God’s kingdom always appears small, always appears insignificant, and always appears powerless. God’s ways are always slow.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32
Jesus’ life and ministry modeled the slow, hard ways of God. How can we expect it to be any different for us?
I was asked, after returning a few days ago, from a one-week trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil: “What was the biggest thing you learned on your trip?”
“God’s ways are slow… and hard,” I responded. I surprised even myself with my answer.
Our trip was rich, fruitful, and powerful. We partner with Willow Creek Brazil and their gifted staff in bringing EHS to that great country. The response of pastors/leaders was tremendous. The doors open to EHS in Brazil are wide. And the list of consolations and joys from our trip filled a page in my journal.
Yet, I learned afresh that any true work of God in a life, a ministry, a community, or a country is always a mustard seed. It will take time for all EHS materials to be translated into Portuguese, years for key leaders to absorb EHS into their lives and leadership, and years for a contextualized strategy to be discerned for a country so large and diverse.
That smallness scandalizes and offends me. It always has.
I like quick, easy, and large – immediately. When one Brazilian leader boasted his church had 40,000 people at a recent midweek service, I smiled. Why? The kingdom of God is a like a mustard seed. Jesus is not about overpowering or impressing people with size or earthly measurements of power.
Planting, watering, and cultivating seeds to become fruitful is hard work. Ask any farmer. As men and women who lead in Jesus’ name, that is a difficult lesson to learn.
God waited billions of years before taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus 2000 years ago. The spread of the gospel around the world continues to slowly take place.
But if we faithful, and patient, to care for the seeds He has given us to sow, we can be assured that it will “sprout and grow… all by itself” and we will never be able to understand how He did it. We will only marvel. (Mark 4:26-29).