Strengthen Your Gift in Adversity

Christmastide: January 3
Read Mark 4:18-19 and 30-32

On the one hand, I must be aware of the risks to my new life from the thorns — the distractions and other claims on me — that would choke out the word of God in me.

On the other hand, when grown, this gift of God has far-reaching ramifications, both on my life and on the lives of those around me. Faith as a grain of mustard seed revolutionizes both the believer and the world.

John Dominic Crossan quotes the Roman author Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the mustard plant of biblical times:

It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once. (Crossan, John Dominic, Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography (NY,NY: HarperCollins Publisher, page 65)

Crossan goes on to comment:

The mustard plant is dangerous even when domesticated in the garden, and is deadly when growing wild in the grain fields. And those nesting birds, which may strike us as charming, represented to ancient farmers a permanent danger to the seed and the grain. The point, in other words, is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three, four, or even more feet in height. It is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas, where they are not particularly desired.  And that, said Jesus, was what the Kingdom was like. (Ibid.)

It is not just the “world” that finds such a take-over undesirable.  Frequently the changes that result in an individual life that is given over to God would have been unacceptable to that individual if those changes had been foreseen. But walking in fellowship with God, the same changes become evidence of God’s love and fruit to God’s glory.

Is it any wonder that God often leads us into the wilderness, courting us, teaching us, making us gratefully and joyfully dependent solely on God?  How else can we learn the patience and courage we need to watch God take over in our daily lives in ways we never imagined?

Consider: I cannot stop God’s action, God’s power, or the coming of God’s reign over all. However, these are gifts I can accept in my own life, to protect, to nurture, and to use as God directs.I can refuse to accept them, or I can let thorns choke their effectiveness in my own life. But, accepting God’s will for my life leads to changes I never imagined!



About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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