WITH ALL OF THE DIFFICULTIES, struggles, pains, losses, frustrations and general unjust craziness there is in this life it doesn’t take much to lose ones hope. We try our best to continue trusting the God of hope but so much in this world and in our individual lives tells us to give up the fight and settle into the lands of defeat. There is no fairy tale ending, so get a cozy chair and get yourself a nice view of the pit of despair…
Podcast Of This Message
Do you know what it is like to have a storm raging in your life? That feeling of being thrown up and down, up and down, side to side from point a to point b over and over again? In this life we are not exempt from troubles, difficult times or the storms which rage physically, emotionally, financially, relationally or religiously. Each one of us faces conflict, pain, frustration, panic, fear, failure and the like but often when we are experiencing those things we lose sight of God in all of it.
We become trapped on the waves in our little boat of our life, calling, ministry and purpose and with all of the rain and wind trying to knock us over into the water it is easy to believe that God isn’t with us. We look at the storms of life and assume they are God’s judgments, or that He forgot to protect us that day or they are the consequences of meaningless actions like forgetting to pray at the same time everyday. It’s almost like the Christian equivalent to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but we instead apply it to God and call Him the Ornery Careless Destroyer. Where if we get the slightest thing in our life out of place or we miss a devotional time (or heaven forbid Sunday service) God will come with a mighty storm to blow our house away, and the rest of the town with it.
We see the winds and waves and forget about not only God but His love and goodness, we feel the rain on our face and forget the very nature of God. We see things around us rise up to terrify or obstruct us and we forget that there is a way out, but we have to look up, high above the storm.
Terror on the High Seas
The disciples went through this very experience, in the early days of Jesus’s ministry they had witnessed countless miracles, demonstrations of authority, and acts of divine power in action. But one fateful night came about where after a long day of preaching and miracles Jesus had the disciples (and some others) set out on the lake in boats to cross it during the night. We can’t forget here that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen who grew up on this very lake, but that upbringing didn’t do much to help them that night.
Let’s turn to the gospel of Mark to see how this story plays out, I’m using The Passion Translation’s interpretation of this encounter because I want it to challenge how you normally read through this story.
Mark 4:35-41 “35 Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 After they had sent the crowd away, they shoved off from shore with him, as he had been teaching from the boat, and there were other boats that sailed with them. 37 Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. 38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. 40 Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” 41 But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?”” (TPT)
What happened here in this encounter? The disciples (and other boats) were facing a raging storm in the middle of lake Galilee and they feared for their lives. As I said these aren’t all land-lovers, but many were hardened fishermen who were that fearful of the storm they were encountering. You can’t blame them it was pitch black outside, there was no coast guard to come rescue them and there was a legitimate chance that they could drown before ever reaching the shore line.
The people were afraid of what was raging around them, but Jesus on the other hand was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat on his fluffed out pillow. What did Jesus know that the others didn’t, what separated Jesus’s reaction from that of the disciples. Was it that Jesus was a really sound sleeper or was there something else at work?
I know it’s easy for us today on the other side of this storm to look back and ridicule the disciples for their actions. We weren’t there but we assume that we would know better, just like we would know better about feeding the 5,000 or the interpretation of many of the parables. Yet we say and believe those things but we make the very same mistakes under different names. We are still just as susceptible to reacting the same way the disciples did in our own lives and in our own circumstances.
I know what natural storms look like, I grew up in Southern Manitoba and throughout the summers I’ve experienced many massive thunder storms. The kind where the thunder shakes the walls of your house, where the rain is pouring sideways instead of downward, and where gusts of wind would snap massive trees like tooth picks. I’ve seen black skies in the middle of the afternoon, I’ve run from golf ball sized hail pelting me on my walk home and I’ve seen the sky resemble spider webs made out of lightning. Those storms were real, they were fierce, they were destructive and they were the same kind of storms that Jesus took a cat nap in.
