What is the kingdom of God like?

How bold would I be to say that it is one of hope?

Jesus, in seeing joy manifested in the lives of the people He is talking to felt justified to giving two parables describing the glimpses of hope that comes on behalf of kingdom – the mustard seed and yeast.

If you’re like me, sometimes you get discouraged. What you’ve worked so hard to do seems so small and insignificant — so futile, so hopeless, so tiny. The disciples may have felt that way about the Kingdom of God. Here’s an itinerant carpenter-preacher speaking in villages in a minor Roman province. Not very impressive when you look at the big picture.

This was not the first time Jesus used the mustard seed as an illustration – in fact, both illustrations dealt with hope – He used the image to express the hope that He has on the disciples because with a minimum amount of faith – “faith like a mustard seed” – they could accomplish so much.

This parable of the mustard seed is about one being planted in a garden.  The tiny seed eventually grew into a sizeable bush so that the birds were able to make their nests in it. When these words were written the Church, the agent of Jesus’ mission, was still tiny but it had already begun to grow considerably from its beginnings with a handful of Jesus’ disciples. There is an air of hope and confidence that it will continue to grow in spite of the persecutions and setbacks it is facing and will continue to face. Within a single generation after Christ’s death, Christianity had spread all over the Roman empire and beyond, to India in the East, Ethiopia to the South, and Britannia to the West.  How amazed would those Christians be to know that the seed since has grown not into a shrub but into a huge tree! In our own time, we need to keep fresh the hope and confidence of this parable.

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”  And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” – Luke 13:18-21

What Is the Kingdom of God Like?

 

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Time and attention

The parable of the non-producing fig tree is intended to enforce the warning – if your life does not come to a place of repentance and turning back to God, it will be cut down and you will be lost.  God has already been patient, our hope is that He will be patient a little bit longer, but we know we cannot expect He will be patient forever.

Christ, as the gardener in the parable, is our Intercessor.  As long as there is hope, He does not want to see the tree cut down.

Jesus sees that maybe there is another way to cultivate the tree rather than eliminate it.  His hope is that time and attention will make a difference.

Why is Jesus so invested in the fig tree?  Why is He so invested in us?  This is an amazing parable of how much He loves us and wants us to come to Him for salvation.

Jesus invites us to repent and recognize that we are broken human beings – it’s the catalyst to our life and world looking differently.  Our changed perspective will enable us to see life as a gift, that God is seeking us out, and there is a lot of good we can do with the time we are given.  Life is short and we do not know how ours will come to an end, but we know it’s a gift and not to be squandered but rather spent in the pursuit of good things for God’s people. Jesus hopes that we will blossom and produce fruit that will last.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’  He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.  If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ” – Luke 13:6-9

Faith and hope

‘Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.’ – Hebrews 11:1

When our faith moves to hope and we are convinced, those convictions become our treasures and where our treasures are, that is where we find our heart.  Think about Abraham leaving his home in Ur with his entire family to seek a land that had been promised.  Then the following generations including Isaac and Jacob still walking that faith, in community that centred on God as their treasure, a place where they truly belonged.  That faith gave them hope to wait for the promise at the end of the journey.  That faith may have started as a grain of mustard seed, but touched by God became a foundation for the journey.

You can see why the love of the world excludes the love of the Father.  Love of the world is egocentric, acquisitive, arrogant, ambitious, and absorbing, and leaves no place for any other kind of affection. It’s a full-time job to love the world.  If our hope is placed there, on a world that will not last, best we book a bereavement moment because that experience will take place – because it boils down to only one question – will these worldly things leave us before our time comes to leave them.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;  be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.  “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” – Luke 12:32-40

Zeke Duhon – Faith and Hope

Difference Between Faith and Hope

Difference Between Hope and Faith

The Interrelation of Faith and Hope

HOW FAITH AND HOPE WORK TOGETHER TO GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE IN GOD

Faith vs. Hope

What is the difference between hope and faith?

Repository of our hopes

To be rich in character is to be rich toward God. But we may be rich toward him by making him the repository of our hopes and expectations. – McGarvey and Pendleton

What difference does all this make? Simply this: You never know your worth to another person. Such is God’s hope.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.  But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7

Finding hope

David left Gath and was so alone that he despairs. And now David feels abandoned as moves to a new location that is very foreign to him. David wrote Psalm 13—how to overcome the feelings of despair, abandonment and loneliness when we are in a very dark situation that seems hopeless.

