Ab­sorb­ing to bear fruit

WITH­ER­ING OR GROW­ING Third of three parts

Lethbridge Herald - - FAITH - Ja­cob M. Van Zyl

Plant­ing a seed, bulb or sapling is the short be­gin­ning of a long process. It may take a sea­son or many years for the plant to reach ma­tu­rity. Plants need soil, wa­ter, sun and air to grow. Their roots, stem, branches and leaves all con­trib­ute to the end prod­ucts: flow­ers, fruit and seed.

The growth of a plant re­sem­bles the spir­i­tual growth of a be­liever. It is a slow process, and it can be de­layed or ad­vanced by in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal fac­tors. Each part of the sys­tem, from roots to fruits, must do its share.

St. Paul com­pared the church to a garden and its lead­ers to gar­den­ers: “I planted, Apol­los watered, but God gave the in­crease” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

Je­sus told the para­ble about the bar­ren fig tree to show how God feels about idle be­liev­ers (Luke 13:6-9). This fig tree re­ceived but did not give. So, the owner wanted it cut down. The gar­dener pleaded to give the bar­ren tree an­other year, so he could loosen and fer­til­ize the soil around the it. If it re­mained fruit­less, he would cut it down. The owner re­sem­bles the Father, and the gar­dener re­sem­bles Je­sus.

An­cient Is­rael showed re­mark­able spir­i­tual growth at Mount Si­nai where they re­ceived the Ten Com­mand­ments. Freed from slav­ery in Egypt, they ar­rived at Si­nai still in their slave men­tal­ity. When Moses stayed with God on the moun­tain for 40 days, they de­cided to re­turn to Egypt with its abun­dant food and wa­ter (Ex. 16:3, 32:1, Num. 11:5, 14:4, Acts 7:38-40).

They de­cided to make a golden calf (one of Egypt’s idols) to lead them back. God wanted to oblit­er­ate them, but Moses (a type of Christ) pleaded for them. They were pun­ished but not to­tally con­sumed.

Moses pro­ceeded with the build­ing of the Taber­na­cle. The na­tion gen­er­ously con­trib­uted build­ing ma­te­rial for the por­ta­ble sanc­tu­ary. Crafts­men made the fence, tents and their con­tents pre­cisely as Moses pre­scribed. In con­trast with their de­spi­ca­ble idol­a­try, they were now ded­i­cated to the sanc­tu­ary of the true God. It was a beau­ti­ful team ef­fort. God hon­oured their work by let­ting the cloud fill the Taber­na­cle, af­firm­ing his pres­ence.

The early church in Jerusalem also grew when they stood to­gether in serv­ing and pro­claim­ing Christ as Saviour. The haves shared with the havenots. When their lead­ers were ha­rassed, the church united in prayer. When per­se­cu­tion broke out, they fled to other re­gions, spread­ing the gospel far and wide.

Chris­tians should keep ab­sorb­ing spir­i­tual soil, wa­ter, sun and air: as­sem­bling reg­u­larly, lis­ten­ing to God’s word, par­tak­ing of the sacra­ments, pray­ing, pro­vid­ing for the needy, singing up­lift­ing songs, and al­low­ing the Spirit to fill them with power and love to bring the gospel to oth­ers.

Ja­cob Van Zyl of Leth­bridge is a re­tired coun­sel­lor and the au­thor of sev­eral faith-based books.

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