Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” In Luke 17:20-21, while still speaking of His Kingdom, He told a group of religious leaders, “[The kingdom] is within you.” In Matthew 13:17, Jesus said even the Old Testament prophets desired to see what the disciples had seen, but they “did not see it.”
Having a King-focused and Kingdom-focused life is hard because it is difficult to see, hard to grasp, and nearly impossible to measure. Yet, that is our call as ministry servant-leaders. We are to stay fully focused upon the risen Christ and His coming Kingdom. To do that we must see the Kingdom through spiritual eyes, as well as have an eye towards the future.
I saw a piece of poetry once that I adapted for the work of the ministry:
“We will see the Kingdom of Jesus grow great when we plant trees whose shade we know we will likely never sit in.”
I love this picture. It re-enforces several great principles to help us keep our hearts and minds laser-focused on God’s Kingdom.
First, we are to live a life focused beyond our actual life. In a microwave society, where people seek instant results and quick gratification, we can lose sight of doing anything unless it produces results that we can measure in the here and now. Serving Christ and His Kingdom is a work of eternity and requires us to divorce ourselves from these short-sighted views. We are doing something that will pay dividends that we may never see this side of Heaven. Still, what we are doing for Christ is so critical that we must invest like we can see the payoff even though we can’t. Imagine a farmer planting a crop that he knows full well he will never harvest and never sell. Plant with faith and trust that God will use your humble work to grow His great Kingdom.
Second, we can be encouraged by other Kingdom-focused lives in the past. I love willow trees. There aren’t many where I live currently, but, when I travel to other areas, I seek them out to enjoy their sound and their shade. Somebody else planted them long ago, and I get to enjoy them. This is true in the Kingdom, too. Be encouraged that God will use your work as you look around and see the evidence that He is using the work of many others who lived in times past. Sit under a shade tree and remember this truth the next time you are discouraged.
Lastly, our reward is in the knowledge that God will build His Kingdom. Not only do we not see the fruit of most of what we do for the Lord in this life, we also aren’t actually responsible for it. Yes, we work and serve and plant and sow, but it is God who does the supernatural growth under the ground. We must trust Him to do so in His time and in His way. He is faithful. You can trust this.
As you make your commute today, pick out your favorite tree along your favorite route. Study it. Enjoy it. Make a mental note to let it remind you of the faithful King we serve and the growing Kingdom we populate.