Gardening is fun – at least I think so. Getting your hands dirty, planting seeds, weeding out the unwanted plants fertilising the plants that will produce something – a display of colour or a plate of food – all form part of that exciting gardening experience. But I know that gardening doesn’t light everybody’s passion! It’s a shame because gardening is a great illustration of the work needed in God’s kingdom. Ground needs to be prepared; we need to water and fertilise the precious seed that has been planted and is yet vulnerable; we need to allow time for the seed to grow and eventually produce a harvest.
Of course we realise that in our network of relationships that everyone is not ready to be harvested at the same time. Though Jesus said the harvest was plentiful and the workers few we know that to reach the harvest God has to move in people’s hearts and minds, convict them of their need for salvation, and draw them to himself. We (as individuals and collectively) all form part of that exercise by our planting of kingdom seeds, preparing the ground through good conversation that draws out faith and challenges thinking, yet is always shown with love compassion and grace; and by demonstrating in a living way that the kingdom of God is alive and active in our lives.
Paul reminds us that it is God who gives the increase yet we can all play our part in seeing the harvest come to fruition by building into others lives in our personally unique ways through the testimony we experience of God’s work in our own lives (1 Cor 3:6-7). This of course assumes that this is a reality for us and not something that we have to pretend exists because our personal experiences of God’s work are infrequent and shallow. This is not God’s fault – he who not is withholding things from us – but comes from our response to his kingdom work and the call on our lives. We could leave the witnessing to other people and save ourselves the time and effort of presenting and living the testimony of God in our lives but ultimately we are the one who misses out!!
Jesus reminds us as disciples that the measure of love is seen clearest in the willingness to lay down you lives for your friends (Jn 15:13). We understand that Jesus gave up his life in full allegiance to the Father, going via the road of suffering, rejection, persecution and injustice, to bring the freedom that all people need. The words he uses speak of his forthcoming journey to the cross and death, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24).” Without the yielding of ourselves to God’s will (a death to our right to control our lives our way) we cannot produce fruit…but if we yield to God’s will we produce much fruit. We are connected to the Vine and produce his fruit in our lives. Likewise Paul says the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is measured in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-discipline (Gal 5:23). Our lives need the daily taking up of our cross – the daily willingness to yield to God’s control in our lives for us to fully realise the promises of God personally. It is so much easier to plant seeds when we ourselves are seed planted to produce a fruitful harvest.
Just as plants need water and sunshine to develop, everyone who wishes to grow in God’s kingdom must take care to “drink the living water and feed on the light of God.” The practice of connection with God and his revelation needs prominence in our lives – not the last position or even the second position. I love the idea of walking with God all the time. From the rising in the morning, until the retirement to our beds for rest and replenishment of our physical and emotional energies we can we aware of God’s Spirit’s guidance and direction, his power and prompting as to what to do and what not to do. We need that framework by which we spend time reading God’s instruction (the Bible) and allowing our thoughts to think about (meditate) what we are learning, what the Bible reading is saying to us, measuring how it works out in our lives and how it makes a difference to how we live. And especially how it influences those thoughts and deliberations that are unseen by others.
Everything seems easier in theory and discussion than in practice but the place for us to observe most fully God’s kingdom development is in the growth he brings in our life and testimony. It might be messy work but it affords us the opportunity to talk about it with those who are open to conversation and other people will be drawn to Jesus – Jesus living powerfully in us.