God’s Word Makes Faith Sprout and Grow
These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
God’s Word for This Week
This 4th of July, people will celebrate the growth and power of our republic. Yet as believers in Christ, we are part of an eternal kingdom. The kingdom of God started so humbly. It makes unnoticeable progress as it conquers hearts for Christ. Yet if you step back to look at it, you can see its tremendous growth. Those who are part of it will be longing for the final outcome when they are “clothed” with immortal life away from the struggles of the world.
Traditional First Lesson – Ezekiel 17:22-24
What will the Lord do with the “top of the cedar tree”?
God uses the picture of breaking off the top of a cedar tree and planting it to vividly prophesy the miraculous success of his people. They would start off insignificant and small, but this kingdom of God would grow more powerful than any other nation because Jesus will be at its core.
What will the new tree attract?
This kingdom of God would have a worldwide influence. People with every kind of background from all over the world will find safety and shelter in its “branches.” (See the parable of the mustard seed—Matthew 13:31,32.)
Supplemental First Lesson – Jonah 3:1-10
Whom did the Ninevites believe when Jonah told them that their city would be destroyed?
When Jonah preached to them about God’s judgment, the Ninevites believed God. God convinced them, not Jonah.
What happened when God saw the Ninevites’ sorrow over their sin?
When God saw the Ninevites’ sorrow over their sin and how they turned from their wicked ways, he relented from his threat to destroy them. (He had not made an empty threat; God is like a father, who punishes children when he has to, but not because he gets pleasure from it.)
Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Why does Paul call this life (his body) “a tent”?
Our bodies on this earth are not our permanent dwelling but just temporary (like a tent). We groan with the pains and struggles of our bodies but know that God has given us more—eternal life! The more we understand what is coming up, the more we will long for it. How much is this a part of your daily perspective?
What difference will that make in our lives?
Because we confidently look ahead to the judgment, we make it our goal to please him and do all for the glory of God. Christian living is not a matter of rules and regulations but a joyful response to the gospel as we join in unfolding God’s effect on the world.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 1:3-8
What was the gospel doing all over the world in Paul’s day?
In Paul’s day, the gospel was growing and bearing fruit all over the world. In other words, more and more people were coming to faith in Christ and growing in faith, hope, and love.
Who came to Paul while he was under arrest (most likely in Rome) to tell him how the gospel was growing in little Colosse?
Epaphras told Paul how the gospel was growing in Colosse. Epaphras—a grateful “slave” of Christ, along with Paul—had started the congregation in Colosse. Later he went to see Paul who was under house arrest. What a report Epaphras could give about God’s grace, despite the doctrinal troubles in Colosse.
Gospel – Mark 4:26-34
How does Jesus help us understand the kingdom of God with the illustration of the growing seed?
The growth of God’s kingdom is God’s work, not ours. God almost invisibly provides progress within us, progress toward bearing fruit for the final harvest. The seemingly powerless seed of the gospel plants God’s ruling activity in resistant, stubborn people. Then faith sprouts. Can you look back and see the progress God has made in your faith life?
What else do we learn about the kingdom of God from the mustard seed?
In a big world, the kingdom of God seems small and insignificant, but it grows to be the largest kingdom of all. The parable of the mustard seed shows the extraordinary power of the word as it brings growth to the church, so people worldwide benefit (“perch in its shade”).