Most mornings the national news seems downright depressing. Political corruption. Religious hypocrisy. Sexual disorientation. I confess, sometimes it’s tough to see God working in the world.
We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?
We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:
- God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
- God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).
These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?
How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world?
Inch by Inch, Row by Row
One year Cathy planted potatoes in our garden. I remember coming back to garden a couple of days afterward, and, you know what? Those potatoes hadn’t grown an inch. After weeks of seeing nothing grow, I might have felt the temptation to doubt if my wife really planted any potatoes at all—even though I saw her do it.
Jesus used the same principle to teach us about God’s plan in the world:
The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows — how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. —Mark 4:26-29
Jesus said the farmer participates in a process he can’t comprehend. The process happens “by itself”—a phrase from the Greek term, automate. Just as God programmed seeds to sprout by themselves (how, we have no clue), so He does the same with His plan that may seem delayed.
2 Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed
The Lord Jesus intends to strengthen our faith through this parable. We see at least 2 truths to cling to when God’s plan seems delayed:
1. God’s plan is progressing in spite of what we don’t see or understand.
The process as Jesus described it—“first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain”—suggests a progression of steps, none of which we can hurry, skip, or delay. The sequence shows us the future: what seems hidden today will one day become visible to all.
In our day, where only in seeing is believing, Jesus’ parable encourages patient and persistent faith toward a certain and overwhelming outcome.
Jesus used another illustration to reveal the future in spite of the present.
The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade. —Mark 4:30-32
The mustard plant in Israel grows to a height of 10-12 feet, but it has one of the smallest seeds. This illustrates the second truth to cling to when God’s plan seems stalled:
2. God’s plan is progressing in spite of its seeming insignificance now.
Compared to the large weeds in the world—which we see in the national news—Christianity seems like a mustard seed. Small, insignificant, and ineffective. But God works in ways that human eyes overlook. He is sowing seeds that await a certain harvest.
I love that Georg Frideric Handel included this quote from Revelation in his work, Messiah:
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. —Revelation 11:15
Feeling discouraged at the slowness and secrecy of God’s plan? Remember the truths Jesus revealed. What seems small and insignificant now will become the largest of all kingdoms one day.
Tell me what you think: What helps you when God’s plan seems stalled? To leave a comment, just click here.
This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.
• What do you do when the life God has promised you looks nothing like the life he has given you?
• If you find yourself waiting on God—or if you don’t know what God wants you to do next—this book offers a wise and practical guide to finding hope and peace in life’s difficult pauses.
You will discover what to do when it seems God does nothing.