Natural Storms Don’t Shake Heaven
We have to first realize that the storms which blow in the natural have no effect on the spiritual realm or heaven. There won’t ever be a lightning bolt so fierce that it singes Jesus’s royal robes. No amount of water can ever flood out the heavenly holy of holies, and the angels won’t be left homeless because of a forest fire. It sounds cruel but we must remember that our problems aren’t really God’s problems, however because of His love for us He does respond and bring us assistance.
A hurricane has no effect on heaven but He can and does at times calm those storm to protect his people whom He loves. We have to understand that God is not always responsible for the storms which come into our life or the lives of others. Yet through grace and covenant God has taken a responsibility over out lives. We just need to trust Him enough to follow through on His nature and love for us.
Jesus slept well because He knew the Father was watching over Him as His body rested. The apostles did not feel that way, they saw the natural storm threatening them and assumed that Jesus’ power was limited and that He didn’t truly care about. In that instant they assumed that Jesus lead them into the wilderness of the waters to die. They reacted the same way the people of Israel did when they wrongly accused and complained against God and Moses while in the wilderness.
You see great and mighty works can only produce so much faith in a person’s heart, the real foundation of our faith comes from trust and relationship. One can see a miracle and not know God’s nature or love and continue thinking and believing the same way they did before. Real change comes when a person has a revelation of who God is, the calmer of storms, the protector of lives, the shepherd of lost sheep and the glorifier of broken dreams.
Miracles are good but they are not the foundation of our relationship with God, Christ is, atonement is, covenant is, repentance is, new life is. You should desire to see God move in miracles, healing, prophecy and such but remember those are simply the decorations on the tree of our life with Christ. When we realize that then it becomes easier to sustain our hope in the middle of a storm, where all the light is gone and the memory of past miracles and victories become a mirage clouded by the pouring rain and screeching thunder before us.
Why Are You Still Afraid Of The Storm?
Let’s take another look at Mark 4:40 in various translation to make sure we see clearly what Jesus is saying.
TPT: Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?
NKJV: Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?
NIV: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
AMPC: Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith (no firmly relying trust)?
The discipels had seen Jesus preach, and they had seen the broken people healed miraculously but they still did not know who or what Jesus was. They saw Him as someone who was powerful but limited, they took what they had previously seen and thought “well I guess that’s all he can do.” That is why when they faced the storm they assumed that Jesus was powerless, they had never seen Jesus exert authority over the weather before so why would they assume otherwise. Often we make this same mistake, we limit God by what we have seen with our own lives or in the lives of those close to us. We encounter a new type of storm and become unsure if God really has power and authority over it so we foolishly turn to ourselves for comfort and wisdom. Unfortunately that power and wisdom usually leaves us yelling out the same words the disciples did “don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” We could each replace the word “die” with our own words such as, divorce, bankruptcy, debt, estrangement, ministry, stress, suffer, move, fail, burnout and foreclose. We have to go beyond accusing God of not caring and instead look to Him the same way Jesus did as He napped.
Jesus slept because He trusted His Father, He knew that because God said to cross the lake He would arrive at the other side no matter what happened. Jesus had that assurance that no matter what it looked like outside of the boat, inside there was nothing to fear because God was there in the middle of the storm. God didn’t block the storm but He restrained it so that Jesus would not be harmed. Jesus got wet, but He still slept, and when the fear of the people overwhelmed His time of rest then He proved to them why He was able to be so calm. With a word the storm ended.
What is troubling is that God’s people today no longer have that same type of trust. So it is no surprise why every rogue gust of wind is treated like our own personal apocalypse. No longer do people hold out their hands to God in the storms because they instead begin to worship the storm in the hopes that it will be appeased and move away.
We must always remember that no matter what God is there, but people no longer see Him as good but as the destroyer and hater of all. God protected Jesus on those waters, and because of that protection all those with Him were protected as well, do you think that has changed? Proximity to the Son brings us closer to the Father, the closer you are to Jesus the more unfiltered you begin to see God, and the more God gives to Jesus the more there is which overflows onto us His covenant brothers and sisters.
Learn this truth: storms are nothing for God to quench, what is difficult is quenching the storms of the heart because they become ingrained into the identity of people. People set up shops and homes in the eye of the storm and a call it a blessed life, but eventually the storm moves on revealing the destruction which has always surrounded them, and eventually their place of safety is also consumed by the clouds.
