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‘So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.’ -- Mark 4:26-28
‘The Head, from whom the whole body increaseth with the increase of God’ -- Col. 2:19
Death is always a standing still: life is always movement, progressiveness. Increase or growth is the law of all created life; consequently, the new life in man is destined to increase, and always by becoming stronger. As there are in the seed and in the earth a life and power of growth by which the plant is impelled to have its full height and fruit; so is there in the seed of the eternal life an impelling force by which also that life always increases and grows with a divine growth, until we come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Eph. 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:4)
I this parable of the seed that springs up of itself, and becomes great and bears fruit, the Lord teaches us two of the most important lessons on the increase of the spiritual life. The one is that of its self-sufficiency, the other that of its gradualness.
The first lesson is for those that ask what they are to do in order to grow and advance more in grace. As the Lord said of the body: ‘Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature? consider the lilies of the field how they grow;’ so He says to us here that we can do nothing, and need to do nothing, to make the spiritual life grow. (Hos. 14:16; Matt. 6:25,27,28) Do you not see how, while man slept, the seed sprang up and became high, he knew not how, and how the earth brought forth fruit of itself? When man has once sowed, he must reckon that God cares for the growth: he has not to care: he must trust and rest.
And must man then do nothing? He can do nothing: it is from within that the power of life must come: from the life, from the Spirit implanted in him. To the growth itself he can contribute nothing: it shall be given him to grow. (Ps. 92:14; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3)
All that he can do is to let the life grow. All that can hinder the life, he must take away and keep away. If there are thorns and thistles that take away place and power in the soil which the plant should have, he can take them away. (Jer. 4:13; Matt. 13:22,23) The plant must have its place in the earth alone and undivided. For this the husbandman can care: then it grows further of itself. So must the Christian take away what can hinder the growth of the new life: to surrender the heart entire and undivided for the new life, to hold it alone in possession and to fill it, so that it may grow free and unhindered. (Son. 2:15; Heb. 12;1)
The husbandman can also bring forward what the plant requires in the way of food or drink: he can manure or moisten the soil as it may be needful. So must the believer see to it that for the new life there is brought forward nourishment out of the word, the living water of the Spirit, by prayer. It is in Christ that the new life is planted: from Him it increases with divine increase: abide rooted in Him by the exercise of faith: the life will grow of itself. (2 John 15:4,5; Col. 2:6,7) Give it what it must have: take away what can hinder it: the life will grow and increase of itself.
Then comes in the second lesson of the parable: the gradualness of the growth: ‘first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.’ Do not expect everything at once. Give God time. By faith and endurance we inherit the promises: the faith that knows that it has everything in Christ: the endurance that expects everything in its time according to the rule and the order of the divine government. Give God time. Give the new life time. It is by continued abiding in the earth that the plant grows: it is by continuous standing in grace, in Christ Himself, in whom God has planted us, that the new life grows. (Heb. 3:13; 6:12,15; Jas. 5:7)
Yes: give the new life only sufficient time: time in prayer: time in intercourse with God: time in continuous exercise of faith: time in persistent separation from the world. Give it time: slow but sure, hidden but real, in apparent weakness but with heavenly power, is the divine growth with which the life of God in the soul grows up to the perfect man in Christ.
Lord God, graciously strengthen the faith of Thy children, that their growth and progress are in Thy hands. Enable them to see what a precious, powerful life was implanted in them by Thyself, a life that increases with a divine increase. Enable them by faith and patience to inherit the promises. And teach them in that faith to take away all that can hinder the new life, to bring forward all that can further it, so that Thou mayest make Thy work in them glorious. Amen.
1. For a plant, the principal thing is the son in which it stands and out of which it draws its strength. For the Christian, this also is the principal thing: he is in Christ. Christ is all: he must grow up in Him, for out of Him the body obtains its increase. To abide in Christ by faith -- that is the main thing.
2. Remember that faith must set itself towards a silent restfulness, that growth is just like that of the lilies on God’s hands, and that He will see to it that we increase and grow strong.
3. By this firm and joyful faith, we become ‘Strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy.’ (Col. 1:11)
4. This faith, that God cares for our growth, takes away all anxiety, and gives courage for doing the two things that we have to do: the taking away of what may be obstructive to the new life, the bringing forward of what may be serviceable to it.
5. Observe well the distinction betwixt planting and growing. Planting is the work of a moment: in a moment the earth receives the seed: after that comes the slow growth. Without delay -- immediately must the sinner receive the word: before conversion there is no delay. Then with time follows the growth of the seed.
6. The main thing is Christ: from Him and in Him is our growth. He is the soil that of itself brings forth fruit, we know not how. Hold daily intercourse with Him.
There is a book ‘Abide in Christ’ (Nisbet & Co.), with meditations for a month on the blessed life of continued fellowship with Him.
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