DO MY EFFORTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
He said, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32
I can give superhuman effort to something and make little difference. Yet, at the same time, I can give small efforts to something else and make a huge difference. Is there insight beyond this parable to help me gauge where my energies should be expended? Yes.
During the hot and dry season of Palestine, birds seek a refuge from the punishing heat. Their favorite place to hide is under the large branches of a mustard plant. They like it so much that they build their nests there. Jesus’ point of the story is this ~ The seed that produces something of such immense value is, in and of itself, small and insignificant. The right seed, planted in the right place, yields high impact.
As a teacher, I’ve had the privilege of watching people listen to the Word of God over many years. God has given me insight as I’ve observed. I can see some absorb the message. Their body language reveals their spiritual hunger. Others attend the same event with a resistant heart. Perhaps they came because it was the thing to do or someone pressured them to attend. Their countenance never changes throughout the day even though they hear the same life-saving word. What makes the difference is the listener’s perception of his own spiritual need.
I recall the time Jesus went home to Capernaum to do additional ministry. His popularity had worn off. He had become very controversial. Friends and family had grown skeptical and were speaking unkindly of him. Jesus finally left and the story reveals that Jesus was not able to do any miracles there because of their unbelief. The ‘mustard seed’ was powerful, ready to revolutionize any who would embrace it, but it was rendered powerless by an unreceptive audience.
It is easy for me to expend great energy in the wrong places. I am called to a barren place to sow a seed. If it yields a harvest, I keep investing. But I must beware when the audience for whom I’m laboring has little or no perceived need. They are as closed as Jesus’ audience in Capernaum. If I’m prayerful, God will instruct me to leave and sow elsewhere. If I stay too long in a place of unbelief, I hurt myself and deprive a hungry audience from life-giving seeds that would otherwise have come to them sooner. False guilt has keep me in places far too long.
If you wouldn’t stay to minister in rampant unbelief, how exactly does this apply to me today, Lord? Show me. In Jesus’ name, Amen