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Devotional: March 31, 2020

“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’”

Matthew 13: 31-32 New Revised Standard Version

This coronavirus is 500 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. Isn’t it amazing that something so small, that we can’t even see without a microscope, can have such a huge effect on our world? We cannot see it, yet we can see the coronavirus wreaking havoc upon the earth. The story of the spread of the virus is a reminder that even the tiniest thing can grow beyond anyone’s imagination.

Jesus spoke of both the good and the bad side of small things having outsize influence. He cautioned his disciples against “the yeast of the Pharisees, and the yeast of Herod.” (Matthew 8: 13-16). The disciples understood the concept of yeast after the Jews had traveled so many years with unleavened bread. Jesus warned the disciples about the pride and arrogance of the Pharisees, and of King Herod. That very influence, from those people, would someday lead to Jesus’s own death.

Jesus also spoke of what can happen when you start with something quite small, but good. He talked about the mustard seed, which is a very small seed, growing into a bush so large that it would shelter birds. The Mustard tree grows primarily in the Middle East and Africa. In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he uses a pine nut, which when planted, can grow to a towering pine tree, capable of sheltering eagles. Isaiah 40:13 says, “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind”. God reminds us that we, too, can be like eagles who find refuge in the trees. Sheltering there prepares us to be able to soar.

Regardless of the specifics, the point is that small actions of faith can have enormous consequences. A man I know was 14 years old when his youth leader at the YMCA asked him a simple question. Who the greatest person was in all history? He guessed Abraham Lincoln. His youth leader countered that Lincoln was perhaps our greatest President, but was there ever a greater man: that man was Jesus Christ. The young teen thought, and realized, that Jesus was the greatest person in all of history!” That insight led him to give his life to Christ. That man went on to marry and raise a daughter in the Christian faith. That young woman went on to marry our oldest son Jonathan. Do we see how the simplest conversation can ripple out to affect so many?

When we are discouraged by what is going on around us, remember that we may feel powerless, but God is there. While we are “sheltering in place”, God is sheltering with us. We may feel small in the face of these huge challenges. Yet God is here, and He has not forgotten us. God does not always respond as we want Him to. This may feel frustrating. Yet I assure you, God is present. Maybe we will understand what is going on, and maybe we won’t, but I know that God does. My prayer is that we lean into that faith that God offers us, and use it as our refuge. Then plant the smallest seed of faith, and entrust the results to the Lord…

Prayer for the Day

Infinite God,

You are lord of the universe, and yet you care about the smallest things. You love each one of us, and Your word tells us that You even know the number of hairs we have on our head! When we are discouraged by events in our world, remind us to faithfully plant small seeds. If we approach big challenges with even a tiny amount of faith, You promise to help us do amazing things. Multiply our small faith, so that the people of the world may come to know Your love. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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