"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
One of my new favorite tv shows is called "Airplane Repo." It's a reality tv show, and as the title reveals, it's all about these thrill-seeking guys who make a living re-possessing airplanes whose owners have defaulted on their payments. They basically "steal" the airplane and then give it back to the financeer. And to quote Kevin Lacey, one of the guys on the show, "99% of what I do is 100% legal."
The language can be strong, but the situations these guys put themselves into in order for the big pay-off is more than intense. Once they think they've located the plane that they're looking for, they have to somehow sneak into the hanger where it's being stored. (All with a camerman on their heels, mind you!) Then they verify the serial number on the tail to make sure it's the plane their looking for, and fnally they have to locate the log books. You see, without the log books, the plane's value reduces instantly in half. Finally, they literally have minutes to perform a check on the airplane to see if its flight worthy - that's not much time to make sure everything works - and then they take off to return the plane to the bank or individual who hired them.
On one episode, after weeks of near misses, the "Airplane Repo" guys found and took possession of a $3 million dollar plane. The payoff? $300,000.00 The biggest payoff of their career. The problem? Once they got in the air, they realized that the radio controls didn't work. There was no calling the tower. Auto-pilot wasn't even an option. They had little fuel, and the pilot told them they literally had five minutes or less to figure out what to do because they were in a high air-traffic area in southern Florida. Within minutes, they would be in a head-on collission with another plane.
What happened next? You'll have to go to Discovery Channel and watch for yourself.
Now, I don't know a lot about Auto-Pilot or how it works. But I do know the concept. It's for simple people like me. Set something in motion, and if the parameters are set correcly, it will work like a charm. Right?
I think that's why these verses intriguted me this morning. So many times we preach against letting yourself go on "auto-pilot" as a Christian. Why? Because usually when we go on auto-pilot, it's by human design. We do what we want, caring little for the things of the Lord and caring more about our #1 priority - the ever important ME. Human auto-pilot always has the parameters not quite set appropriately.
Yet at first glance, these verses seem to give the opposite idea of the whole "auto-pilot" concept as a Christian. Jesus shares the parable of "the good seed." In it, the farmer scatters the seed, and it appears that seed does what it's intended to do, without ever being attended to. It grows into full maturity, and the farmer doesn't know why, because he's never done a thing for the seed except to scatter it on the ground.
I'll admit it - I'm a bit hard-headed. (OK, maybe more than a bit.) And I'm a simple thinker. So when I read this the first time, it sure seemed to me like Jesus was saying that some seeds (baby Christians) grow in the Lord, just like they are supposed to - almost like they are on "auto-pilot." And the end result? They reach full maturity.
Simple concept, right?
No, not exactly.
Now, I've been a Christian a long time. And that whole concept just doesn't jive. Everything I've learned tells me that living the Christian life and growing in maturity takes discipline. I have to work at it. (Not to be confused with working FOR it! My eternal destiny is settled, and it was settled at the point that I committed my life to Christ and put my faith and trust in Him!) But the point is that I can't just go on auto-pilot and expect to eventually be a mature Christian.
When something doesn't make sense to me, I don't just accept it at face-value and move on. I need to understand. And I just couldn't grasp this whole concept of how a seed, paralelled to a baby Christian, could sprout and grow and reach the point of maturity, all without the farmer even knowing how or why. I knew there was something I was missing.
So I read the passage again. I re-read. I read a third and fourth time. Yes, I know, I'm hard-headed, I've admitted that already! It wasn't until I sat and typed out each word of the parable that it hit me. The seed itself had nothing to do with the growth and maturity in the story. The farmer had nothing to do with it. What produced the crop? It was the soil. It was only when the seed was firmly established in the soil that the seed was nurtured to achieve its purpose.
Read it again - 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.
The only thing the seed did was to stay planted in the soil, and the natural outcome was that the seed flourished and grew into its intended purpose. And what is my soil? It's Jesus Christ. My job is to grow into the person that the Lord wants me to be by keeping myself firmly planted and established in Him. There is no auto-pilot in this formula. In fact, if I don't have constant communication with the control tower, just like the Airplane Repo episode I mentioned earlier, I would crash and burn.
Aren't you thankful God redeems us? Aren't you thankful He provides fertile soil for us to grow, and when we go on auto-pilot, he still possesses us and doesn't re-possess (give us back to the original owner)? I know I sure am! I'm also quite thankful for the flight plans and log book He gives me in His word.
My challenge for today: Guard against going on auto-pilot. Be disciplined daily to keep nyself firmly planted in the fertile soil of Jesus. Read my Log Book and Flight Plan daily. Change the oil (confess!) Stay fueled up for the unknown trip ahead. And just like the seed, grow into the person God created me to be.