Sleep Well In Any Storm
Jesus slept well because He knew God was there, he rested in the assurance that the Father was watching over Him. Despite the waves there was no real danger, despite the wind there was no real danger and despite the cries of those around them there was no real danger.
Wind and waves are not signs of God’s abandonment, they are merely casualties of the storm, God’s abandonment comes when people jump out of their boats and try to escape the storm by hiding under the water. There they feel no wind, they see no rain but soon they choke and drown, they drift to the bottom never to arise again because they trusted their own minds and strength rather than trust in God’s goodness and love. That despite the storms we face God is there to guide us home, despite the wind and the waves we will not be toppled over and despite the darkness of the sky there is always light waiting to pierce through (James 1:6).
Psalms 107:28-31 “28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (NKJV)
Everyone wants a testimony of great faith and perseverance but no one is willing to go through the storm to get it. In the same way people want to see God move through prophecy and miracles but never step out and give God the opportunity. Yes you will go through difficult times, yes you will have seasons where it feels like God is nowhere to be found. Knowing that we have two choices we can either jump out of the boat under our own power and drown, or we can grab our pillow and trust God to bring us through the storm.
You may get wet, your boat may be damaged, you may lose some cargo but you will endure because God is carrying you through. Always remember God will not abandon us if we make room for Him, so follow the model of Jesus who chose to rest in God’s love, character and nature rather than join in on the fear of the people who did not realize who He was or who was watching over that boat.
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
Surviving The Storm With Your Pillow Intact Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Podcast Of This Message
Right now you need a revelation that Jesus is just as alive today as He was during His ministry in Judea. Often, we tend to separate the two stages of Jesus’s life (divine and Son of Man), we see them as two different books on our shelves. One speaks of who Jesus was for those three and a half years, and the second one about what Jesus could be like one day.
We look at Jesus as the lamb of sacrifice, or the humble servant during the time of His ministry and assume that nothing has changed. But what does Jesus actually look like now in terms of his nature, power, authority and existence? Then we have the second question of how do we engage and relate to Him today?
From Reading To Revelation
First we must go beyond just reading or hearing the words from the Gospels and Paul, because unless these words become a revelation they will pass away from our minds and never reach our heart. Paul says emphatically in Romans 10:9-10 that we are to “believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth” who Jesus is.
We must go beyond simply hearing and understanding and arrive at a place where we become fully aware that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. We must come to a place where we know and believe, then we find ourselves in a place where Jesus Himself confirms who He is to us in our spirit through the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 1:11-12 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. NKJV
Galatians 1:11-12 11 For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man’s gospel [a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ (the Messiah). AMPC
Not all of us get to have an experience like Paul did on the road to Damascus, but through the indwelling and communion of the Holy Spirit we can become just as aware of His presence, character and identity right now. Even if we did have an experience like that it does not excuse us from holding on in faith to who Jesus is right now despite what may be happening around us. Paul’s experience did not preclude him from persecution but it did give him faith to continue believing and preaching.
Paul’s ministry was birthed out of a revelation that Jesus is alive, right here and right now. Jesus was not just a story some drunk fisherman came up with, but was alive and beyond the confines of death. Paul saw Jesus and that encounter produced an awakening in his heart to follow Him no matter the cost. Many thousands of people saw Jesus during those thirty years He walked around the earth but only a couple of hundred had a revelation of who He was before Pentecost. That is the tipping point in our hearts, it is one thing for me to say that “I acknowledge Jesus existed” and it is an entirely different thing for me to believe that He exists right now!
All of this is based in the victory Jesus reaped from the cross, a victory which defied the wisdom of men and brought about His eternal plan to redeem those created in His image. Jesus through his death and resurrection has become our high priest, our covenant brother and finally our King (more next week). How we view each aspect of Christ will determine not only how we answer the Two Questions I asked last week of “who is Jesus” and “what shall I do with him”.
