Wednesday 24 August 2011

God gives the growth

“My grandpa grows watermelons,” said a five-year old to me recently over lunch at a holiday club for kids, “but it takes sooo long for it to grow!”

“Well, how old are you?” I asked.

“I am five years old,” he answered.

I said to him, “You’ve taken this long to grow this big. And you’re still growing!”

I told him that it is God who makes things grow. We can plant the fruit and make sure it gets enough water. But in the end, God gives the growth.

It is a simple lesson the bible teaches us - not about plants - but about people. Specifically, Paul uses this picture to explain how God grows his church.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7

I have been in Cambridge long enough to see some churches double and triple in size while some others have shrunken and now struggle to fill seats on Sundays.

At one time, the English congregation at the Chinese Church had a weekly attendance of four (including the speaker and the song-leader!). When a recent visitor remarked how much the ministry had grown since, I responded by recognising the faithfulness of the leaders back when times were lean that God was able to use to bless us now in times of plenty.

The point of these verses is not that we do nothing and wait for God to take care of everything. Indeed, what we can - and what we should - do is preach the gospel. Switching illustrations from planting to building, Paul says:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:9-11

Preaching the gospel gives God all the glory. The gospel lays the one foundation (there is no other) of Jesus Christ - crucified for our sins; risen for our justification. We are God’s workers. The church is God’s field. The message is God’s gospel.

When times are lean, we preach Jesus. When times are a plenty, we preach Jesus. We continue planting and we continue watering. It is God who makes things grow.

Even a five year-old can understand that.

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