Spiritual Growth Is Not an Accident

We are all “plants,” and we are all “gardeners”

Our “gardening” labors being necessary to the germination and growth of “plants” in the gardens of God do not detract from God’s sovereign jurisdiction over all things. This is how he has sovereignly ordered our roles in the gardens he gives us to tend.

 

We have a small garden at our home. Usually we enjoy looking at it through our kitchen window in the summer. But we haven’t enjoyed it much lately because among the perennials and annuals we’ve planted, a fair amount of weeds are growing. Why? Because I haven’t tended the garden for a number of weeks. Why? Because I’ve been busy doing other things and neglected our garden.

Perhaps my neglect has been a dereliction of duty — putting lesser priorities ahead of our garden. Perhaps my neglect has been the result of choosing not to be derelict in more important duties. Either way, our garden is reminding me that what a gardener does or doesn’t do really matters.

Our Work Matters

If a gardener wants certain flowers or shrubs or grass or trees to grow in his garden, he must actually cultivate the ground and plant them. But that’s just the beginning. He then must persistently and diligently work to nurture and protect what he’s planted from drought, weeds, pestilence, and pesky critters (like my hole-digging dog).

This even holds true for a Calvinist gardener. If I believe it doesn’t really matter how (or if) I do my gardener’s work — because God will make sure every garden he ordains to exist will grow and flourish — then I hold an errant understanding of how God’s sovereignty and my responsibility work.

When the apostle Paul rightly said that “God gave the growth” to the church plant in the garden at Corinth, he fully believed his work of planting, and Apollos’s work of watering, were the necessary means of that God-given growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul knew he didn’t create the “seed”; he was entrusted with it. Apollos knew he didn’t create the “water”; he was entrusted with it. Both knew they didn’t create the “sun” or “soil” or other environmental factors necessary for the “plant’s” growth. And yet they both worked as though their labors were vital to the survival of the “plant,” because their labors were vital. If the seed wasn’t planted, the plant wouldn’t grow. If the plant wasn’t watered, the plant would die.

Our “gardening” labors being necessary to the germination and growth of “plants” in the gardens of God do not detract from God’s sovereign jurisdiction over all things. This is how he has sovereignly ordered our roles in the gardens he gives us to tend. He gifts us with the incredibly gracious dignity of real responsibility — meaning, what we choose to do or not do affects real outcomes in our gardens.

And yet God does not mean for us to be crushed under the weight of fear lest we fail in our responsibilities. Instead, he promises to supply us all we need to do our gardening work if we learn to live like plants.

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