Last week, I did a 10k run. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, until I talked to a friend about his running schedule. he's preparing for a marathon. He runs about four times a week. Three of them, he said, were short runs; one was longer.
I made the mistake of asking him how long his short runs were. He said, "About 9k." Suddenly, my 10k run didn't seem so significant anymore.
Most of us know that feeling - the feeling that something that's important to us really doesn't measure up.
That's true of the church. We expect the church to be triumphant. It's the Body of Christ. Jesus has given us all authority. Yet we often find the church is weak, broken, and imperfect.
Jesus' Stories (Mark 4)
The First Story
26Jesus also said, "Here is another illustration of what the Kingdom of God is like: A farmer planted seeds in a field, 27and then he went on with his other activities. As the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew without the farmer's help, 28because the earth produces crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle."
The first story is about something we take for granted - the growth of seeds into wheat. The farmer is part of this process in which the seed is planted and grows. He can't understand it or explain it, but he's part of the process.
What's the story about? It's ultimately not about the farmer, or waiting. It's about the seed, which represents the Gospel.
What does it tell us? The Gospel is powerful - it has a power to grow all on its own. We're part of the process, but we can't explain it or even understand it. The Kingdom's development can't be hurried or skipped. Its growth is the work of God. We can't make it grow or even explain how it grows.
The Second Story
30Jesus asked, "How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31It is like a tiny mustard seed. Though this is one of the smallest of seeds, 32it grows to become one of the largest of plants, with long branches where birds can come and find shelter."
A mustard seed was known for being tiny. It takes 725-760 seeds to make a gram. Yet out of these tiny seeds came huge tree-like shrubs (6-10 feet). Once mustard seeds were planted, it was hard to ever get the place free of them.
This again is about the Kingdom of God. It has seemingly insignificant beginnings, yet one day it will be seen by all. We can't judge its effects by its current size. It's the current activity of GOd, not the evidence that we see right now, that guarantees the outcome.
Out of nothing, ignoring all failure, God is carrying out his Kingdom to completion.
God's reign rarely makes headlines. It's easy to write it off and ignore it.
But we can't miss how God's Kingdom really operates. It advances through defeat, crucifixion, and prison. It's not what we thought it would be like. It's not often mighty, fast, or successful. It's silent and often overlooked.
Our role, like the farmer's, is to do our part and never give up, even when it looks like nothing's happening as a result of our work.