How we understand Jesus also determines how we will live out our own lives.Our faith and belief shapes our identity and what we worship and follow will decide whether we rely on our own personal strength or on Jesus’s power and wisdom which is rooted in His eternal existence. Whichever power we choose to live by in this world will reflect back to the unsaved world around us. Those outside of the church look to us to see if what we claim to believe is true and they gauge that according to how they see us live, act, believe, speak and focus our time on.
A true witness for Christ does not come from regular church attendance, it comes from a life that reflects the reality of His existence, not just in the past but right now. A true witness for Christ is rooted in demonstrating that Jesus is real, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is King.
Our High Priest
The first way we encounter Jesus is through the His duties as our high priest. The high priests of the Old Testament were responsible for taking the offerings and sacrifices of the people and presenting them before God. These gifts were given to honor God and in the hope of continued blessing and a substitution for the penalty of sin on their lives. The highest honor for one of these Levitical high priests before the Babylonian exile was to be able to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Here on this annual festival the high priesst would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice endued with the nations sins upon the Ark of the Covenant.
Interestingly the top of the ark was referred to as the mercy seat, which represented redemption along with God’s throne. Those priests stood before the LORD to offer sacrifice then immediately left the room, however when Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice in teh Heavenly Holy of Holies He was able to sit down and remain (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus was not just another adherent to the order of Levi/Aaron, His is a more ancient order one that traces back to before the covenant of Moses was ever cut. The writer of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchezedek (king of righteousness) the King of Salem (king of peace). This is seen as a higher order beyond the capabilities and responsibilities of the priesthood of Aaron. For a more detailed account of Jesus as our high priest we can turn to Hebrews 10:1-18. In this section we see that the sacrifices of old were only temporary, like plastering over holes in drywall but when Jesus came He metaphorically tore down the house and rebuilt it.
The old system under the natural high priests were only a band-aid solution to sin, it provided a stop-gap remedy until the true healing of the heart could come. The Old Testament system would take a person who figuratively lost a limb and stitch up the stump and provide a crutch to continue on, but Jesus came to restore and replace that lost limb. From the beginning God had no desire for a crutch to be the answer for sin, He knew that the day was coming when the great Healer would come.
He would not just come for one generation, one nation, one people, or one city, no Jesus came so all nations and peoples could experience His forgiveness and restoration. A gift which exists not just because Jesus died so many years ago but because He lives right now and continues to be our high priest who restores us and cleanses us from sin and works to make our hearts look like His.
Our Covenant Brother
Through Jesus we have forgiveness, remission and annulment of sins. The wall of separation had been torn down, the veil of the temple had split and the Holy of Holies now lives in those who receive and believe in Christ.
Hebrews 9:15 [Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance — since a death has taken place which rescues and delivers and redeems them from the transgressions committed under the [old] first agreement. AMPC
God did not stop with redemption alone, when we accept Christ we go beyond merely just believing in what He did. No, rather we are adopted through Christ into the New Covenant. Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, not of flesh but of spirit. This is what happens we when we are brought under the new covenant we are re-born spiritual and adopted as a child of God (1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26-29).
We are born anew to a greater Father, our true father, we as sons/daughters of God become alive and awaken to a more abundant life (this goes beyond just prosperity). Yet at the same time through the cross we die to sin, to the curse and to the power of the enemy. Now being dead to these matters we are free from their judgments (Galatians 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 28:15).
In John 17:2 and Romans 10:10 we are assured that whoever believes and confesses in the name, authority and actions of Jesus will be saved. None of this is by our own works, but by the works already done by Jesus. We have simply been grafted like a vine (John 15:1-5) into His reward, and now we have access to God through Him. You could say that we have been added into Jesus’s rewards plan and have full access to it because of grace and our faith. Not only that but the Holy Spirit has access to come into us to lead us into our lives partnered with Jesus, so we can follow Him and He insures that our lives reflect His heart and nature.
1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. NKJV
Galatians 2:20-21 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. NKJV
Jesus then is not just a far off God hiding in eternity but He is a living part of our lives, He is not just Supreme God but our brother and friend. He bridged the gap between us and the Father so we could have relationship with them. That is a key piece of covenant, to bring two people, families, tribes or nations together in a way which would be impossible otherwise.
