A couple of events coincided recently to provide a spiritual illustration and encouragement to me.
First, I was visiting a friend to pick something up and noticed a very large Willow tree in his side yard. It had been a few years since I’ve been to his house and I did not remember seeing this large tree flanking his property. Further, this type of tree is a favorite of my wife, so I know that I would have remembered it.
In talking with him he informed me that he’d planted it a few years back and it really took off. Apparently they grow very quickly and begin providing shade right away.
Secondly, this week we were visited as a pastoral staff by a friend who is a missionary in Spain. He told us about the current gospel climate there, their plans, and their various struggles. It was a very encouraging time.
Overall I was encouraged because I realized that I sometimes have something of a Willow tree perspective on ministry. As a church planting pastor I have plans. I have goals. I have ways to measure these things and get us where we need to go. These expectations are also fueled by other ‘successful’ ministries that seem to make rapid, evident, growth in numbers and influence almost seem normative. Expectations and goals are good, but they are bad when they become the unofficial standard and authority for measuring faithfulness. Sometimes things just take longer. Other times things never really get to where you might have hoped or prayed. And still other times you have situations where God blesses with unexpected growth and apparent success.
As I think about these two incidents I am reminded that the expanse of the kingdom is described in terms of the growth of a mustard seed. The small seed will grow. It will accomplish its great work. The birds of the nations will indeed come and rest in it. This encourages me. It encourages me to be faithful in the day to day, to do the soul work for myself and others, to digest the Word and delight in Christ.
God may make things grow quickly or he may not. But at the end of the day, what ever is the case, my privileged duty is to rejoice in his matchless beauty and proclaim his unrivaled fame.