At our ‘Churches Together’ prayer meeting this week (on Facebook live on Wednesday 15th July at 10.45 a.m.), we are looking at the subject of growth, both in the natural world and in the spiritual realm. Growth is God’s intention for every one of His children. Paul tells us that despite all our efforts in evangelism and teaching, it is ‘God who makes things grow’ (1 Cor 3:6-7) and Peter urges us to crave pure spiritual milk like newborn babies do so that ‘by it you may grow up in your salvation.’ (1 Pet 2:2) Paul talks of us growing ‘to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.’ (Eph 4:15-16) It’s God’s desire and purpose that we grow!
Growing up in Christ is a process, however, not a one-off event. All growth takes time and nurture. We are often impatient with the idea of growth, wanting things to happen overnight (as the little mouse Scamp does when growing sunflower seeds for his mother in the lovely children’s book ‘Mummy’s Little Sunflowers’ by Angela McAllister and Alison Edgson.) We need to understand that growth times time and cannot be rushed.
In Jeremiah 32, we have a powerful parable acted out by the prophet. Despite the desperate times, with Israel facing exile from their beloved land, Jeremiah is commanded by God to go and buy a field. (Jer 32:2, 8-12) That may well have seemed a pointless thing to do, for how could the field have any benefit to Jeremiah or his family when they were not even in the land to do anything about it? Jeremiah understood that God was reminding HIs people about the hope and the future He still had for them. Jeremiah said, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’ (Jer 32:14-15)
God is interested in the long-term view. Jeremiah’s field was a vivid reminder that even though the people faced exile and banishment to a foreign land for seventy years (70 years!), God hadn’t finished with them yet. God still had good plans for them, plans to give them hope and a future, plans not to forsake them but to bring them prosperity. (Jer 29:11) Growth may well take generations; it will almost certainly take longer than we want it to do. But the God who makes things grow will not abandon us. We may well have felt abandoned and forsaken in lockdown; we may well wonder how on earth life can ever get back to any kind of normality with the threat of coronavirus hanging over us. How can we survive, let alone thrive? How can we ever gather again for our ‘Churches Together’ fun days like we used to?
We can be confident ultimately in a good future and in good growth because we serve a good God. (Ps 119:68) The flower seeds sent out to many people over recent weeks are a simple symbol of this truth that growth takes time, but there are times and seasons for everything. (Eccl 3:1-11) As we plant those seeds, we can be sure that God will make them grow and give us beautiful and diverse flowers to enjoy in due course. In the same way, we can be sure that the God who has begun a good work in us will carry it on to completion. (Phil 1:6) It may take time, but He is faithful and He will do it.