We live our lives to try and please not just a divine judge but a loving father and faithful brother that is duty sworn to be there for us in our times of need. In return we turn away from our old sinful ways and demonstrate to others the great things that have happened in our lives since the day God entered it. In covenant what is God’s is now available for us and through grace Jesus takes the brokenness, vanity, and emptiness we bring to the table and exchanges it for healing, purpose and love.
But this is only half of the story next week we will take the next step in this journey of revelation and a look at Jesus as our King!
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 1: Our High Priest and Brother Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Podcast Of This Message
If you’ve been in or around church for any length of time you’ve probably heard someone quote the parable of the mustard seed in one context or another. Often it is used when speaking about faith, or prayer, or even the preaching of the gospel. It’s one of those parables and sayings of Jesus that we just seem to take for granted and believe that we already know all there is to know about having faith as a mustard seed. Just because you have a jar of mustard in your fridge doesn’t mean that you understand everything that Jesus was saying in Mark 4:30-32 (see also Matt 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19), because there is so much more here than you could have ever imagined.
Throughout the gospels we have at least three instances where Jesus uses the humble mustard seed to make a point to the disciples. Since repetition is such a significant means by which God speaks to us through the scriptures (Gen 41:32) we need to pay extra attention to what Jesus is saying about these little seeds. But first let’s look at most recognizable place Jesus talks about mustard seeds:
Mark 4:30-32 “30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (NKJV)
What Is A Mustard Tree Anyway?
Through this parable Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples different pictures to describe to them what His Kingdom looks like and how it operates. In this case Jesus choose the smallest of the seeds in the region to show how something so unassuming can grow to be large and important. We look at this story and think that a mustard tree must grow to something large like a cedar, an oak, or even a pine. The thing is most of us have never actually seen a mustard tree, so we tend to imagine other trees we are familiar with when we read this story.
The reality is though is that it was less of a tree and more of a shrub. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (USA CANADA) speaks of how for the most part this tree was probably only four feet high, although some are able to reach over 12 feet in height. This is far from the picture that most of us think of when we read this story of a mighty tree filled with birds and fruit.
What is also interesting is that mustard trees are annual plants, so every year they die off and have to grow up all over again, it is not a plant which endlessly endures like the might cedar. This need to constantly regrow is probably why Jesus compared the mustard seed to our faith in Matthew 17:20, where he speaks about mustard seed sized faith being able to move mountains. The disciples had just failed to heal a demon oppressed child so they run to Jesus for help, and after healing the child He once again spoke to them about mustard seeds.
This idea of an annual tree and our faith are one in the same, both require constant regrowth, and both are unable to just sit back and relax while waiting for the next season. The mustard tree must grow and drop fresh seeds which will grow the next year. If it doesn’t grow there are no seeds for the next season and eventually there are no more trees in the area. Our faith must be constantly built up through prayer, scripture, relationship with God and going outside our homes and doing either the great commission or the discipling of believers. Faith must be constantly refreshed or one day we will find the garden of our hearts has become barren because we neglected our faith and relationship with God by relying on the cold hard stones of our natural ways.
We must resist the temptation to become complacent in our relationship with God, our prayer lives, our studying of the scriptures and the work we do to spread the gospel and build up the Kingdom. It is a hard thing to say but victories in life don’t produce faith, it is faith which produces victories in our life. When we realize that our faith is like this mustard seed and not a great cedar we can then begin realizing that what you did three years ago won’t benefit you today in what ever situation you may be in. You can’t draw water from a well once and expect that bucket to sustain you for months on end.
The Mustard Seed Is Only Doing Its Job
In Luke 17:5-10 Jesus puts an extra spin on his discourse on mustard seeds and trees, here the disciples are asking for their faith to be increased after hearing about their requirement to be forgiving. The disciples were asking for the ability to forgive according to Jesus’s standards and instead get a statement about faith as a mustard seed being able to throw mulberry trees miles away into the sea.
