“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” Mark 4:26-29
I’ve often told people that I don’t have a green thumb. Upon some research though, I have learned that I can actually tell people not what I don’t have…but what I do have: a “brown thumb”. A brown thumb refers to a person that has the “inability or lack of skill in gardening or growing plants, such that they end up dying or fail to grow at all”. It aptly sums up my reality. I have often joked with my husband that the best flowers to give me are always the cut ones that I can just stick in a vase because at least someone else already started the dying process that I was sure to bring to completion. 😉
With all that being said, I did do some planting this past spring. It was very scary to spend money on plants that actually had roots and were expected to live beyond a week! Thankfully, my daughter, Faith, had been working in the garden shop at our local pharmacy and assured me she would valiantly fight against all my brown fingers and toes to keep each shrub and flowering plant from an early grave. I was so thankful for her faithful care and delighted in the blooms that filled our deck and front steps this past summer.
But our ornamental grass turned out a little bit different. Though each plant received the same amount of water, sun and care, they did not all end up looking the same. While the majority of them grew at comparable rates, one shot up taller and fuller than the rest and another seemed to be trying to win the “runt” award. They all were planted in the same soil and endured the same wind, rain and hail under the same sun…but their growth was still different.
It reminded me of a parable Jesus told….the one about the soils. The first three soils represent those that have an “experience” with Jesus…but have not received a new heart through salvation. The last soil speaks to those who have been saved. Their soil was made “good” by the blood of Jesus as He opened their ears to hear and the eyes of their hearts to understand. The result of their salvation was fruit.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” John 15:16
“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8
Scripture is clear that those in Christ, those who have repented of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus as their only hope of salvation, will produce fruit. Good works can never save us, but once we are saved, good works (fruit) will be the result of our salvation…of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us. To put it simply: no fruit, no Jesus.
We see this reality in what Jesus said at the end of explaining the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:23:
“But the one sown on the good ground – this is the one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”
Did you catch that? All of the amounts listed were TIMES the amount of what what sown. Each produced fruit that was in abundance in comparison to what was sown. When God saves us, He doesn’t leave us as little seeds or sprouts. He strengthens us and equips us, by His Spirit and through His Word, to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:18) and to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). He has redeemed us and cleansed us so that we can be eager and devoted to good works (Titus 2:14,3:8).
Here is where my ornamental grass comes into the picture again. While we will all grow in Christ…and grow in abundance, at that; we will still not all produce the same amount of fruit. As Scripture says: some one hundred, some sixty and some thirty times what was sown. All of it will be to the praise of His glory but, if we look around, we just might notice the different amounts of fruit. Maybe we feel like the “runt” of the fruit, taking each step in service to the King but wishing that our impact was a bit greater or more noticeable. Or maybe we have been given much responsibility by God and this season of service feels grand and full and we wonder why those around us aren’t doing more.
We start to compare ourselves to others. (Peter did that with John and, next week, we’ll look at what Jesus thought about this all-so-easy trap we can fall into.) We either end up judging others or falling into a pit of discouragement. Pride or self-pity…it’s amazing how prone we are to both! But if we truly understand the nature of fruit, both pride and pity should always be eclipsed by praise.
You see, the fruit is never up to us. We are the created, not the Creator. The works we have been called to walk in…the amount of fruit we produce…has all been determined by our Heavenly Father.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Ephesians 3:10
We are not called to manufacture our own fruit, we are called to faithfulness. We are called to abide in Christ.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” John 15:5
Whether we feel like the “runt” or feel “full”….it truly doesn’t matter because it’s not about us…it’s all about HIM! May we fix our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and may we not get tired of doing good, for God has promised that we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9). The fruit God grows in us now is but a foretaste of what is to come: an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for us!! (I Peter 1:4)
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:8-9