Its Not Up to Us

Have you ever tried to hatch chicken eggs without a mother hen? It’s hard. Hopefully, you were more successful at it than I was. It seems so effortless in nature. The hen gets broody. She sits on her eggs and 21 days later – chicks! It just happens. Nobody really knows how.

Okay, that last statement isn’t true. We know how. We have science and stuff.

It was to science and stuff that I turned to when I decided I wanted to hatch my own chicks. I had a rooster and hens. I knew my eggs were fertile. Beyond that though, I had no idea how complicated it was to incubate a living, breathing baby chick. It is not something humans instinctively know how to do. So, I asked Google.

After much research, I converted an old drink cooler into an incubator with a light, humidity control, thermometer and timer. I scheduled out when to turn the eggs each day. I “candled” the eggs regularly. Candling is holding a bright light up to the back of the egg in darkness to check to see if the little bird is developing. The first week, I could tell that the eggs were transforming into chickens. But, by the third week, all I had were rotting eggs.

In my attempt to imitate, er, interfere with nature, I had killed the little things somehow.  Thank goodness the continuation of the chicken species is not left in my hands, or the chicken and the egg would be extinct.  

This failed experiment is like God’s reign in the world. Well, not eggsactly. But close enough that you’ll see the point.

The success of God’s kingdom is not dependent upon me. When I try to take over God’s work, I tend to overthink, overwork, and be overwhelmed. It leaves a rotten mess.

Instead, Jesus explains that God’s kingdom is not in human hands. We don’t need to incubate the eggs for the chicken species to survive and grow. And the success of God’s Word in the world is not up to us!

Mark 4:26-29 says,

And [Jesus] was saying, “For example, the Kingdom of God is like someone who tosses seed upon the ground. He sleeps and gets up night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows. How? He does not know! Automatically, the earth produces first a plant, then a head of grain, then ripe kernels in the head. And when the crop is ready, he sends the sickle at once, because the harvest has come.”

What is God’s Kingdom?

In Mark 1:15, Jesus declares, “The Time is here! God’s kingdom is near.” Jesus is speaking about something his audience not only knows about, but has been expectantly waiting for. It is God’s sovereign rule of the earth.

Since the time of King David, the Jews had believed God would keep his promise to establish an eternal kingdom. God promised that he would be their king. Isaiah describes this kingdom. A world ruled by God would be a time of plenty, the poor are fed. It would be a time of health, diseases are healed. Captives are freed. There is true justice for those who deserve it. There is comfort for the broken. Beauty for the ugly. Homes are restored. People love people, no matter who. There is joy and celebration.

When we hear the description of Isaiah, it is easy to imagine this wonderful world. However, our experience of the world makes us wonder what exactly is this kingdom? Is God’s kingdom really here? I think that Jesus understood that we might expect God’s kingdom to be like other kingdoms we have known. For instance, is it like Putin making a grand show of forcing Ukraine to bend to Russian sovereignty? Will God rule in great power from heaven and re-order the world by force? Jesus says no (at least not yet). Jesus describes God’s present kingdom very differently from any other kingdom or empire the world has ever known.

Like a seed buried in the dirt, God’s reign in the world is hidden. This means that we must trust God is working, even when we can’t see anything happening. God’s rule is not forced, nor can it be coerced. Since it is not in human hands, we can rest. Like the process of growing food, God’s rule is destined to grow and produce. It does not happen overnight, but over a period of time. As it develops, we can watch for signs of harvest.

God’s rule is not seen, so we must trust God is working.

In Jesus’ parable, the farmer scatters seed but has no idea how the seed grows. The seed remains hidden underground. Darkness hides the mystery of what brings the seed to life.

Likewise, God’s kingdom begins in the essence of who we are, inside of us. We hear that God loves us and that idea sparks life. Faith is not readily apparent. But as hope in God’s promises grows, it transforms our inner life.

Like a seed that transforms from a dead husk into a tiny sprout that insists on finding the light, so too does the message that we are the children of a loving Father cause our spirits to reach out to find the light.

God’s kingdom is present.

God’s rule is not forced, so we can rest.

Jesus says that the seed produces automatically. The Greek word is automatos. The seed grows independently of the farmer. It cannot be forced, rushed or thwarted. It happens all by itself.

I learned this lesson with my egg incubation. When I interfered with the natural process, I failed to bring life. Likewise, when we try to manipulate, compel and pressure others to a life in faith, it often leaves a rotten mess.

I recently read of a story of a police officer who tried to force God’s kingdom on someone. He had pulled a woman over for some infraction, and began to witness to her. At the end of the conversation, instead of citing her, he gave her a choice. She could get baptized right then, or she could get a ticket. Of course, she chose baptism! The policeman called a friend in to witness the event, and I guess he thought he had helped the kingdom of God. But, really, he had made a big mess. The woman sued the police department, and the man lost his job. It remains to be seen whether he will have to face civil damages.

We have nothing to do with the success of God’s kingdom. It happens automatically.

Because the kingdom will grow independently of us, we can live life with rest. Jesus says that the farmer sleeps. Even though we can surmise the farmer is working during the day, Jesus doesn’t mention that. He only mentions the sleep and then the getting up. The work of the kingdom should not hamper our personal rest. We do the work God has given to us, but we also know that the growth of the seed is not dependent on our labor. We can rest.   

God’s rule is a not instantaneous, so we can watch the process.

Jesus describes the process of the seed’s growth. In its time, it is ripe and ready to eat. God’s reign follows the same pattern we see in the rest of his creation. It happens over time, through a steady process. First, the plant grows, then the head of grain, then the kernels ripen.

In gardening, production rates depend on the plant. Radish seeds are the quickest to grow in my garden. They are ready to eat in less than a month. Whereas, tomatoes take all summer. When I began to research incubating chickens, I was surprised to learn that gestation is only 21 days. Humans gestate 9 months! Every seed grows and develops at a different pace.

Jesus assures us that his kingdom will produce. The fruits of the kingdom are peace, celebration, forgiveness, kindness, self-control, goodness, and loyalty. These are the fruits that grow from the seed of God’s word. Even when the physical world is full of betrayal, discord, and injustice, God’s kingdom is growing and developing a harvest of individuals who bear his fruit. God’s kingdom is growing. It’s not up to us. I am thankful for that because I know I’d make a disaster out of it if it was in my hands! My failure with chicken incubation is proof.

When I try to take over God’s work, I tend to overthink, overwork, and be overwhelmed. It leaves a rotten mess.

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