One of the powerful strategies of Jesus’ teaching ministry was the use of parables. Over the summer, we will be walking through twelve of the parables Jesus used in his teaching ministry. There are two things that make a parable so powerful. First, the structure they are short and to the point. And second, the intent parables are directly aimed at impacting the behavior of the listener. In other words, the intent of every parable of Jesus is to be corrective. Jesus wants to give us a better vision, picture, and taste for every aspect of our lives and life in the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the pictures he wants us to gain clarity on is that of servanthood. Personally, the power of servanthood has come from watching it in others.
Lesson #1 – No retirement in the Kingdom.
It wasn’t long after we moved to Iowa that I had one of the most impactful conversations up to that point in my life. See, I had really never met a farmer that actually made a living from farming before. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, all of the farms around us were under 400 acres and were, at best secondary sources of income. And more likely, they were hobbies or a way of carrying on a family legacy. So, when we moved to Atlantic, IA, you can imagine the agricultural learning curve I had. One day, I was riding along with one of the farmers in our church, who was also a dad of a student in the ministry. He ran a very successful multifaceted operation with both crops, livestock, and freight. I asked him genuinely about his end goals. Retirement, how soon, and what? Frankly, I was asking to learn about different financial strategies in that area of life. And after he explained to me their plan, he said, “What I look forward to the most is that there is no retirement in the Kingdom.” Here was a guy who had built with his family an incredibly successful farming operation, and yet, his passion and excitement were not about that, but that there are always fresh opportunities in the Kingdom. And retirement from business meant more time to serve in Kingdom work. He loved to serve because he felt deeply loved and served by his Father in heaven first and foremost.
Lesson #2 – It is never too late in the Kingdom.
Over the last nine years, I’ve enjoyed many opportunities to coach other churches and student ministries in our state and region in discipleship. That is, helping them to gain a clarified picture of what it means and looks like to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The challenge that always comes along, for some, is the feeling that it is too late to be effective. However, in the Kingdom, that is categorically false! One gentleman I met was in the grandfather stage of life and was eager to make Jesus known, but it felt like his best days were behind him. Yet, at that moment, he felt God’s Spirit speak to him and say that it is never too late in the Kingdom. Amen! A few years later, I bumped into the pastor of that church and came to find out about the fruit the Lord was bearing through this man. The logic of the world said it’s too late. But, the logic of the Kingdom said, it’s never too late; just watch what God can do through a humble and faithful servant.
Jesus’ parables help us to have a clarified vision of the values of the Kingdom. One of those values is radical servanthood. The world says it is better to be served. The Kingdom says it is better to serve, and you will never retire from it, nor is it ever too late to start.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, there are always fresh opportunities if we are humble and willing to let God use us. That is good news!