The Mysterious Growth of the Kingdom of God

September 14, 2016 • Life for Leaders

[Jesus] 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.”

Mark 4:26-28


Seedlings beginning to growIn Mark 4, Jesus tells several agricultural-themed parables to teach his disciples about the kingdom of God. The first, as we have seen, is the so-called Parable of the Sower (4:3-8). The second focuses on the mysterious way in which the kingdom of God grows: “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” (4:26-28).

In the time of Jesus, many people worked as farmers. But the science of horticulture was relatively primitive. People knew that seeds grew, but they didn’t know what explained this growth. Thus, the farmer who “scatters seed on the ground” knows that it grows, “though he does not know how” (4:27). From his perspective, the soil produces grain “all by itself,” as if by magic (4:28). Interestingly, the Greek word translated here as “all by it self” is automate, the root of our word “automatic.” From the point of view of the first-century farmer, seeds grow automatically.

What does this say to us about the kingdom of God? It reminds us that God is sovereign and God’s kingdom isn’t something we can control. Many of us who are leaders in life and work like to be in charge. We like to make sure that things operate according to plan. We want to ensure results. But, this penchant of ours for control can become quite frustrated when it comes to God’s kingdom. God’s ways are not our ways. God acts sovereignly, often in a manner we don’t quite fathom. We can feel rather like the farmer in Jesus’ parable. We know that God’s kingdom is growing, but we can’t figure out the process.

If we need to be in control, this can feel frustrating, to be sure. But, if we can stand back and surrender control to the Lord, we are in a position to marvel at the mystery and mercy of God’s work. We can be joyfully surprised when God does things that weren’t in our plan. We can humble ourselves before the Lord, confessing both our dependence on him and our need for his wisdom to guide us. We can rejoice when we see God’s kingdom growing “automatically” in our lives.


Have there been times in your life when the kingdom of God was growing but you didn’t know why?

How have you been surprised by God’s grace in your life?

What helps you to relinquish control to the Lord, trusting his sovereignty rather than your own?


Gracious God, thank you for the vitality of your kingdom. Thank you for the growth of your kingdom that often eludes our understanding and that certainly escapes our control. Help us, we pray, to learn to trust you. Teach us to look for the reality of your kingdom and to rejoice when we find it growing “automatically.” May you be King over every part of our lives, so that we might live for your purposes and glory. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Parables at Work (Mark 4:26-29 and 13:32-37)



4 thoughts on “The Mysterious Growth of the Kingdom of God

  1. Osdale Brewster says:

    Good Morning, I was reflecting in conversation with my mom yesterday about how The Lord had blessed my life by enhancing my understanding of his written word. I had avoided a deeper study of the bible for many years. As a Retail Manager I just never had time.While working for HEB Mr Charles Butt Jr. often invited me to the retreat for partner, however , I just never had the time. My walk with Christ was not what it should have been then and I have many regrets.I did not understand how not to judge people for their actions because there is only one that can do that.I made a decision to leave the company because of my judging another person.The Partner that I Judged was retained by HEB . I never had a chance to let him know that I judged him when it was not in my hands to do and i never found the courage to let CB know what an impact HEB made in my life and I was wrong in that situation. I never got a chance to tell him thank you for whatever qualities he saw in me.I have dedicated my life to Christ and work as a Deacon and whatever is needed in the tiny church that I serve. I attribute religion returning into my life because of my family training ,belief in God and HEB.

  2. At the end of the first Question to Consider, “didn’t now why” should be changed to “didn’t know why.”

    Thank you, as always, Mark, for a thought-provoking devotion.

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