26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain — first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

This parable teaches that yes, we are involved in our own spiritual growth just like the man who scattered the seed. But we are not alone in this process. Just like the growing process of the seed, the positive change in our lives is a mystery in which Jesus Christ is the solution (1 Timothy 3:16). I can just imagine Jesus smiling and using air quotation marks while saying “All by itself” as He was telling the story to his disciples about how the soil produces grain.

So often, we plan things out for our lives the way we see it happening. We pray about it, press on full steam ahead, include God in everything we do, and assume or hope God feels the same about our plans as we do. But even when we have the best of intentions, God sometimes has something different in mind for us. He even has plans for us when we have no idea what to do. For that we are all grateful. It’s a thought passed down from the wisest human who ever lived, Solomon.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Submitting or committing to anything or anyone takes a lot of work and faith (belief).

In Ephesians 2:8-10, the apostle Paul does not stop with saying “it is by grace you have been saved.” He continues to say that grace saves us through our faith. We are saved by our belief in God’s act of grace that accomplished what we could not do on our own, the forgiveness of sin. We obey God’s word and do the things He asks of us because we believe in Jesus’ power to save us.

If we do not obey God’s teachings, James 2:18-19 says we are no different than the demons who believe there is one God. Faith and deeds go hand in hand. “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

Here are three things to think about in regards to spiritual growth:

1. It involves a partnership between the believer and God where we keep in step with His Spirit and His attributes such as love and kindness (Galatians 5:22-25). Paul says, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

2. As we do His will, we grow a little at a time. Even Paul admitted he still had work to do in maturing as a Christian (Philippians 3:12-14). Peter would agree. He told Christians to grow spiritually by adding Christ-like qualities into their lives a step at a time (2 Peter 1:5-8). He says, “Make every effort to confirm your calling and election” (v. 10)

3. Finally, Jesus explains that spiritual growth has a purpose, to make us ready for the harvest or the end of the age when the righteous will shine like the sun, and the weeds will be burned in the fire.

God’s word has the power to change hearts and minds, and bring the lost into a saved relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Romans 1:16-17).

Have a great week!

Barrett Vanlandingham is the Youth Minister at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ. Reach him at (918) 478-2222 or barrett@ftgcc.org.

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