So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1Corinthians 3:7 NIV
Only God makes things grow.
Yes. There is work to do on our end – planting, watering, tilling, weeding – but whatever growth comes forth is a gift from God. (Well, really the ability, means, seeds, tools, and desire to grow something is all a gift from Him too.)
As the source of life, God blesses us with growth, not only physically, agriculturally, relationally, and intellectually, but also spiritually. Generally, the growth God gives is in response to the work He calls us to do. It is a cooperative or a collaborative effort between Creator and creation.
I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. … I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:1-2, 5 NET
Within these verses we see a picture of God’s role and ours.
- God the Father is the Gardener. As Creator and Keeper of the universe, He oversees and orchestrates the circumstances and conditions needed for growth to happen. He fertilizes our lives with love, compassion, mercy, justice, goodness and grace, wisdom and understanding. Along the way He judges the produce, pruning where needed, and cutting off unfruitful branches.
- Jesus is the Vine. Rooted firmly in His Father, the Gardner, He makes the way for us to receive all the Gardener provides for growth. The branches grow out of the Vine – the source of life.
- People are the branches. Our role is to remain, abide, and live a fruitful life connected to Him. Our flow of nutrients from the Vine comes via the Holy Spirit. He guides, directs, and empowers us to do what the Gardener created us to do with the life He gives – glorify Him.
Disciples co-labor with Jesus by way of the Spirit to bear fruit. At the heart of this collaboration and abiding is the building and maintaining of a relationship with God.
God is the Instigator of this relationship. Father, Son, and Spirit choose to produce branches to bear the fruit of spiritual intimacy with Him. He is love and the fruit we are called to bear is love for Him that flows into the world as love for others. Jesus calls us alongside Him to fulfill our purpose: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me (Matthew 11:29).
All growth is God’s gift to us, beginning with the gift of faith and the desire to grow spiritually. My favorite prayer for spiritual growth is based on the commandment Jesus cited as the greatest and most important of all the commandments:
Lord, grow me to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Because this prayer aligns with God’s will for everyone, He answers it with a resounding Yes!
Yet, just like a farmer tends his orchard, vineyard, or fields of grain, we must cultivate our hearts and lives to prepare for the growth God wants to give. The work of abiding in the Vine includes:
Planting God’s Word in our hearts and in the world around us.
Watering it with prayer.
Tilling and aerating the soil of our soul with obedience.
Weeding the sin from our lives with repentance.
We also must remember, we cannot control the circumstances in our life any more than the farmer can control the weather.
Storms will come and storms will go.
There will be seasons of drought and floods.
Sunny days and days to reap with joy.
Times to uproot and times to replant.
Mundane days and exciting days.
But in all of it, God is working. Testing the depth of our love and sounding out the extent of our faith.
Nothing is wasted.
Nothing a loss.
All is gain in Christ Jesus.
All is grace – fodder for growth – in the hands of God the Gardener.
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:28-29 NET
In this broken world, we know hard work is required to grow in any enterprise – whether it’s farming or business, education or raising a family, strengthening our muscles or fine-tuning our expertise. We expect it and understand the process. We’ve all experienced growth to one degree or another when we’ve invested our time, energy, and resources.
But for some reason – when it comes to the spiritual realm, our relationship with God, and finding our place in the Kingdom – we think everything should just magically happen. We even tend to blame God when it doesn’t. But God created the world in such a way that everything in the physical material realm has a spiritual reality behind it.
Just as much work is needed to prepare our hearts and souls to grow spiritually as it does for a farmer to prepare for growth in his fields – whether it’s crops or herds. The unseen work of spiritual growth requires a work of faith: Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
I encourage you today to ask God for growth and make a plan to cultivate a life of faith.
Do the work.
Follow the call.
Wait for growth.
Rest in the confidence of doing your part and then trust Him to do His.
Farming faith right alongside you,
PS I feel a series in the making: What does it looks like to cultivate a life prepared for spiritual growth? It’s something faith needs to know.
Feature Image Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
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