Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsa of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13
1 Spiritual growth is gradual, incremental and, in the short run, invisible. Even if we sat watching the mustard seed or the yeast all day, we would not be able to pinpoint their growth or rising.
Similarly, we cannot gauge our own spiritual growth as it is occurring. But we should be able to look back to who we were at the start of our journeys, and realize that the Spirit of the LORD has come upon us, and we have been changed into a different person. (1 Sam 10:6).
2 We cannot control our own spiritual growth.
Human effort cannot neither produce yeast and the mustard seed nor control their growth. All we can do is provide favourable conditions.
Once we have asked Jesus and the Holy Spirit into our hearts, as long as we are repenting of any known sin, we can leave the pace of our spiritual growth to him.
3 Spiritual growth is uneven, and that’s okay. Growth rings in ancient trees show there is rapid growth in the growing season, alternating with slow growth in winter. Cold years, or years of drought leave narrow rings behind.
We don’t always live on the heights, spiritually. We would burn out. Highs and lows, summer and winter are built into creation—and into our spiritual lives. Sometimes God takes us through periods of intense spiritual growth and change, and sometimes through slower periods of consolidation.
4 We each have unique spiritual trajectories
Homemade yeast bread tastes slightly different each time. So too, the spirit works uniquely in each individual, convicting us of different things at conversion, and throughout our lives. We grow at different paces. Some make rapid, seismic changes at conversion. Others, like me, change slowly throughout our Christian lives, though occasionally suffering, or seeking God, intensely leads to intense change.
5 The most powerful things in the spiritual life are often invisible–like prayer and like surrender. In fact, we are told our spiritual activities—prayer, giving, fasting– are more powerful, more blessed and more rewarded when they are secret. (Matthew 6 1-6).
Invisible things, like the yeast in bread, or the seed in the earth have a disproportionate influence in the spiritual life. About one percent of a loaf of bread is yeast, and it is indistinguishable from flour, but it makes the entire loaf light. It is analogous to the power of prayer, the secret roots beneath a life, which gives us good ideas, strength, and grace, divine enablement. Secret prayer makes the difference between a life filled with blessing, joy and peace, and a more mediocre Christian life.
6 One’s trajectory is more important than where one currently is since the Kingdom of God, rising yeast and growing mustard trees are works in progress.
There is this repeated phrase in Kings and Samuel: The House of David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him. (2 Sam 3:2)
As long as the mustard seed, the yeast of the Kingdom of God dwells within us, and we are providing them favourable conditions, we can relax, and God will ensure growth.
Because growth is invisible, when discouraged, we need to look at our trajectory, and compare ourselves to where we were five years ago, one year ago.
And when tempted to judge another Christian, we need to remember that we are all works in progress, the yeast is rising, the mustard seed is growing in each of our lives, and we have not yet seen the end of the story.