Absorbing to bear fruit
WITHERING OR GROWING Third of three parts
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.