Growing: Consider the Lilies
Growing is a natural process. Growth is the progression in size and maturity of living things. Growth requires fuel, an intake of nutrients and water. For people the securing and preparation of food is a priority. For plants the process appears to be passive. Mankind tends to look to future provision with trepidation. Those unfounded fears arise when we forget that it is God who provides. Yes, we are intimately invested in the process, but we ultimately depend upon God. The same is true for the rest of His creation. “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Luke 12:27-28 NKJV) God provides not only sustenance but so much more.
Although we do not fully understand how or why God designed nature to work this way, we trust in the process and take advantage of its benefits. Consider the kingdom parable recorded by Mark. “And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”” (Mark 4:26-29 NKJV) The natural process of growth, maturity and harvest has vast spiritual implications. The kingdom of God follows the same pattern.
Sometimes growth seems miraculous. I recall my youngest brother leaving for college one year as a six-foot beanpole and returning the next summer with broad shoulders and four inches taller. I also remember being away multiple times for a week on business and returning to find my young children almost unrecognizable. The changes were that dramatic. The parable of the Mustard Seed speaks of expansive growth. “Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”” (Mark 4:30-32 NKJV) Rapid growth leads to maturity and life transitions from growth to productivity.
Many things change when maturity is reached. This is true physically and spiritually. Our diet changes. Babes are weaned from milk and solid foods are introduced. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 12:13-14 NKJV) Expectations change both ours and others’ expectations of us. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV) The Hebrew letter addressed Christians who had stalled in their spiritual growth. Sufficient time had passed to reach maturity and they were far short of the progress expected of them. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12 NKJV)
Ultimately, we are expected to grow up. God has provided numerous roles in the church to aid in that process. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Hebrews 5:11-15 NKJV) Keep growing!