So battles are all about shifting boundaries and gaining ground, and as we’re pushed back out of the comfort of community and forced behind the doors and gates of our own homes once again, it can sure feel like we’re on the losing side when it comes to this game of territory and possession. My kids had to give the definition of ‘social’ in a comprehension and both boys answered that it means ‘to be separate’—their only reference point for the word being ‘social distancing’.
“The kingdom of heaven is advancing,” the Word of Truth tells us, and we are as dissatisfied with the invisibility of this kingdom as those who first heard about it in the times of Roman oppression.
How is it advancing? How do we take hold of it?
How do we turn our battle, turn the tides, so that we are gaining ground, instead of lying on it, defeated?
These same two boys came to me with the answer, though they were unaware of it:
“Mommy, explain this bible lesson to us,” they asked. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s too short. We don’t think it’s saying anything at all!”
And so we read words dropped like tiny seeds by The Harvester of Hearts:
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Again Jesus said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.—Mark 4:26-33
I smiled as I looked up at them. “This is it, boys! This is as long as the story needs to be.”
Because the power of the story is not in its length any more than the power of the seed is in its size. No, the power, the strength, the value of the thing is in its potential to bring life and change. And the kingdom of heaven is not built by stone upon dead stone, nor gained by pushing forward metre by metre. No, on the contrary, the kingdom of heaven is a living thing, a life thing, a thing that grows in the secret places of the heart, cracking open rock and ice until it bursts forth with verdant and visible life. The kingdom of heaven is a thing that keeps growing, even among tombs and enemy ground, long after the sower of the seed has walked away.
How do we gain ground? How do we advance the kingdom of heaven in our lives and the world around us? We understand that life is in the seed and we plant it wherever we go. We plant hope, we plant truth, we sow with smiles into hurting hearts, we plant prayers into the bedrock of impossible situations and we wait to see the power of verdant life. “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…”
And I laugh with my boys at the image of a farmer leaning over his crop and commanding it to grow. We imagine him holding his breath, his face turning red with the effort of urging the stalk to push out a head. It’s clear to us that his effort to produce or even quicken life is for nought; his only job was to plant and protect the seed.
My friends, this is it! This is as long as our lesson needs to be! The secret to gaining ground, to the kingdom of heaven advancing, does not lie in your effort to push forward. You cannot force life into your body, into your home, into your relationships, you cannot force life into your churches and businesses. Life belongs to the only One who is able to wrap it up in a seed, and breathe it into dead-looking husks and dry bones. Even while we are sleeping, he is working. But to us belongs the joy and responsibility of planting seeds wherever we go.
Don’t delay, start today, and speak the truth of the word of God to your heart. Speak Grace into your marriage and your children, declare the life of God over your finances. Don’t struggle or strain with the effort of it—the seed that carries life is not heavy. Its size belies its power.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”—Galatians 6:9
And all by itself, it seems, the hostile soil has life breaking its surface...