This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Waiting on God.” Waiting isn’t exactly our favorite thing to do, but it is a critical part of God’s plan for every one of our lives. Most of us can relate to the way that Jeremiah felt when he wrote:
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
So far, we’ve learned that while we’re waiting on God, we praise, pray, and serve. While we’re waiting on God for His promises to be fulfilled to us, we praise and pray constantly and serve the needs of others. Often, we can be God’s miracle to someone else while we’re still waiting on our miracle from Him. We learned that small things are the big things to Jesus and that He takes them very personally.
To praise, pray, and serve are the things that we should be doing while we’re waiting on God. However, I also believe that there is something that God wants to do while we’re waiting on Him. There is a radical transformation that God wants to do inside of us. God wants to grow us.
Growth is an amazing attribute that everything that God has created possesses. Growth is amazing and a miracle all of itself. Growth gives us hope because growth indicates that things can change, that things can get better, and that God still has plans and a future for us.
It is important for us to remember these things! When we face opposition and difficulties in life, we can choose to view them simply as opportunities for us to grow.
Often the most incredible growth is taking place when nothing appears to be changing.
With spring hopefully arriving soon, many already have starter plants growing in their homes. Consider a seed. This seed looks nothing like a tomato. However, this tiny seed that doesn’t look all that impressive has the potential to not only grow into a plant that produces a tomato, but has the potential to grow and produce multiple tomatoes each with many seeds just like itself. This single, tiny seed that looks like nothing can produce billions of tomatoes from now until Jesus returns.
When you take this tiny seed and plant it just under the ground, nothing seems to happen at first. The dirt still just looks like dirt and nothing seems to be happening.
However, it is during the waiting season between when the seed is planted and a little green shoot rises up that the most amazing transformation is taking place. This little seed breaks open and life springs out from the seed’s grave. This little yellow seed becomes a green seedling with roots. It looks nothing like the tiny seed that it used to be all because a few days of growth took place.
We can then watch the seedling continue to grow. Not a whole lot of transformation takes place, but the plant gets taller and thicker and stronger and it begins to grow more leaves.
After another time of waiting, flowers begin to appear. Eventually, those flowers produce tomatoes full of seeds that are ready to fall to the ground and begin the process all over again.
God has given us this obvious example of a natural life cycle to better understand spiritual growth and development. In fact, the parallels and poetic usage are drawn more often between spiritual growth and plant growth than anything else in the Bible. Jesus often used plant life in His parables to explain the Kingdom of God.
Similar to plants, the most change and transformation takes place in our lives spiritually during seasons that we are waiting on God. While not much is happening outwardly that can be seen, tremendous growth can be taking place inside. In fact, while we’re waiting on God, we definitely feel and sense the turmoil and opposition raging within while nothing changes externally.
We often feel like we’re going to explode, like something has to give during these growth seasons.
It is in the initial phase of growth that a seed begins to grow roots that spread out far and wide and deep throughout the soil around it. Those roots gather the moisture and nutrients necessary for the rest of the plant to have what it needs to grow and bear fruit. While nothing appears to be happening, unseen roots are growing and those roots are the most important part of the plant.
Think also about a human life. We all begin as a single, microscopic cell. That single cell multiplies to form every other unique part and function of the body. Nothing is really seen from the outside while this amazing transformation is taking place. Most people don’t even know that they are pregnant, themselves while the most growth and transformation is taking place within them.
For sure, little things are the big things to Jesus. Those small beginnings and unnoticeable changes are the most critical times of growth, formation, and development!
Anyone who has gardened before knows just how amazing a plant’s roots are. They are so amazing that you can pull out a plant and cast it aside, watch it whither up and die in the sun, but then come back to find that same plant growing again just a few days later. Why? Because the roots were left intact under the ground. To be sure that a plant is removed and won’t grow back, you must get rid of the roots.
Healthy roots, healthy plant. Healthy plant, healthy fruit. So it is with us, spiritually, as well. The fruits seen outwardly in our lives come from the roots that we’ve allowed to grow inwardly.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Who we are is not defined by our circumstances, it is revealed by them. Trusting in the Lord and being confident in Him can mean for us no fear, no worries, and guaranteed fruitfulness.
