The advance of major religions across the globe at the point of a sword, the secularization of society under the sharp edges of sophisticated educators, the totalitarian persecution of faith under communism – all of these threats never have, and never will, thwart the spread of the Gospel. Mark 4 guarantees it.
We have to be careful when we make guarantees from the Bible. Sometimes it is better to speak of general principles because people may experience exceptions to an apparent scriptural guarantee that has been misunderstood. For example, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). That is wise advice, but it is not a guarantee. However, there is a guarantee at the end of Mark 4.
Jesus was coaching his disciples. His process of discipleship involved both taught content and practical experience. When I was a child, my Dad explained how to ride a bicycle without training wheels (keep looking ahead and pedalling, etc.). But then he also ran behind me, holding me steady as I pedalled. Then when I spoke to him and got no reply, I realized he had let go, and I started to panic but remembered his words and kept looking forward and pedalling. They did not ride bicycles, but Jesus was a master teacher.
One evening, Jesus invited his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee in a boat. They set out. Others did too. It must have seemed like a good evening for sailing. But then, a violent windstorm arose, and the boat began filling with water. It was a desperate situation. So the disciples woke Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern. They rebuked him for not caring about their impending doom. And then Jesus turned a storm into a famous story. He rebuked the wind and the waves precisely as he had previously rebuked demons speaking out of turn. (Some think the storm was a demonic attack on the boat.) Immediately, calm was restored. Then Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, and they feared even more. (Mark 4:35-41)
We must be careful not to offer guarantees that the text does not yield. For instance, the common idea is that if Jesus is in the boat of your life, you can smile at the storm. Why? Because whatever storm you are facing, Jesus’ presence guarantees a good outcome. In an ultimate sense, this may be true. But we must be careful with this line of thought. Doctors do diagnose fatal diseases that end the lives of Christians. Wars do take a terrifying toll on entire populations, including faithful followers of Jesus. Actual storms hit land and devastate the homes of believers and unbelievers.