I tried to grow a garden once. It didn’t go well.
I had great aspirations when I planted it. I pictured a well-watered and neatly weeded patch of earth that would yield a steady supply of summer vegetables. I planted, watered, and weeded really well—at first. But then came the heat. The bugs. The weeds. And it was taking such a long time for the sprouts to grow! Eventually, I gave up. It seemed easier to simply buy some vegetables at the grocery store.
Gardening requires patience and work that I wasn’t willing to give. I wanted an instant harvest with minimal investment. I wanted fully grown vegetables without tending or waiting for them.
We often take a similar approach to spiritual maturity. In a world that values instant results, believers sometimes expect spiritual growth with minimal investment. We desire long-term faithfulness to Christ but aren’t always practicing the God-ordained means of perseverance. We’d like Christian maturity to be quick and effortless.
But that’s not how growth works.
Think Like a Farmer
In his epistle to suffering Christians, James calls us to consider the farmers as we wait for the Lord’s return and pursue lives of steadfast faith. James instructs us: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7–8).
We’d like Christian maturity to be quick and effortless. But that’s not how growth works.
Having lived in a rural, farming community for the past 15 years, I’ve observed the patience of the area farmers. I once took a tour of a church member’s farm and was overwhelmed by the acres and acres of land that must be tended. Farmers work hard. They diligently plow and plant, and they persistently irrigate the fields during the dry summer months. But in the end, they must wait for the harvest. In the end, they depend on God for growth.
Farming our hearts for spiritual growth and faithfulness requires both investment and patience. Farmers don’t sit on their hands throughout spring and summer, hoping a few crops will pop up out of thin air. No, they work diligently toward the harvest. But they also know that they must wait patiently for the crops to take root, grow, and produce fruit. They work and wait. And that’s the approach every believer is called to take.
Work and Wait
What does it look like to work and wait for a harvest of long-term faithfulness? How do you irrigate your heart during a spiritual drought or fight the weeds and pests of temptation or doubt?
Peter tells us God has given us everything we need for life and godliness:
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Pet. 1:3–4)
Through the knowledge of God and his promises given in Scripture, we become more like him. Peter goes on to encourage believers to supplement their faith with godliness, knowledge, steadfastness, and self-control (see 2 Pet. 1:5–7). As we practice these qualities, God will bring about the fruit of our faith in Christ.
Paul exhorts us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). There’s a promise bound up in this command to work and wait: God will bring about a harvest of growth and faithfulness in those who belong to him. He expects our obedience, but he will finish the work he has started in us (see. Phil. 1:6). We can take part in the practices of faithfulness that he’s given us with great confidence that he will bring about growth, maturity, and steadfastness in us.
We can trust his process for growth, waiting patiently for him to bring about that which he has promised.
To grow in knowledge of and love for God, we nourish our souls with truth by reading and meditating on Scripture. To fight sin and temptation, we draw near to him in prayer and outfit ourselves with his Word to help us stand firm (see Eph. 6:10–18). We lean on the body of Christ to encourage us when we’re weak. We’ve been given the gift of God’s living and active Word, free access to him in prayer, the help of the Holy Spirit, and regular exhortation from the church.
We are well equipped to work and wait for the day of the Lord with confidence and patience.
Harvest Is Sure
Our growth hinges upon both God’s investment and our obedience. The Lord ordained our means of growth through prayer, Scripture intake, and the church just as he ordained for plants to grow through good soil, sunlight, and rain. We can trust his process for growth, waiting patiently for him to bring about what he’s promised. He who called you is faithful, his will for your life is your sanctification, and he will keep his promise (1 Thess. 4:3; 5:24).
When it comes to growing long-term, everyday faithfulness in your life, think like a farmer who works and waits with patience, and know that the harvest is sure to come. One day, Jesus will present you pure and spotless before the Father, and what a harvest that will be!