Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Learning from the Mustard Seed
Part 4: Being Open to Blessing on Multiple Levels

The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 (New Jerusalem Bible)

This parable illustrates another aspect of Godly fruitfulness: utility on multiple levels. Here a plant cultivated for spices grows to serve an additional purpose, to provide shelter. It’s a divine “two for.”

We see this aspect of God’s handiwork throughout scripture.

Consider the Mosaic law.  It not only served the immediate purposes of providing social order, inculcating healthy ethical norms, and furthering public health among a particular nation, it also served the spiritual purposes of illustrating all humans’ inability to deliver themselves from sin in our own strength.

Consider Joseph (Jacob’s son) and Joseph (Jesus’ foster father). The works God called them to not only met immediate human needs during their times, the ways God called them and their responses have provided instruction and inspiration that have blessed individuals, families, and societies over the centuries.

Consider Jesus’ miracles. They not only alleviated immediate suffering, they also drew people to Him, revealed His divinity, and built faith then, since then, and today.

The pattern is clear: God uses individual things to provide blessings on multiple levels, often across broad swaths of time.

So what do we do with that, how do we respond? At least two things come to mind.

First, we have to be open to the fact that God’s plans are far more profound than ours and be willing to surrender ours in favor of His. That opens the way to the kind of multifaceted blessings we’ve been considering here. Maybe that’s why Jesus stressed that we truly find life by abandoning our own lives to Him.

Second, we should be encouraged, in spite of less than expected immediate results. Most of the blessings from the examples given above did not come right away, they accrued (and continued to accrue) over time, sometimes centuries and millennia later. That explains why scripture repeatedly tells us to persevere in the face of disappointments. See Matthew 10:14, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Hebrews 12:11-13,  James 1:2-3,  1 Peter 4:19.  See also Proverbs 24:10, Sirach 2:14 . That gives God a fuller set of actions to turn to the ultimate—and exponential—good.  

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