Then Jesus goes on and speaks about how servants are not praised or rewarded for what is expected of them to do. This is quite the contrast, in the same breath Jesus speaks about demonstrating supernatural power and being held responsible to do what the disciples as servants are expected to do; be forgiving in this context.
The mustard seed has one job and one job only, to grow into a shrub so other seeds can be developed and dropped into the ground around it. We as believers also have a singular job, to serve Jesus and see ourselves developed from seeds to trees which can reproduce and see the land around us transform from barren rock to a lush garden. It is our duty to live this way and to serve Jesus in whatever capacity He has called us in.
We can have all of the spiritual power there is but if we are not faithful in living out our lives as Jesus commanded us to then we are still in darkness, and often are doing more harm to the Kingdom than good. When we stand before Jesus we won’t gloat over the number of visions we have seen, or healings we have performed, or the number of books we have written.
No our statement will be “we have done what was our duty to do.” That is how faith works, we serve Jesus and we go out and do what needs to be done so our master is glorified and others can see Him in His true light. Be it through preaching, compassion, miracles, prophecy, service, conversation, leadership, forgiveness, love or any other means.
To accomplish this we must be like mustard trees which must be continually refreshed and regrown so that our seeds never stop being produced. Our faith may begin small as a mustard seed but as Jesus has said it can have immense impact on this world.
But Wait There’s More!
This is where most people stop when they speak about the parable of the mustard seed, we focus just on what it means for us and how we can develop our faith. You see everything we have seen so far is only half of the story. The entire picture about mustard seeds and trees is not just about our faith or what we can do, but it paints a picture of who Jesus is. In all of the instances of the mustard seed Jesus was painting two very different but interconnected pictures. He was teaching us how our faith works but at the same time He was revealing not just the Kingdom but how He was the long-awaited King of the World.
We dedicate our lives to being like the servants in Matthew 17:20 not just because of the nice things Jesus has done for us but because He is our King. This isn’t just a theological idea it is reality, by confessing Jesus as your savior and Messiah you have declared Him to be King of Heaven and Earth. In the parable of the mustard seed Jesus was speaking to the disciples who He really was, but today we are oblivious to what Jesus was saying.
A Mustard Flavored Kingdom
Throughout the age of the Old Testament and into the time of Jesus it was a common metaphor to speak of a kingdom as a tree. We see this in scriptures such as Ezekiel 17:22-24, 31:6 Daniel 4:10-12 which use a picture of a tree to describe a nation or a kingdom. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of The Old Testament (USA CANADA) talks about how “Mark 4:30-32 is an ironic fulfillment of Ezekiel 17:23 the lowly annual shrub rather than a might cedar, lamb not a lion maybe. The people expected a mighty cedar, but God came as a lowly shrub which would be exalted over all else.”
The lost message of the Kingdom of God hidden here in the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus the great shrub has come to rule the world. Not a mighty cedar or acacia, or mulberry the humble mustard shrub despite its size and appearance had sprouted and would rule over all. Jesus didn’t come as a superpowered reincarnation of King David, He came as the suffering servant and laid hold of a greater kingdom then anyone of that time ever imagined.
The people and religious leaders were looking for a cedar but got a shrub, so they rejected Him. They were looking for a warrior but got a shepherd, so they persecuted Him. They were looking for an angel of death but got the forgiving Son of God, so they killed Him.
They forgot about Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5-6 where God spoke about a humble branch which was coming to rule and exercise judgment on the people. Jesus executed judgment on sin, He rules over His covenant people and one day He will judge those who rejected His Kingship.
We can’t have the benefits of mustard seed faith until we bow down before the mustard tree of Christ. None of what we claim to believe matters at all if Jesus isn’t the King of not just the universe but our individual lives. Our faith doesn’t matter, the miracles we see doesn’t matter the lives we see changed doesn’t matter if Jesus isn’t our King and if we don’t act as grateful adopted servants.
Finding a Nest in His Branches
The last part of the parable has Jesus speaking about the birds of the air making nests in the branches of the fully-grown mustard tree. We take this statement for granted and don’t realize that to the disciples this was ridiculous. You see because the mustard tree regrows every year it can’t be developed enough to be ready for the time when birds make their nests. If one tried the branches would be too small or tender to support just a bird on it let alone a nest.
