Let’s be honest, some things take a long time. It’s tough to watch movies that just drag on, or sitcoms where we can see the eventual trainwreck coming from the very beginning. I have heard that, in days gone by, the idea of time compression wasn’t part of theater plays, so if something in the story took several hours, the audience had to literally wait all day. (I hope that there was an intermission and some good snacks at the café!)
We talk about watching paint dry, or watching grass grow. Still, things that are worthwhile often take a lot of time. Relationships may be kindled with an introduction, but take ongoing support to develop into a lifelong friendship. Raising children can’t be accelerated, as much as we might like to do so when babies can’t tell us anything except, “Waaaaaaagh!” Major projects, building, and plans can take days, months, or even years to complete.
The verse below is a good reminder that – like grass and other things that grow slowly over time – we sometimes have to wait for grace to grow, as well: the blessings of a life that we don’t deserve on our own, when we allow God to step in and change us for the better.
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
Mark 4:26-29 NLT
Whether the farmer is God, sharing His message to others; or us, sharing God’s message on His behalf, the fact that this follows fairly closely after the parable of the sower (see Mark 4:3-20) suggests to me that the seed is still God’s word (see Luke 8:11). Just because we sow a seed of truth in someone’s life, doesn’t mean that they will become devout followers of Jesus instantaneously. And even then, choosing to make Jesus the Lord of our lives doesn’t necessarily cause us to act perfectly.
Furthermore, when working with others on their spiritual walk, we might not be around for the entire growth cycle. Paul talks about different roles in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, and we need to be OK with our role in God’s plan, whether we plant, water, or harvest.
So, what can we expect when sharing God’s word with others – even with those who are receptive to hearing it?
- It may take a while to see any change. Share the truth about God, anyway.
- We’re not responsible for the process of growth, although we can cultivate it. Growth can occur even when we’re not micromanaging it.
- We probably won’t fully understand God’s process. He works in ways that we don’t see, don’t expect, and may not “get”.
- We still need to do our part. Just spectating is rarely – if ever – our purpose. If you can’t serve and share the Good News, support and pray for those who can.
- We might get a sneak-peek at progress, if we are paying attention. Sometimes, God gives us a glimpse into others’ progress. We see a “leaf” of knowledge, maturity, and understanding. However, we need to keep our eyes open to spot these opportunities.
- When the harvest is ready (Matthew 9:37-38), the seed of the word of God produces results.
So, despite the fact that I know it’s hard: be patient. Keep sharing God’s message, invest in the growth of others who would follow Him, and wait for God’s word to do its work.
“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.