How Growth Happens

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Mark 2:26-34 || April 28, 2024

Oh, to be a kid again. To have few responsibilities and little to worry about. Just running around and living life. And yet, everything around the house still managed to get done. Bags were packed for trips. Lunch boxes and backpacks were ready and waiting by the door for school. The house never collapsed in on itself. And who did these things? It was mom or dad, right? And they didn’t just do the necessary things. They also developed our lives around us. They made sure that plants were growing and blooming. They painted walls, bought new furniture, and hung pictures. And what did we do in all of this? We sat back and enjoyed everything they did. We see something similar in our reading for today. Jesus tells us that God is the one who is working in his kingdom, not us. God is the one who makes his kingdom grow through the power of Christ and visibly here on earth. These two parables are only two out of four that Jesus preaches in this section of Mark. And each one of them is concerning this concept, the kingdom of God. And we don’t have a formal definition for the kingdom of God found in the Bible, only snippets and usually in parables like today. So what is the kingdom of God? We explain it as God’s ruling work on earth. And when we’re talking about God’s ruling work on earth, we’re talking about a lot of things. We’re talking about God dwelling in our hearts to strengthen our faith through his word. We’re talking about God guiding and protecting us day in and day out. We’re talking about God using the word to bring people to faith. This is God’s ruling work on earth. This is the kingdom of God. And Jesus connects this concept to a farmer who’s just doing his work. He’s planting the seed. And when he plants the seed, does he hover over it? No. Does he worry about it? No. He just trusts that the seed will do its thing. And he goes back inside of his house and waits. And what does the seed do? The seed grows. All by itself, without his input, without his worry, the seed grows and matures. And only at this point does the farmer come out to harvest it. The only interaction that the farmer has with the seed is the planting and the harvesting. The rest, the seed does. It reminds me of how children grow into adults. When we’re young, we run around causing problems for our parents, just kind of living life. And when we’re hungry, we eat, and when we’re thirsty, we sleep. But over time, our bodies grow. Our brains are able to comprehend more complex subjects. And we don’t realize it’s happening. It just happens because that is how the body works. Jesus tells us the same thing is true about God’s work. So what makes it so hard to trust God that he will work in his kingdom? I mean, we trust our parents to do everything around the house for us. And those things are so much smaller than someone’s eternal life. So what makes it so hard? Is it because we’re thinking to ourselves, what can I do? What more can I do to convince this person of the truths of God? To just leave it in God’s hands? Or are we so fixated on the end goal of convincing this person, of bringing them into the faith, that we forget who actually does the work? Or do we say to ourselves, if only I could preach like Paul. He was a great preacher. He brought many people into the faith. If only I could preach like Paul, then this person would convert. Or do we look at them and judge them based on their appearance and think based only on their appearance that it’s not worth our time? Friends, when we think like this, we put such a heavy burden on our shoulders, a heavy burden that draws us away from God and into despair. But Jesus is telling us that we don’t have to worry about that. Jesus is saying that we’re not the one who works to grow God’s kingdom. God’s doing that. He’s telling us you don’t have to worry. God works to grow his kingdom. God achieves the end goal. God is the one doing it. Not you. Not you. You can rest in me and trust. And friends, we can trust because God is the one that does this work. We don’t have to worry. We can trust in him and go out and spread the word because he does the work. And Jesus tells us that we have proof that he spreads the word and grows his kingdom. And all we have to do is look around us right here in this very church to see that God grows his kingdom. In the second parable, Jesus refers to a mustard seed. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about just how small a mustard seed is. It’s tiny. Imagine a few grains of table salt. It’s about how big it is. And I’ve never spent much time thinking just how big a mustard tree is. Depending on the kind you’re talking about, it can grow up to 20 or 30 feet tall and just as wide. So just think something the size of a few grains of salt. It’s just something five or six times taller than us. That’s such amazing growth. And Jesus draws our focus onto this little thing. This little thing that grows so big that even birds can perch in its shade. And I don’t know how this growth happens, how something so small can become something so big. What I do know is that Jesus isn’t so worried about how the plant grows. No, he’s talking about the kingdom of God, remember? He’s talking about how God grows his kingdom. And some of you might be thinking, “We know a time where this church was a lot bigger, or we know churches in the area that over time have grown smaller.” And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a harsh truth right now of living in the United States. It’s hard to look at the pews around us sometimes and see them empty. But friends, the broader reality is so much greater and better than that harsh truth. Yes, the United States is a hard place to spread the gospel right now. But all we have to do is look all over the world to see God’s growth, to see God growing his kingdom. We built a seminary to train pastors in Vietnam. We have missionaries in Asia and Europe and South America and Africa and even here. What amazing growth. God took his kingdom from facing the death of Christ, from that fearful situation, and what happened at that time. I’ve already alluded to it, but God didn’t stop working after the death of Jesus. No, he raised Jesus from the dead to forgive our sins and give us everlasting life. He took 12 disciples and 120 followers. That’s the number we find in Acts, only 132 believers in Israel. He took that and he grew it. He grew it to places in Italy, places in Greece. What amazing growth we see, friends. And all we can do is praise God that he works to grow his kingdom. Not us. He grows his kingdom. Oh, to be a kid again. To trust someone to take care of us and to do everything that we need. To trust that someone will develop our lives around us. Friends, we can be kids again in this sense. We can trust that God does work to grow his kingdom. We can trust that God has produced this growth because that’s what God does. God grows his kingdom powerfully to produce visible growth here on earth. And all we need to do is look around to see this beautiful truth. Amen.