First the blade, then the ear

Too often we expect positive changes to take place in one fell swoop. Whether in matters of personal sanctification, institutional reform, cultural renewal, or transformation of the political landscape, we too often look for one dramatic event that gains us a quick, easy, and permanent victory. But this doesn't seem to be how God normally works.

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come (Mk. 4:26-29).

The seed doesn’t produce its fruit overnight. Maturity requires growth, and growth takes time. It is not the time to complain that no fruit is visible when the blade first appears. We should not despise the day of small things (Zech. 4:10). The Lord promised the people of Israel that he would defeat their enemies and drive them out of the Promised Land. He would not do it, however, in one year, but “little by little” (Ex. 23:29-30).

The least progress in the right direction, even if the progress seems painfully slow, ought to be encouraged and received with gratitude and looked upon as a reason to strive for even better things. Growth in grace is a lifelong process. Institutional reform is often a long and arduous task. Cultural renewal takes place over generations. It requires much more than simply winning the next election to transform the political landscape.

Moreover, none of these things is permanent. It requires great effort to maintain what has been achieved.


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