Here Jesus is again speaking in irony, just as the lowly shrub is King of the forest, so to is this tree which couldn’t before support dwelling places for the birds now be able to provide shelter and covering for them (Daniel 4:12).
We see then that Jesus has come to bring us a covering for our lives and that it is a foundational part of our faith. That covering of grace and atonement is our constant reminder that we can trust Him and remain committed to Him despite the problems of the world. Ezekiel used this same picture of birds finding rest in a tree to describe Egypt in Ezekiel 31:6, so how much grander and wonderous should that covering and shelter be for us who follow Christ our King.
Through faith we are able to go from mustard seeds to mustard trees and see great and mighty things happen in our lives. But we are only able to see such a transformation because Jesus the first seed which fell into the ground then died and came back as a King who has brought us under His covering of atonement. Now as redeemed, adopted servants we go out into the world and deposit new seeds into the ground so the whole world can be covered by the offspring of the great mustard tree.
Question: What can you do today to recognize Jesus as the King of your life?
Faith That Transforms A Mustard Seed Into A Mustard Tree Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Podcast Of This Message
WITH ALL OF THE DIFFICULTIES, struggles, pains, losses, frustrations and general unjust craziness there is in this life it doesn’t take much to lose ones hope. We try our best to continue trusting the God of hope but so much in this world and in our individual lives tells us to give up the fight and settle into the lands of defeat. There is no fairy tale ending, so get a cozy chair and get yourself a nice view of the pit of despair.
We see bad things happen, or watch family members struggle with health issues, we struggle with finances, prayers don’t get answered so we are tempted to just give up trying to be optimistic or to cling to any sort of faith that God can change what is going on in our lives. Along with all of that we take the fallout from one unanswered prayer and use it to justify not having faith for God to do something next time. Or we allow one loss to cancel out dozens of previous victories, everything that God did years ago no longer matters because we feel that He wasn’t with us today.
These are difficult issues and hard questions to deal with and they can’t just be answered by telling someone that they just have to believer harder or that they should just read their Bible more. I’m not against faith or prayer or anything like that, I’ve personally witnessed the blind see, the deaf hear, and the crippled walking out of wheel chairs. However, I have also watched people die from cancer, others struggle with issues from accidents, I’ve lost two friends to depression and suicide and I’ve had my own problems as well.
I have seen the greatness of God’s power in action and I’ve experienced the absence of it.
Hope in action vs. hope in the rear-view mirror
I have seen the greatness of God’s power in action and I’ve seen and experienced the absence of it, even with myself. For the past four years I have struggled with an ear issue that has left me with unending ringing in my ears, has cost me one third of my hearing ability and has made me unable to even worship along with the rest of the church I attend. Flashback ten years ago now and I was once in a market in Mexico City on a mission trip and we were praying for people. One day a woman came to get prayer for her ear. Me and another prayed for what we thought was an ear
infection and she was miraculously healed. What we found out after we prayed was that she didn’t have in infection but had actually ruptured her ear drum the day before and was totally deaf in the one side. After she said she could hear she pulled out the cotton ball from her no longer deaf ear that was stained with blood.
It’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk.
This is where things get difficult when you know that God can and is able to move in power and He doesn’t. It’s not easy to keep hope alive, especially as the years go by, especially when those years bring more and more pain, frustration and loss. God is the God of hope according to Paul in Romans 15:13 and not only that but He is also supposed to be our source of joy and peace. The problem is though it’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk. These are real matters of faith, not just superficial ones where we just try to whitewash what is going on inside of us.
What is real faith?
You see real faith is not yelling at the top of your lungs that you have faith; real faith involves being honest with what is in front of us. Faith is never absent from realty, it recognizes what is really going on and looks towards God to change that reality to something else. Pretending that there are no problems is not faith it is delusion. Does that mean we can’t pray for a change? Of course not. What I am saying is that our faith and hope are not dependant on our circumstances they are dependant on the nature and character of God.
