I’ve been into comics since I was about six or seven years old. My dad would bring me issues of the Incredible Hulk and I loved them. I didn’t have a lot – just whatever my dad would give me – but I treasured them and read them over and over. To this day, I collect the Hulk. It still reminds me of my dad. I started to really get into the stories. I would borrow the collected editions from the library. I’d read them when we went to get an eye exam because our optometrist had a huge selection. And then somewhere around junior high, I went from being an occasional reader to a comic book collector. I can even pinpoint what book kicked it off for me – Uncanny X-Men #147, “Rogue Storm”. I was fascinated by the X-Men so slowly I began collecting older issues, trading with friends, and then becoming a regular at my local comic book store where my dad or mom would take me every week. I was definitely in it for the stories, but I noticed there was another type of collector who frequented my local store. The SPECULATOR! (Duh-duh-duh). These people thought of comics solely as an investment. They would come into the store and walk down the new comic book aisle, picking up one of every issue, two if it was a first issue, and immediately place them into plastic bags and put them into a storage box. And there they would sit. They wouldn’t even read them because that would make them less pristine. Instead, they sat in a bag, in a box, on a shelf. Never fulfilling their intended use. In that way, our faith is like comic book collecting. We can either enjoy it as it was intended, or we can put it on a shelf, condemned to never live out its true purpose. The love of God is meant to be cherished. Our faith is meant to be explored. Our hope in Christ is meant to be shared. It isn’t supposed to be hidden away.
We often feel unprepared, unworthy, and ill equipped to do the work God has called us to do.
But that’s usually a lack of confidence in ourselves instead of an actual inability to do God’s will. You have the tools you need to share your faith and the love of God, because the work of God is more about attitude than aptitude. Like so many things, the work of God is more about attitude than aptitude. Jesus talks about this in the parable we are going to share this morning. This story we are about to hear from Jesus is known as the Parable of the Sower. Now, you could read it from two different perspectives – either as the seed or the sower. As the seed, Jesus is calling on us to be responsive to his Word; to be planted in good soil and produce a crop, but as the sower we have a different perspective. As we read the passage, I want you to picture yourself in the story as the sower that Jesus talks about, and picture in your mind that this is a task God empowers us to do.
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” 9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” – Mark 4:1-9
You are the sower.
YOU are the sower. The seeds God is referring to are the bits of knowledge and wisdom we have gained from our own experience with Jesus. They are part of the fruit he produces in us. And now it’s our turn to use those seeds to grow new fruit, which will produce even more of a harvest for God. But without us spreading his seeds, it’s so much harder for new fruit to grow. We are important to God’s plan. You might be timid about it. You might worry about wasting your time, energy, and effort if you can’t produce results. You don’t want people to think you’re foolish. You might be embarrassed to share your faith. All of these thoughts play into our decision as we think about becoming the kind of farmers God wants us to be. But in this parable, Jesus is encouraging us to plant everywhere. We cannot become better harvesters if we don’t ever attempt to do what needs to be done. We can’t tell what will work and what won’t unless we try. We learn best by DOING. The point Jesus is making here is about our faithfulness to the planting process. When we do what we are supposed to, not every seed we plant in someone’s heart will take root. Not every effort we make will bear fruit. But when it does, it is worth it.
The PROCESS is important.
The act of planting seeds in people’s hearts is vital to growing our collective faith. And that’s because people who aren’t Christian aren’t walking around saying to themselves, “Oh, I wish I were a Christian.” “If I were Christian, my whole life would be better!” “If only someone would show me how to BE a Christian!” No. Most people are not simply one step away from accepting Christ. Most people don’t know they need Jesus in their life and certainly aren’t looking for someone to show them the way. For the most part, they’re walking around thinking life is pretty good – or not. Some are happy, some are sad, but they don’t KNOW that there’s another kind of life waiting for them. They don’t know there is a whole different kind of existence when you have Christ in your life. They don’t know how GOOD it can be! It’s like Indian food. There’s nothing like a good bowl of dal or a good pot of butter chicken and there are times I CRAVE, absolutely CRAVE masala dosa. But before I TRIED Indian food, I never knew what I was missing. I could take it or leave it, and honestly I preferred to leave it. I never had it, never saw it, never smelled it, and frankly never wanted it. I was happy enough in my life without it and I wasn’t all that interested in trying something new, but when Cassie asked me to I loved it! I wish I hadn’t waited so long to try it, and I always encourage people to eat it. If you like Chinese food or just kind of spicy food, you’ll love the flavors of Indian food. But had Cassie not come along and invited me to try it, I would have lived life perfectly happy, not knowing what I was missing. Christianity is like that. It’s this awesome, incredible, wonderful part of life that makes everything more meaningful and more worth living, but unless you know you need it, you can just go on without it.
