Have you noticed how often the kingdom of God first arrives in an under-the-radar kind of way? Like the mustard seed and the yeast Jesus compares the kingdom of God to in Matthew 13:31-33. Both are small and plain. Our tendency is toward things that start off big. Like, gimme some pyrotechnics!
But this small, hidden way of working is the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. All-powerful God chose to come to earth as a lowly baby, destined to be executed as a nuisance by the local leaders, and dying with only a handful of followers. When Jesus talked about mustard seeds and yeast, he was describing himself.
But, don’t be deceived—that is just the beginning of the story. Since his lowly arrival, Jesus’ influence has grown. He has come to impact all of history. Eventually, his glory will fill the whole earth, and he will come back to establish his everlasting kingdom, and then like the apostle Paul writes, “…every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
So what does this mean for you and me? Here are a few simple suggestions of how we can let little things change us in big ways:
Surrender your will to God’s will.
The kingdom of God infiltrates your life little by little. When you surrender your life to Christ, it may seem small at the time, but eventually, it takes over every aspect of who you are. This is what it means to become a follower of Jesus— your will makes way for His will in our lives. Try asking God for one place in your life where your will isn’t completely surrendered to him, and allow him to come and take control of that area.
Don’t buy into the lie that every experience needs to be an earth-shaking event.
We love quick fixes. It’s hard for us to wait for real change—the kind that comes with hard work and consistency. It seems easier to head off to another conference, or read another self-help book, instead of just getting down to the business of following Jesus. Most of our moments won’t be exciting turning points. Leave room for ordinary life, so that real change can take place.
Picture our lives like a million dollars. When we give ourselves to God, we often want him to spend us all at once. To make an impressive display that people will talk about for generations. This is because, at our core, we are selfish and attention-seeking. But God chooses to spend us a dime or a nickel at a time. As you serve, take a moment to check your heart. Are you content to stay out of the limelight? Are you looking to God for the approval you want? Or are you angry and resentful because you aren’t getting enough recognition or appreciation?
Don’t settle for artificial changes.
When you want to see change in your life, there’s a temptation to just change your identity. We settle for cheap, artificial change: different clothes, a new tattoo, or embracing some sort of Christian sub-culture. The problem is none of these things really change who we are on the inside. It’s like washing the outside of the cup. Deep transformation happens at its own pace. At the end of the day, this superficial changes doesn’t ever last or go as deep as we hope—we stay the same person inside. Ask God to get you past the outer stuff so your heart can be changed.
Don’t get distracted.
It takes discipline and practice to stay focused and to allow God to change our lives little by little. Don’t give up. Don’t be sidetracked by other things that come up along the way. Doesn’t it seem like weeds always grow faster than the flowers? It’s the same way with focus. Distractions grow amazingly quickly into habits. Focused behavior takes time to cultivate. Have you tried practicing disciplines like prayer, fasting, fellowship, and reading Scripture to keep you focused on God’s will in your life?
So what are your experiences with the kingdom of God starting as a mustard seed? Have you seen something—a ministry, a church, a personal transformation—that has grown from an unpromising small start into a rooted, established change?