Summary: What God is doing is hidden. It must be searched for and we must have eyes to see. When we believe this, it changes the way we see life and how we live.
I am one of those people who sometimes wishes that God would show his power and do something spectacular. I would like to see some fire fall from heaven, or hear God shout from his throne. It would prove to some people that he is there and that he is powerful. I wish I could lay my hands on people and they would always be healed by the power of God. I wouldn’t even mind if people fainted under the power of the Spirit when I laid hands on them. I would like to have someone who was paralyzed come to the front of the church in a wheelchair and then do a dance after we prayed for them. I would like to conduct a funeral in the church that turned into a resurrection. It would make a nice headline for the paper. I would like to see the lives of drug addicts and dysfunctional people healed and completely turned around after they were dramatically converted at the altar of the church. I would like for God to make me completely pure so that I would never sin and be healed of all my faults and failures. I wish God would powerfully touch me so that I would never wrestle with lust, greed or anger again. It would be great if being a Christian meant that I would never have any problems after coming to Jesus.
But God does not open the heavens for us to see him. He is silent. He is more like the farmer in one of Jesus’ parable who plants a vineyard and goes away — or at least seems to. More often we find ourselves struggling with a problem, or some sin, and saying, “God where are you? Why is this so hard? Couldn’t you just wipe out the devil, burn up the evil people in the world and burn up the evil in me? Couldn’t you just solve all the problems people have when they pray so they would know that you are here?”
When we are in the middle of some struggle it is easy to think that all there are are problems. When we face evil or tragedy, it is easy to focus on them and only see what is wrong in the world. It is easy to despair and to believe that the world is so messed up that there is no hope for us.
Dr. Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist, wrote in Decision magazine (October, 2005): “I could wish with all my heart that it could be done differently. But when suffering comes, which we don’t orchestrate but which God providentially allows, it really is a profound opportunity to believe that God is doing what is central in His heart. One thing I think we need to recognize is that God is not committed to giving me a comfortable life. If He were, He could be doing a better job! He has the resources, and I have a few suggestions — which He doesn’t seem terribly open to. So I presume He has a higher goal. Either He is not very good, or I have to redefine what His goodness means. And obviously it is the latter.”
As Christians, we believe that God is up to something — something wonderful — even when we don’t always see it — even when we don’t always like it. Even when it seems like the world is going to the devil, God is doing something. He knows what he is doing, and he is in control — even when what he is doing seems to us like it is insignificant and not always impressive. A friend of mine wrote recently: “If we are confused, that is what we are supposed to be. The confusion is temporary. We shall see. The lesson, the purpose, shall reveal itself in time — its own time. It will all make perfect sense — later.”
The parable today tells us that it doesn’t have to be something big to be something which can change the world. Suzanne Guthrie, writing in Christian Century (May2, 2001), tells this story: “A friend of mine who served in the military during World War II (and is now a nun) was once at a conference with two men, a German and an American. As they wiped dishes one evening after dinner they exchanged stories about the war. The American told of the horror he felt as a young pilot during a particularly savage bombing of a city in Germany. He had orders to bomb the hospital, which he would know by the huge red cross painted on the roof. The second man — after regaining his composure — revealed that his wife had been giving birth to their baby in that very hospital when it was being bombed. My friend tiptoed out of the room as the two men fell into each other’s arms weeping. Imagine being in heaven, at the end of the world, where we might fall weeping upon one another, waves of reconciliation breaking upon us as we adjust ourselves to this dimension of pure love.”