Summary: God’s work and power are not always obvious, however, his is working and in more powerful ways that we understand.
I am one of those people who would like for God to 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. 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. 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 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 sin in me? Couldn’t you just solve all the problems people have whey they pray so they would know that you are there?”
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.
I was sitting out on our deck late one evening last week and smelled something very unpleasant. Someone in the neighborhood had allowed their dog to roam and he thought our yard looked like a good place to leave a surprise. I was sitting there just fuming. I could have been grateful I had a yard, but I was not. I could have been grateful that I had a deck that was attached to a house, but I was not. I was focused on dog dung and I was mad. But I leaned back for a second and caught a glimpse of the stars overhead. I suddenly realized I had missed the beauty of the evening — not to mention the beauty of life. It dawned on me that God has more important things on his mind — and so should I. Suddenly the bigness of the world and the bigness of God began to grip me. I was so focused on an annoyance that I lost sight of the big picture of who God is and what he is doing. I began to feel very insignificant and my heart turned to the worship of a God who is doing something so big that my mind will never wrap around it. I realized I frequently do this — get stuck on something small and negative and miss the positive, bigger picture, the remarkable, the miraculous. As long as I was focused on my yard I could not see the stars. The same attitude is called for even in the larger problems we face.
Dr. Larry Crabb 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 it seems like the world is going to the devil, God is doing something and he is in control. Even when it seems insignificant and is not always impressive. The parable today tells us that it doesn’t have to be 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.” In the end, that single reconciliation may be more powerful than all the bombs dropped in all the wars the world has known. This is where the world is headed, and it is in God’s direction, happening in God’s way. It is where God intersects the world and the finite is touched by the infinite. The yeast is permeating the dough. This is what God is doing in secret, hidden ways that the world does not see or appreciate. But God is taking the world somewhere. It doesn’t seem like much is happening sometimes, but it is not about appearances, it is about unseen power. The yeast is unseen, but it powerfully effects every part of the dough. The mustard seed is not seen as it germinates underground and puts down its roots, but in the end it is large enough for the birds to perch in.