Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Advance is Small, Slow and More Costly than you Anticipated…

PJ Smyth, leads Godfirst Church in Johannesburg, South Africa and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.  I think his article is very relevant for those of us working among Muslims.
A couple of months ago, in the space of a few days, my life flipped from a season of being involved in the advancement of God’s kingdom at a decent pace and in an visible way, to a season of being involved in the advancement of God’s kingdom in a less visible, more costly, slower manner. But the great news is that both seasons are equally valid seasons of Kingdom Advance.  
Matthew 13 is probably the Bible’s most comprehensive chapter on the Kingdom of God, where Jesus paints multiple pictures to teach us about how his kingdom advances – seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a fine pearl, and a fishing net. Many years ago I remember hearing David Devenish refer to this as a “depressingly encouraging” portion of Scripture, because, as you shall see, the good guys definitely win in the end, but sometimes victory is slower and more costly than we might anticipate. Let’s take a look:

Kingdom advance is often slow.

Seeds grow slowly and invisibly for a season. Yeast lifts the cake slowly. Title deeds of a property you are buying change hands incredibly slowly (certainly in Africa!). But seeds do grow and cakes do rise and property does eventually change hands. Healing will come. Relationships will be restored. Your unbelieving family members will come to Christ. The vision awaits the appointed time. Though it tarry, wait for it (Hab 2:3).

Kingdom advance is often costly.

You have to sell everything you own to purchase the field of the kingdom. That one perfect pearl will cost you everything. But in gaining that field and that pearl is life that is truly life (1 Tim 6:19). Sometimes bringing the Lordship of Jesus (i.e. the Kingdom of God) to bear on the way you think and behave is costly. Sometimes fighting for faith and joy is costly. Sometimes a friend’s conversion, or the alleviation of poverty or injustice is very costly. Remember, we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

Kingdom advance often involves disappointment.

In the Parable of the Soil, only 1 in 4 seeds grow to bear decent fruit. An enemy is at work to steal, choke and scorch the good seed, and also to sow bad seed amongst the good seed (Mt 13:25). Some cakes flop. Sometimes you do a lot of fishing and end up with a catch of bad fish (Mt 13:47-50). But take heart, this is an unstoppable, ultimately victorious kingdom.

Kingdom advance often has small beginnings.

A mustard seed is tiny and nearly invisible when it starts out, but it grows huge in due course. Don’t be discouraged by your seemingly small contribution. Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Don’t fret if you find yourself out of sight, out of mind and stuck in a dark place – it’s called soil. The kingdom seed will grow.
Sobering? Certainly. Encouraging? Definitely. The advance of the Kingdom of God is unstoppable. In confrontation, the stream always overcomes the rock, not through strength, but through perseverance. And so it is with the kingdom. Of the increase of his government there will be no end (Is 9:7). Despite slowness and setbacks, the kingdom advances. Take heart. Roll up your sleeves and go at it again.
HT: Confluence

1 comment:

OddChild said...

A lot of the insider movement tries to stress success on numbers. Real success is being faithful. Noah was he successful in doing what God called him to do? Yet only him and his family were saved. Outreach in Muslim countries is difficult, but God provides harvest in His time.