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Tending the Mustard Tree

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Waiting. We’ve been doing a lot of that the last six weeks or so haven’t we. Some of you will remember I waited three years for a visa to go to my country in South Asia between 1989 and 1992. That was hard. Hard because I didn’t know why it was delayed or if I’d ever get it. Hard because God had placed before me a vision of what He had for me to do. Would I ever get to do it? And if not, then what has He been saying? Have I got it all wrong?The other reason it was hard was because some of those around me began to hint that it was time to move on to other things, that I was wasting my time and that there were other urgent needs out there and I was in the wrong place. How did I answer them when those thoughts were already whirling around my mind. But they just didn’t ring true.Well, there was an anchor. A promise and a sign that was given. And God gave me instruction to wait for the visa. And when it finally arrived he gave more instructions: “Don’t try and begin what I’ve shown you. Do what you’re asked to do. Wait, and I’ll begin everything at the right time”.That time, waiting for God to start the new things, was another seven years. And now, since serving the original vision He gave me, it has taken another 15 years for that vision to come into being. And, in truth, there is still a lot yet to unfold.So now that I have returned to New Zealand, how am I responding to the wait now? Will I ever get to go back? What about the unfulfilled vision and expectations I have?A Generational PerspectiveOver these many years I have learnt that God’s ways are not like our ways. His timetable is way, way different. We think in terms of months or a few years. Maybe even a decade or two. He spans generations. Just like the mustard tree in the parable, the Kingdom of God grows. But it may not be possible to see its progress in the short time we have on this earth.I’ve also seen Him keep me in a country where fellow workers have had to leave. I’ve seen him time and time again nullify the plans of others that interfere with His plan.Now I’m more relaxed about the future than I would have been 30 years ago. I know that if I rest and trust and remain ready to obey, then God will do something amazing. But it might not look like what I was expecting. It seldom does.Our Part to Grow the KingdomBeing able to rest in this truth means I’m not so driven about being in the centre of it all. Because God’s Kingdom is far larger than my role. Like Jesus modeled, I’m expected to do my part and to follow the guidance given. To see the mustard tree grow in and through my work. Then I need to leave the rest of the results for God to work out into future generations and see its final beauty from the perspective of Heaven.So often we tend to try to wrap it all up and ‘finish’ the work in our lifetime. But we need to see the Kingdom from a multigenerational point of view.I know many who came in years past to my town and area who never got to see fruit in their time. The mustard tree didn’t seem to grow at all. Some left disillusioned. Others trusted that seeds sown would, in time, come to fruition. All of them sacrificed much to be there. Some stayed only months. All contributed to where the mustard tree is now.I’ve been the fortunate servant who has seen many of those seeds sown now start to sprout and become fruit. Was it my doing? No! We owe it to the generations before us to honour their hard labour, tears and prayers in the desert.Seeing our labour in Kingdom terms for many means jagged endings. Unfinished, unresolved issues, questions and situations. It doesn’t gel with our need for closure and tidy endings. It means trusting that our unresolved ending is, in fact, another part of the growth of the mustard tree. We trust God will fit it in the right place. And we wait and trust God with the ambiguities.This Article was written by a Mission Partner who serves in South Asia. For security reasons, names and places have been omitted or changed.