Three years ago I started running. Which if anyone knows me from high school, she knows that I would do just about anything to get out of physical activity! I would even coax my mom to pick me up from school early on days I knew we had to run the track! I can still smell the hot tire track at my school, and the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.
Now, this decision to start running wasn’t well thought out and was really spur of the moment! I was blessed to have one of the best jobs ever at the time: serving college students through the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Northeast Florida. A few of the girls in the ministry invited me to run the local 15K race with them. We were in the fall and the race was in March, so we had more than enough time to train and prepare. I took the first small step in this process and registered for the race. I mean, anyone can pay for the race and get the t-shirt!
I got to know these girls in a new way over the next few months of training. I began with just a few short miles and eventually worked my way up to the full 9.2 miles. We spent hours a week running together and talking about life and the day to day struggles we all share as sisters in Christ. Looking back, my small step of saying yes to the race helped me go from a very small beginning of despising running to a great finish with deeper friendships. Not to mention I accomplished my personal best time! It reminds me of a story Jesus told about a small start that ends with a great finish for us as believers.
In the New Testament, Jesus often uses parables to teach. “Parable” is another word for a story or illustration. These “stories” did not actually happen, but Jesus uses common ground life situations so that we can all relate. I love reading these stories that Jesus uses at each season in my life. I learn something different from them each time. When I think about my running career, I am reminded about the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32. This parable leads us to think about how small investments in our spiritual life will make us grow and will help us finish this race of life in Christ well.
Small Beginnings for Big Growth
Simply put: the kingdom of God is where Jesus is King. It is where His plans and purposes are carried out. Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed to help us understand how His kingdom works. It works in the same way a mustard seed grows. It starts in a small, unnoticed and humble form. Over time it becomes a great big tree. The kingdom was originally lived before us in an unknown and unlikely group of twelve disciples. It is now our opportunity to embody and expand the kingdom in our generation.
Our small faithfulness will grow over time just like the planted mustard seed. Do not judge your own small spiritual growth critically since the mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds, grows to be the tallest of any of the vegetable plants. A small investment in a fellow believer can grow over a lifetime like the small seed.
I came to new life in Christ at the age of seven. And I used to think that I did not start spiritually “growing” until late middle school and into high school. I can now see how the small steps and spiritual disciplines that my parents encouraged me to do helped me to grow. I would memorize one verse at a time in elementary school and was encouraged to spend five minutes in a devotional book in middle school, which turned into reading through different books of the Bible in high school. At the time I did not realize the small “mustard seed” growth. However, these foundational truths and disciplines have made me realize their importance as an adult.
Big Growth for Kingdom Impact
Jesus teaches that the smallest seed grows to influence and benefit numerous birds. This is the same of our faith: it is for the sake of others, for the sake of His kingdom. As you are on your own journey of faith, share it with others so that they may see the fruitfulness of a life hidden in Christ. This may look like writing an encouraging note, sending a text that you are praying for a friend, lending a helping hand just because, being present, extending grace when someone needs it, reminding them that Jesus loves them in spite of their mess-ups, and loving others the way Jesus does! These small seeds further the kingdom of heaven and grow your own faith simultaneously. Faith as small as a mustard seed means small…it does not mean to take on the world everyday. But it does mean to love well. I can recall so many fellow believers older and younger on my own journey that have made small investments in my life. They will never know the value of their influence and how my impact for the kingdom is far greater thanks to them!
As you respond to these verses and apply them to your own spiritual journey, take some time to reflect on the “mustard seeds” in your own life. What small seeds are you planting that will grow and further the kingdom of God? What spiritual disciplines are taking root? Whom are you investing in? Who is investing in you, and are her efforts being multiplied through you?
Today, I hope the thought of small steps leading to great growth in your spiritual walk resonates with you. My intentions are not to get you to make a rigid schedule for your spiritual life. They are simply to help you understand that small steps are significant. Just like training for a long run, there are many miles before the finish line. The kingdom of heaven was planted small but continually grows with believers all around the world who share the good news of salvation. How you “run” your days and train yourself for the life mission of following Christ will determine your ultimate faith growth. How exciting!
Jesus, I thank You for my sisters in Christ who want to run the race well. I pray as each of us thinks about the small seeds that we plant and daily invest in, You will guide us to the areas that will bring us closer to You. Give us fresh eyes to be present with the world around us to show grace and love to those who do not yet know You. I thank You that the gospel changes everything and that You love us more than we could ever comprehend in this life. Help us to share You through our words and actions.