In 1879, people watching William Beal would likely think he was loony. They’d see him filling bottles with seeds, then burying them in deep soil. What they didn’t know was that Beal was conducting an experiment that would span centuries. Every twenty years a bottle would be dug up, its seeds would be planted, and researchers could see which seeds would germinate.
Jesus talked a lot about seed-planting, often likening the sowing of seed to the spreading of “the word” (Mark 4:15). He taught that some seeds are snatched by Satan, others have no foundation and don’t take root, and yet others are hampered by the life around them and are choked out (vv. 15–18). As we spread the Good News, it’s not up to us which seeds will survive. Our job is simply to sow the gospel—that is, tell others about Jesus: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation (16:15 esv).
In the year 2021, another of Beal’s bottles was dug up by researchers. Beal’s seeds from 1879 were planted—and some sprouted, having survived more than 140 years. As God works through to share our faith with others, we never know if our testimony will take root, or when. But we’re to be encouraged that our sowing of the Good News might, even after many years, be engaged by someone who will “accept it, and produce a crop” (4:20).