The psalmist complains that God had long withdrawn. He earnestly prays for comfort. He assures himself of an answer of peace. – God sometimes hides his face, and leaves his own children in the dark concerning their interest in him: and this they lay to heart more than any outward trouble whatever. But anxious cares are heavy burdens with which believers often load themselves more than they need. The bread of sorrows is sometimes the saint’s daily bread; our Master himself was a man of sorrows. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think that it will last always. Those who have long been without joy, begin to be without hope. We should never allow ourselves to make any complaints but what drive us to our knees. Nothing is more killing to a soul than the want of God’s favour; nothing more reviving than the return of it. The sudden, delightful changes in the book of Psalms, are often very remarkable. We pass from depth of despondency to the height of religious confidence and joy. – Matthew Henry

But now prayer lifteth up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims the daybreak. Now will the tide turn, and the weeper shall dry his eyes. The mercy-seat is the life of hope and the death of despair. The gloomy thought of God’s having forsaken him is still upon the Psalmist’s soul, and he therefore cries, “Consider and hear me.” He remembers at once the root of his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is Tophet’s fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, that so he may be doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour of wretchedness? – Treasury of David

David found hope in his dark hour because troubles and temptations always pushed him toward the Lord. Even when he felt all alone, he discovered that his God was still there sustaining him through the storms.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?  Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,  and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me. – Psalm 13

The Queen speaks of finding hope in ‘moments of darkness’

Find Hope

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Cry of hope

I, a sinner bowing my knee to the lordship of Jesus Christ is the recognition that I have made Him the Lord and King over my life and that God’s program replaces my own.  What concerns me now is the kingdom of God.  So when I pray, “Your kingdom come,” there is nothing on my agenda – my ambition, dreams or goals.  I mean those things give me direction in life but I submit them so that Christ may use them as He has purposed.  It’s that purpose that replaces me running my life my way, my desire for the forgiveness of sin, and my hope of eternal life. So my prayer at this point of salvation is where I yield to God so that His purpose, will and desire takes over.

 If I think then how wonderful it is to be under God’s authority and my prayer is a desire to see His kingdom come so that I may live under that authority sooner than later, it makes sense that I commit myself to do God’s will now.  That includes following in the footsteps of Christ as He lived to the laws of that Kingdom and proclaimed the message of hope to the world.

So the prayer, “Your kingdom come,” is a cry of hope – a sigh for heaven. A cry for heaven to be on earth – the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Jesus.

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” – Luke 11:1-4

Cry of Hope – instrumental

The Cry of Humiliation and of Hope

The cry of anguish, the cry of hope

Resurrect hope

The blessings others have from common providence, believers have from the Divine promise, which makes them very sweet, and very sure. The spiritual seed of Abraham owe their life, and joy, and hope, and all, to the promise. – Matthew Henry

When you think about the three visitors to Abraham, who were on their way to Sodom, and the fact they we all men, isn’t it amazing that they so freely brought up the intimate topic of child-bearing opportunity. Especially knowing that Sarah was listening – what about her own pain (not having the hope of the promise God had given Abraham) of childlessness.

Who were they to tamper with such tender feeling and to then resurrect her hope just so she could feel pain again?  Maybe that is why there was a laugh as her response.

A laugh of disbelief for sure – and maybe it did cover the fact that she wanted to believe but hopelessness consumed her to the point she could no longer believe.  A cynical laugh from someone who had been hurt and was not willing to be hurt again.

And that is why these three men needed to come for a visit – not for Abraham sake, but for Sarah’s.  God gave Sarah the blessing only after there was no longer any hope of blessing.

 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”  Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”  The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”  But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” – Genesis 18:9-15

Gives you a future

If I emphasize God’s mercy, I can emphasize my own sinfulness and in the same spirit, hoped for cleansing.  It is not healthy to dwell on your own sinfulness, God takes it in His hand and for those of us who have sinned and have been forgiven know how much we appreciate His mercy.

