Spiritual Growth

“Jesus said, ‘How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.’”
Mark 4:30-31 NLT

Just as the process of changing a mere seed to a fruit bearing plant is a mystery beyond our control, so it is with the growth of our inner spiritual life. But wait, you may think, is that true of spiritual growth? Don’t I control how I grow through things like the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, obedience, etc? Bear with me and hopefully I can explain.

A gardener plants a seed and then waits for the tender shoot to emerge from the soil. She or he doesn’t control what the seed does, how it develops, or what type of plant it will produce. But, there is one thing the gardener can do: encourage its growth by creating an environment conducive to development and productivity. Weeding, tilling, fertilizing, watering, all nurture the seed so it has the potential to bear much fruit.

Can you see where I am going? The Spirit of God, who moves into us when we believe, can be likened to a seed “planted” within us. Can we control Him? How He chooses to work? How quickly He will bring growth and change? What direction He will choose to go? Definitely not! But, there are things we can do to create an environment that will give God access to softened hearts and renewed minds, preparing the soil of our lives for His flourishing work. Watering, tilling, weeding, fertilizing. Digging into His Word, communicating with Him, stepping out in obedience to His truth, seeking forgiveness, joining in the richness of believing communities, and yielding to Him and His process are some of the ways we open ourselves to the work of the Master Gardener.

Seed growth is organic; God growth is organic. Organic, according to Google dictionary, is something “relating to or derived from living matter”. The seed in the soil is alive; God in us is alive. We can nurture the seed or choke out its life. We can either encourage His growth or quench (stifle, put out, extinguish) His Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)

I admit the thought of having another living being in us who we can’t control sounds a bit scary. But this Living Being is the Author of life and love and loves us more than we can ever know. He wants us to know that love (Eph. 3:18) and experience His abundant life. (John 15:8, John 10:10). He is at work in us for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28, Phil 2:13). He fills us and completes us. (Col. 2:10) He desires that we bear much fruit. (John 15:8, Gal. 5:22-23) He is the Master Gardener. Garden with Him and watch and wait for what His Spirit will do.

(I am thankful for Timothy Keller’s sermon, How to Change, which has helped me in understanding this concept.)

Thanks to Kathy for this word of wisdom! May your day be blessed.