Sowing a seed of faith
In the field of botany, there are two types of seeds—orthodox and unorthodox. What sets an orthodox seed apart is its ability to survive. Unorthodox seeds die when exposed to temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius, but orthodox seeds are able to survive droughts, glaciers, and the ravages of time—even 20 centuries, like Methuselah.
Faith, too, is an orthodox seed. It can survive any and every circumstance. Even when you die, your seeds of faith do not. Long after you are gone, the things you plant have the potential to impact the world, near and far, for generations to come.
In Matthew chapter 13 verses 31 to 32, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. He says, “This is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Yes, the mustard seed is unassuming—only two millimeters in diameter—yet grows into a 10-foot-tall tree its first year. It is packed with vitamin B6, B12, C, E, and K and is a natural source of calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, and zinc; so faith is.
In 1936, a sociologist named Robert K. Merton wrote a paper titled “The Unanticipated Consequence of Purposive Social Action.” Simply put, he said that every decision we make, every action we take has unintended consequences beyond our ability to control and our ability to predict. Those unintended consequences come in two flavors—unexpected drawbacks and unexpected benefits. An unexpected drawback is when a decision backfires and has the opposite effect of what you intended. For example, if you’ve ever taken a medication that treats one symptom but causes complications, those side effects are unexpected drawbacks. An unexpected benefit, on the other hand, is when a decision doesn’t just accomplish what you intended, but also has a net benefit beyond what you imagined.
Let’s look again at Jesus’ parable in Mathew 13. What is the purposive action in this story? Why does the man plant the seed? I think it’s pretty simple—he wanted mustard on his kosher hot dog. It was a culinary decision. But there was also an unintended consequence. Jesus said, “It is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Is that why the man planted the tree? So the birds could build a nest in its branches? Absolutely not. But God has a way of taking the seeds of faith we plant and accomplishing His purposes in a way we couldn’t predict. In other words, God has ulterior motives for your life, and that’s good news.
Our job is to sow the seed of faith. God’s job is to make it grow. And it doesn’t just grow in a linear fashion. It grows exponentially through time and eternity. The dream God has given you will probably take longer and be harder to accomplish than you imagine, but that’s because God wants to do much bigger and better things than you can imagine. And the seeds of faith you plant will often reap a harvest where you least expect it.
Like a mustard seed, our faith often goes underground for a season. There is no visible evidence of what God is doing, but it isn’t for naught. Take heart. Faith has to take root before it can bear fruit. And it’s often in this phase that we give up on God’s plan.
We will never know when or where or how our lives will reap a harvest. But God is faithful. He is also able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. All we need is a little bit of faith.
The author is a graduate student of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, a Communications Specialist, and a preacher of the Word of God.