Day 18 – How to Have a High Failure Rate without Failing

Mark 4:1–9 NRSV  

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Consider This

The Holy Spirit works through Jesus to communicate the nature of God and the gospel in a variety of ways. Last week the analogy was fishing for people. This week it’s sowing the seeds of the gospel into the soil of peoples’ lives. As we read through the Bible, we witness a God who longs to communicate with people. He often utilizes something we understand (like seeds) to teach us about something we struggle to grasp (like the nature of God).

The Spirit reveals a God who works like an extravagant sower. The Holy Spirit is long on extravagance and short on efficiency. Efficiency wants to do the research and determine the location of the good soil in advance and only sow there. This is not how the gospel works. The gospel works through abundant extravagant sowing—everywhere and all the time. I mean, who sows seed on the path?

According to this parable, something like three out of every four seeds sown fails. At the same time, no effort to sow the gospel will ever be a failure. Regardless of whether it amounts to anything or not, the simple act of sowing the seed communicates the extravagant love of God. The Spirit of God never stops sowing the seed of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Despite the high fail rate, one seed in four returns an extraordinary harvest. Let’s put this in the framework of money. Say I give you one million dollars. According to the parable (and I realize this is not some kind of formula), you will lose $250,000 right off the top—gone! The next $500,000 will seem to be a good investment. The seed will sprout and grow and yet it will ultimately fail and amount to a total loss. This leaves you with $250,000 of the one million. Let’s average the yield on that $250,000 to a 60-fold return. That comes to a gain of $15,000,000 if my math is right.

Final thought. The harvest is not up to the sower. The sower’s only job is to sow extravagantly . . . everywhere . . . all the time. The pressure’s off. The Holy Spirit will bring the return. It comes down to being willing to have a high fail rate while knowing you cannot fail.

In 1923, Babe Ruth broke three major league baseball records. He broke the record for the most home runs in a single season. He broke the record for the highest batting average in a single season. And, most surprisingly, in this same season, he led the entire league in strikeouts.

In some ways, I think this may be how the gospel works. It’s about a high fail rate without failing.

The Prayer

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

The Questions

What will it take to bring you to a greater confidence in the seed of the Word of God?

What will it take to make you an extravagant sower? What holds you back?