When arriving to work in the morning, I often park my car in the exact same parking spot. I don’t have a reserved space, but as an engineer, I’m prone to following patterns and being consistent. (And, how would I know where I parked at the end of the day if I picked a different part of the lot?) However, my uniform arrival location is also due, in part, because that’s where the available parking spots are when I arrive in the morning.
Within one of the grassy “islands” that separate some of the parking rows, right in front of my parking spot, is a tree. It’s not very big, yet – maybe about as tall as me (although it’s probably not done growing taller…and I am), but this year it has been interesting to watch. As winter subsided, the tree grew some buds at the end of its branches. Later, flowers appeared, and then little bunches of pods (maybe fruit?).
If I just sat and watched the tree 24 hours a day, I probably wouldn’t notice much change over any given hour. However, because I typically have the chance to see it every business day or two, I can appreciate the progress that it is making. I can’t take credit for this growth. In fact, other than some tending from my company’s landscaping contractor, God deserves the credit for the tree’s annual development cycle. After all, He designed the plant, and provides the sun, rain, and soil that help it to grow.
In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul the apostle is explaining how spiritual growth occurs:
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 NASB
In business, “organic growth” is earning more sales, one order at a time. This is different from “inorganic growth”, which usually involves the purchase of another company that can provide an immediate discrete boost in sales.
While Christians aren’t selling anything (salvation is free, after all), the Kingdom of God is the ultimate example of “organic growth”. The Body of Christ grows one soul at a time:
- One friend who tells another friend the good news.
- Honest searchers for truth who read the Bible.
- Personal experiences that are shared by those whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ.
- The peace and joy of following Jesus bringing someone out of chaos.
When a family member or a long-time friend finds their way to Jesus (accepting Him as his or her Savior and Lord), and then continues to develop in spiritual maturity, we can look back and appreciate the growth that God has enabled. While in the middle of challenging situations with others, we might not see the progress we expect right away, but we can remember that God often causes things to grow slowly and steadily.
For someone who we haven’t known as long, we might not see any change in their spiritual walk at all. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest in them. Like a landscaper who stops by the parking lot to apply water and pull weeds, God may choose to have us just serve a part of His spiritual plan for another person, and not show us the results (at least, not on this side of eternity).
Still, we are called to serve at His direction, even when we don’t know the future, or don’t see the benefit immediately. While waiting for someone to choose the path that Jesus offers, we can be encouraged by accounts of children whose parent(s) prayed for them over decades before making the right choice. Even if we didn’t have that, though, we would still have an obligation to serve out of obedience and love.
So, don’t be discouraged by the pace of spiritual growth in others. While we have a role in cultivating the truth and righteousness within others, we’re not the owner of these “fields”, nor are we responsible for actual growth. Trust God, do your part as He calls you to, and enjoy the blessings of watching Him bring other people to Himself.