As I have written about previously the house that we live in had something going on unknown to us. For years and years tree roots were growing under the ground, growing ever closer to the outgoing sewer pipe of our house. No one living in this house over the years knew what was taking place, it was all incognito. But then that fateful Saturday came when the water would not go down and the sewer started to come back. With some investigation it became clear that roots had grown into the pipes and the pipe had to be replaced to restore service. Last time I pointed out that this biblically illustrates the eventual result of not resisting temptation.
This time, however, I would like to use this experience as a very positive illustration of biblical truth that this whole experience has revealed. A few weeks ago I (and three of my children) started working on planting new grass where the pipe had been replaced. First we filled some dirt in where there had been settlement. Second, we leveled out the dirt and picked out the many rocks on the surface. Seed was then planted, fertilizer was applied, and straw was spread over the newly planted seed. When we completed all that work there was no grass-not even one fresh blade. For the next two weeks I daily watered the area or it rained. For two weeks it looked like nothing was going on. But then I heard the good news, my wife told me that she had leaned down closely to the ground and saw tiny shoots coming up. We were elated, but for the last few days before the first blades were spotted I have to honestly say I was starting to wonder if there would be any grass.
Just like our previous grass looked fine and yet there was a problem brewing below the surface, so with this newly planted grass there were things taking place below the surface that I could not see or appreciate until the blades showed up. Consider a parallel image that Paul uses in his letter to the church at Corinth:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
Paul was dealing with a church that had become focused on who it was that was ministering rather than on the fact that it is God that brings about spiritual fruit. But in so doing He reminds us that we plant and water but God causes the growth.
If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ then you have been called to spread the message of Jesus Christ to all those around you. One of the main reasons that born again Christians can become discouraged in this privilege of spreading the seed of the gospel is the lack of response. I want to encourage you though with this principle of planting, watering and growth. You may be faithfully planting the seed of the gospel in the lives of your children, your spouse, extended family, friends, co-workers etc. and the results may look just as our yard did after 10 days. In fact, not only did our yard look barren and dirty, it actually looked worse than it did right after we planted the seed because some of the straw had blown away. And yet, under the surface the soon growth was on its way. Things were happening below the surface that could not be seen by the naked eye.
We often concern ourselves with whether or not “the grass is going to grow” rather than being focused on doing what God has called us to do. We need to think through some implications of this truth.
1. We are not responsible to cause spiritual growth in the lives of those we minister the Word of God to. If we think we are we will go about spiritual ministry in an unspiritual way trying to force something that only God can do.
2. We do not see all that God is doing below the surface of someone’s life as we minster God’s truth to them. If we assume that we see all that is going on we will get discouraged and become hopeless in spiritual ministry. But if we recognize that God is the one that brings growth and He is at work even below the surface we can keep watering that seed in faith.
3. We must not doubt the potency of the Word that we scatter in spiritual ministry. If we are shaken in our estimation of the seed of God’s word we will turn to other means to try to bring about spiritual growth rather than the regular watering means that God has given (E.g. the Word, Prayer).
4. We must not define success in spiritual ministry as spiritual growth but faithfulness in our responsibilities. If we are called to plant and water and only God can give the growth then we must focus on the planting and watering and believe that in God’s good time the seed of the gospel will bear fruit.
5. We must never presume upon God’s sovereign grace in spiritual ministry through neglecting His means of planting and watering. Yes God sovereignly causes spiritual growth, but He sovereignly does so through the means of the gospel spread, the Word communicated and the petitioning for spiritual growth.
6. We must patiently plant and water knowing that all growth takes time and God is sovereign over the timetable of spiritual growth as we plant and water the truth.
We can be sure of this. If we are faithful at planting and watering God’s Word in God’s time and in God’s way it will bear fruit. Do not assume you know all that is taking place under the surface. It might just be that you are two days away from seeing some blades of grass, two weeks away from having to mow grass, and months away from having a yard full of think grass. Spiritually, if you do have a yard full of grass in the future, it will not be because you planted and watered (though you must do that!), it will be because God in His grace caused growth through your planting and watering. Be encouraged, plant and water believing in the God who causes growth, even if you cannot see that growth as quickly as you might desire.