It takes infinitely more faith to declare that God is good and loving when your world is upside down than it does when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church and everything is rainbows and sunshine. Real faith is when you are able to honestly praise God even when you don’t get your prayers answered, not just when you do.
“It takes infinitely more faith to declare that God is good and loving when your world is upside down than it does when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church and everything is rainbows and sunshine.”
Just look at what Jeremiah said after the darkest day in Judah’s history at that time in Lamentations 3:25-26 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (NKJV). Jeremiah didn’t write this after the people repented and had a great party, no he wrote this after the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. How could he speak of hope after so much death and destruction? He could do it because He understood who God is.
That is where we find out great weakness, far too often we take the supposed and actual failures, shortcomings, and losses of our lives and place the blame squarely on God and we lash out against him like overly emotional teenagers in response. Everything bad was God’s fault and everything good is the result of my own hard work – is the lie we tell ourselves. You see God is good but we are temporary travelers in a world that is not good.
We live in a fallen and broken world and there are times when we don’t get our way, a prayer doesn’t get answered, a person dies, a job is lost or a life loses its purpose. Then rather than praise God for who He is and what else he has done for us we abandon hope because we believe it is better not to hope than it is to hope and be disappointed. We respond that way because it is all part of the plan, not God’s plan but Satan’s.
Why Satan comes to steal our hope
In Satan’s eyes a mute, broken and depressed Christian is the best one there is because he knows they will never do anything to weaken his kingdom. It is a campaign of disarmament where he and his forces go out and convince Christians that it is better to have never hoped than to have hoped and lost. It is a strategy where he convinces us that the weapons of our belief and warfare are too heavy to carry and actually do more harm than good. So we should throw them away and settle for a life under spiritual house arrest.
It is a campaign of disarmament where Satan and his forces convince Christians that it’s better to have never hoped than to have hoped and lost.
In Rick Renner’s devotional Sparkling Gems From The Greek (USA Canada) he talks about John 10:10-11 and unpacks the meaning of what Jesus meant warning us that Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. Renner speaks of how the word kill does not mean to murder but has the understanding of a religious sacrifice such as when a lamb was killed on the altar. If Satan can’t destroy our hopes, dreams, purpose, life or anything else he’ll convince us to do it ourselves out of devotion or another reason. The same applies to our hope if he can’t crush it from within he’ll convince us to lay it down either for moral, cultural, religious, or emotional reasons. Or it could be as simple as feeling as if God is calling us to lay something down when in reality God is trying to awaken that thing you are about to kill.
What do we have to look forward to?
Proverbs 13:12 tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” this is both a spiritual and a medical truth as the loss of hope has a tangible impact on our spirit, mind and body. However the verse continues and says that a “longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
We need both hope for today and for the future because we live in two worlds one of earth and one of Heaven.
In our opening verse Romans 15:13 the hope Paul was looking towards was the culmination of both Jews and Gentiles coming into the Kingdom of God together through the New Covenant (Titus 2:13). This is what drove him from nation to nation and from prison to prison preaching the gospel despite the problems he encountered because he saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
We also need that long ranging hope to carry us to the end of our lives, but we also need hope for today. We need both hope for today and for the future because we live in two worlds one of earth and one of Heaven. So our hope must reflect that we can’t have a hope that is based only in the future, but we must also have a hope that sees its results today, although to a smaller degree.
It is just like opening a present on Christmas eve and getting the rest in the morning. Or taking a long-awaited road trip but also taking time to make stops along the way. You don’t wait until you arrive to enjoy yourself even though your ultimate enjoyment is at the end of the trip (serendipity). At other times you may discover that you only enjoyed the final destination because of what happened along the way, so it is with our hope in God.
Are there times when God will answer our prayers, yes, and are there times when He won’t (at least as far as we can perceive) of course. What is important though is not how God answers but how we respond to God afterwards. If we can turn to God with the same love and hope no matter the outcome then we have passed the test of faith and our hope is not in God’s ability to please us but it is based on our love for Him.
If we can turn to God with the same love and hope no matter the outcome then we have passed the test of faith.
Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (NKJV)
Trusting the God of Hope when You Have None Left by Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.