That’s why it’s so important for us to share our faith instead if hiding it away on a shelf.
Because we have the power to change lives. Through God’s grace and God’s love, we have the power to change lives. And it doesn’t take any more knowledge or power than what God has already given you. Think about the ways in which God has changed your life. Think about the difference God has made in the way you live. Think about how you approach life differently because God is a part of it. Those are the seeds you have to share. Biblical knowledge is great and you should be encouraged to grow deeper in your faith with it, but if you’re waiting to know “enough” about the Bible to answer every question or counter every argument, you’ll be waiting your whole life. Our quest to learn about God never ends. You won’t graduate in this life. But you have enough to share your faith, whether you believe it or not. You are enough. The seeds God has put in your pouch are enough. Now who are you going to share them with?
I know fear is a big part of why we don’t share our faith.
Fear of failure, fear of being inadequate, fear of your own lack of knowledge – but fear should never stop you from planting seeds. In fact, it should do just the opposite. It should inspire you and encourage you and motivate you to go out there anyway. Fear of the number of lives you fail to change because you chose NOT to share your faith. Fear of what God will say when you die and he asks you what you did with your faith. Fear of knowing you had the power to change people’s lives and didn’t do it. I was visiting with a woman at one of the churches I served, and I’ll never forget the story she told me. She said that although she went to church every week and it was important to her, she didn’t want to force her faith on her children. She wanted them to choose for themselves what path they would follow. So after they reached a certain age, she didn’t encourage them to come to church. She let them choose. Naturally, they chose to stay home. They chose to go out with friends. They chose a life away from God. And they often floundered in life, struggling with fear, worry, anxiety, and insecurity. Later in life, her daughter started to come to church again. In it, she found many of the answers that had eluded her for so long. One day, she asked her mother why it was she never shared her faith. When her mother told her she wanted her to find out for herself, the daughter said, “I wish you had told me all of this years ago. You should have told me why you believed. If it was that important to you and to me, you should have told me why you believed. It would have saved me years of pain and frustration.” Her story really touched my heart. While I do believe ultimately we have to choose whether or not to follow God, how can we choose when we don’t even know what the choices are? Is our lack of faith that profound that we can’t even share it with those closest to us? Don’t let fear hold you back. Instead use it as a motivation to share the love of God with those around you.
Be bold in your faith.
You may not have all the answers, but no one does. Not me, not you, not any one except God. So if you’re waiting to be “ready” you’ll never get there. Like riding a bike, like learning to walk, like planting seeds, like anything in life we gain knowledge in the doing. Some of our seeds may land on infertile ground, but we learn from it. Some of our seeds may start to bloom and then wither under the weeds, but we learn from it. Some of our seeds might get taken away, and in each instance we learn how to be better at sharing our faith. We learn what works for us and what doesn’t. If fear is holding you back, it’s because you don’t fear the consequences enough to do something about it. And if you feel like you’ve tried and failed, just remember, the one who plants the seeds isn’t always the one who harvests them. The one who plants the seeds isn’t always the one who harvests them. Don’t be frustrated in your attempts. Don’t worry that you don’t see fruit right away. There are plants that take years to harvest. The fig trees that Jesus always seems to be talking about take anywhere from three to five years to produce any figs. A traditional apple tree can take anywhere from six to seven years to give any fruit. And olive trees can give fruit as early as three and sometimes as late as 12 years. You might be the one to plant the seed, but it might take a team of people to finally harvest it. So do not be discouraged by a lack of results, but instead be faithful to the planting process. It’s the planting of the seeds that honors God. If we don’t share our faith, it’s like putting a comic book into a bag without ever reading it. An unread comic is a wasted comic. An unsowed seed is a wasted seed. And a life without Christ is a mere shadow of what it could be.