and gets up night and day while the seeds sprout and grow…but when the grain is ripe, he immediately swings his sickle because the harvest time has come.” The man was looking for and waiting on the exact moment of the harvest. His mind was focused. His actions were repetitive. His response was immediate. It is impossible to be ready for the harvest if we are not intentional about the process. God uses people who are willing, ready, and prepared.
At this point, the table has been set. In the following posts, we will take one soil type at a time and understand it from God’s perspective.