“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
The picture above shows redwood tree seeds. Although you can’t tell from the picture, the seeds are being held in a paper towel on someone’s hand. They are pretty small. The ranger who was holding them compared their size to a flake of oatmeal.
Now compare this to the size of the grown tree. All of the circle of trees in the picture below come from the root system of the tree that is now the stump in the center where my husband is standing. One seed produced all of these trees, which are huge in diameter and unbelievably tall.
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jer 32:17
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Gen 18:14
As I remember staring upwards at the mighty and majestic redwoods, I know that the God who made them can certainly do anything!
But there is always a struggle in growth. I started this blog with the verse that says a seed must fall to the ground and die to produce many seeds.
- If I want to be productive, I must sow in self denial and loving others sacrificially.
- If we want the church to grow, it will start with death to self and repentance.
This sounds depressing, but it is an encouraging concept, because it tells me what works. I want to see God work in beautiful amazing ways. And I find myself working hard, getting worn out. It’s so simple that what I need to do is die to self, not be self propelled.
Let me plant one seed of caring for someone when I feel selfish and grumpy, one seed of perseverance when I feel like giving up, one seed that’s an invitation to church to someone who doesn’t seem to be open, one seed of prayer when I’m tired and want to veg.
Let me plant the seed that is an act of faith. Jameson preached this past Sunday about imitating the faith of Jonathan in I Samuel 14. He challenged us to put ourselves in situations where God can do something. “Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.'” (I Sam 14:6)
We have to get our of our comfort zone to take this step of faith. I keep forgetting that growth involves struggle, indeed, it requires struggle. The seed must die. I look around me at the struggles that those I care about are going through, and I am anxious. But it may be that they have to go through that challenge in order to become the person God wants them to be. They have to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2:12)
I have LOVED doing the Old Testament survey I’m working on. Stories that were mundane to me now shine when I put them in the context of God’s overarching plan, when they reflect the themes of God’s character. One story that impressed me was that of Jacob. When he wrestled with the angel, God said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have prevailed.” (Gen 32:28)
Jacob went through struggles, but he prevailed. God intended that His will would be carried out through Jacob, and that all mankind would be blessed through him, but first Jacob’s character had to be tested. He had to go through trials and hard work in earning matrimony with his love, Rachel, and in earning wealth. . . and much more.
God also put Abraham and Isaac through trials. Abraham obviously had to prove his allegiance to God by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. But I am also struck by the nomadic life God called the patriarchs to lead. They were often on the move, with no place to call home.
This impacts me because I was just gone for a week, and I realize how different it is when I am traveling. When I am home, I look forward to that time in that evening when I lay aside whatever I am doing and have a relaxing time of reading or watching Netflix. When I am traveling and staying with people, I have a different mindset. We will stay up talking. I don’t expect a time to be self indulgent. It’s all about serving.
It’s easier to have a servant mindset when I don’t have the comfortable routines of home. I think of how Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Luke 9:58 Jesus didn’t have the option of being self indulgent. For him, it was always about serving. I think this may be one reason God had the patriarchs wander, to keep them reliant on him, and not on their comfort.
Unless a seed dies. . . May I learn to die more, to be uncomfortable more, be less self indulgent, living a life where it is about the ever increasing glory of an incredible God who created the redwoods, and millions of equally amazing things.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:26