Our times of crisis ultimately become our times of opportunity.  As we commit ourselves to God, we find our faith in ourselves, in others and in God deepening.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us – Ephesians 3:20

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Be strong, be courageous,
    all you that hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:24

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,[a] training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior,[b] Jesus Christ.  He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. – Titus 2:11-14

Why would we reject God’s mercy, our only hope of salvation?

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love – Psalm 33:18

Our hope is in the resurrected Jesus Christ.

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. – Psalm 10:14

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

BE STILL MY SOUL by Katharina A. von Schlegel
Music: Jean Sibelius
(Be Still My Soul by Selah)
(Violin version of Be Still My Soul)

Hope for the poor

We are never brought so low, so near to death, but God can raise us up. If he has saved us from spiritual and eternal death, we may thence hope, that in all our distresses he will be a very present help to us. – Matthew Henry

Two sweet promises given are given when I place my hope in God – I shall not be overlooked by Him, and I will not be disappointed as peace will visit my heart, sin will be cast as far as the east is from the west and I will enter into His glory.

 

I grew up poor, not in the sense that I had needs, but in the sense that we never had more.  I wore clothes that were three fashion seasons behind, our food groups never changed, and we fixed everything that was broken.  Extra curricular activities at school was an immediate “no” to joining and I started working to provide for the family at twelve years old.

At twelve I was introduced to Jesus. At fourteen He became my friend, Saviour and I became a follower of Christ.  One thing I learned then about being poor – I did not need to fight, strive or be envious – the One in Heaven was my helper.  Two things became apparent to me then – I was never going to be able to afford post secondary education – so I looked to God to instruct me and secondly, when Jesus was to come again, my hope was that He would welcome me home.

When we remember the poor and the needy we are remembering the promise of God to live among us and be our God. We are remembering that we too are poor, we too are needy, only in different ways. We are remembering that hope cannot be bought or sold

I know, from experience, how faith can be tested, how our hope in Jesus leads us to run the race with perseverance, which leads to maturity and completeness. But this is nothing without love. For love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Working with Partners International, a ministry founded in the work among refugees, one thing I love is that we are not afraid to be poor.  It is easier to fear it than embrace it but our hearts reflect the heart of our God.

“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan,
    I will now rise up,” says the Lord;
    “I will place them in the safety for which they long.” – Psalm 12:5

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker,
    but those who are kind to the needy honor him. – Proverbs 14:31

 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. – Ezekiel 16:49

God’s displeasure and punishment of His people in the Old Testament were clearly in part due to their failure to be merciful–to care for the poor and needy and God’s blessing to His people in the New Testament was a result of salvation received and the fruit of generosity to those who had little.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever – Psalm 9:18

Job 5:16

Meshing faith, hope and love

Lord, thank you for the stretching times. Thank you for moving us into situations that are new and sometimes scary with the purpose of helping us grow. Thank you for your loving debriefing. Thank you for new hope. Thank you for a chance to be part of your mission, to see your power move through our lives. Thank you. In your powerful and loving Name, I pray. Amen.

Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel, provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. – Colossians 1:5,23

How am I to be an evangelist today?  I ask the question because it is asked not only for those who are called to be but is part of the role and identify of every follower of Christ.  It is not easy, but there are indicators of what an evangelist looks like as they share the Good News.  It starts with the awareness that the human heart hungers for God, whether they know it or not.  Then we had best leave the things we are attached to behind – have just enough so that there is little attachment to the things of this world.  Be confident but not overbearing. Do your sharing with joy.  Finally, be prepared to have a story to share, a testimony of hope you have in you when the appropriate moment for words open up.

You proclaim the Good News by every thought, action and deed that your surrendered heart will lead you to perform. The fire that is lit in you was given because of the gift of salvation and so you live with a love inside you that makes you unstoppable in expressing that love to others. We are invited to abide in that truth, meshing faith, hope and love into our actions.

When we personally exercise activity in doing good, we grow in Christian excellence. Love increases by loving.  Hope builds up just by hoping.  Zeal starts a fire and keeps the fire going and arousing the heat. Knowledge is sustained and established by the effort of teaching others as opposed to studying for one’s self.  To the person who uses their gifts and talents, extra talents and gifts are given to them.

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.  Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. – Luke 9:1-6

Faith, Hope, and Love through Doubt in Tennyson ‘ s In Memoriam