Jeremiah 30:19 (NIV)
I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
“How’s it goin’!?!” A friend of mine and I will adopt New York accents and ask each other that question. I think it may be a line from a movie, but I’m certain his accent and mannerisms are more authentic than mine; he’s Italian by ethnicity and has some New York roots. Of course the answer to each other is simply to echo the question back and forth. No one ever answers the question, but when we do we usually simply say, “fine.”
Life wasn’t so fine for the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. They were in exile. The same would be true for the early followers of Jesus: they would be persecuted. But make no mistake: God’s reign would spread, God’s people would be restored. Honor would come to Israel. Followers of Jesus would become so numerous that people would flock to their gatherings.
With few notable exceptions the Christian Church in North America is a struggling dishonored, disdained, and smallest of all movements. Sports and entertainment get all the good headlines. Movies debut regularly to multi-million dollar weekends. People gather in sports bars and around water coolers to talk about their favorite team. Kids and parents spend hours each week practicing soccer, baseball, football, volleyball, and other pursuits for various reasons (some very good, others not so good). All the while, Christian churches struggle to make ends meet and see numbers dwindling (for various reasons – some good, others not so good – as well. It wasn’t always so: for several decades in North America the church was part of the fabric of everyday life.
But the reign of God is not always easily seen. It may certainly be manifest when people gather for worship and build beautiful places for religious pursuits, but it may also be manifest in the hidden-from-public-view of home prayer and mission groups seeking to impact their neighborhood and workplaces with the good news of God’s reign in Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection and second-coming at the Great Last Day. The reign of God comes when people hear God’s word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit play their sports and root for their teams, and debate politics around the water cooler in the daily rhythm of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
How’s it goin?!? Make no mistake: God reigns in grace and truth. Those who are his and who live under Christ in his kingdom do so with the confidence that his cause will be vindicated, and his blessings will be experienced by all who are drawn to Jesus