James 1:2-4 (MSG)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
God’s word, which are His promises, comes to us most often in seed form. Jesus literally said this in Luke chapter 8. When we are given a promise of God, we expect immediate results. God said it, so it is just going to happen, right?
We want to receive that seed from God’s mouth and have it instantly transformed into fruit when it reaches our hands. We don’t want to wait for it, we don’t want to have to work for it. We don’t want to have to fight off enemies that try to steal it away from us. God gives us a seed, when we often expected Him to give us the fruit.
God’s thoughts and His ways may not be the same as ours, but we must trust that they are ultimately better.
Most often, for God’s word to come to pass in our lives, it takes work. It means that I have to plow up my hardened heart in some areas. It means that I need to keep myself filled with the waters of the Holy Spirit. I means that I have to stay in the word of God to stay well-nutritioned. It means that I have to stay in the presence of the Son. It means that I have to shoo away the birds when they try to sneak in to steal my seed away. It means that I have to pull out weeds of doubt and worry as they always grow faster and look greater than the good seed. It means that I must wait patiently and expectantly.
It means that I have to faithfully do my part as God always faithfully does His part. As the Apostle Paul described, some labor by planting, some labor by watering, but God alone brings growth. God does the growing, but we must be good soil for that word to bear fruit.
There is something powerful that happens when God and man work together in cooperation; especially when facing opposition. God could certainly hand us everything in life so that we never have to lift a finger to do anything. God could cast all of our enemies into the lake of eternal fire right now so that we never have to face trials or temptations or have to fight for anything ever again. Most of us know people who grew up that way and we see why this isn’t best for us.
Work is good for us and it was a part of God’s plan for us even before there was sin. Temptations exist merely because we have free will and the ability to choose in life, and this was also a part of God’s plan even before there was sin. Cooperation with God out of our own free will to choose is an amazing thing of beauty!
In fact, the beautiful, green earth around us wasn’t that at all that until God created mankind.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
God spoke and created everything in all of creation. Even in the natural world, however, God’s word came in seed form. God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. When we read those words, we envision the end result. We read those words and would never picture the giant mud pit that God was referring to.
We see the here and now, but God sees the potential.
We speak to things as they are, but God speaks to things as they can be. This is the essence and the prophetic nature of God.
God intentionally chooses to work through mankind to bring out the full potential out of His creation. Instead of plopping Adam into the middle of a wild jungle forest, God created Adam to work and tend the garden as it grew. As the world around him began to grow, Adam was growing in knowledge and wisdom and skill. Adam was also growing in his relationship with God as creation began to grow.
While we are waiting on God, God wants to grow, develop, and mature us. Jesus gave the parable of the sower recorded in Matthew 13 and Luke 8 and Mark 4. In it, Jesus shared that He wants our roots to grow deep into the wellspring of the Holy Spirit within us. He doesn’t want our faith to get stolen away because we don’t understand. He doesn’t want our faith to be shallow so that we run away as soon as troubles come our way. He doesn’t want our faith to be unfruitful as the troubles of life rise up all around us. He wants our lives to be fruitful and to multiply!
The way in which our roots grow deep is through trials and tests and opposition. Often, while we’re waiting on God to fulfill some promise in our lives, God is wanting to grow us so that we can be prepared to receive that promise. God is desiring to mold and shape us so that His blessing will be a true blessing to us and not a curse.
Think of the promise that God made to people like Joseph and David, that they would rule and lead over a nation and the long seasons that God took them through to grow and prepare them for the fulfillment of that promise. Think of Israel being taken from Egypt to the future land of Israel. Their journey that would normally have only been a few hundred miles long ended up taking forty years of testing and trials and for an entire generation to be pruned away before they were ready to receive God’s promises.
It is far more important to God not what we have, but rather, who we are.
God is far more concerned about the content of our character than the resources available to us.
God is far more concerned about the attitude of our heart than the words of our mouth.
God is far more concerned about treating others right than being right.
God is far more concerned about where we are going than where we’ve been.
All of these issues are at their core, a matter of growth. God wants to take our roots deeper and for us to become healthier and more mature in our faith. It’s not comfortable and the accompanying pruning process hurts. In the end, however, we can cast off all fear, worry, and doubt as God’s promises become our reality.
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. When opposition comes our way, we merely need to remain firmly planted in Him, allowing Him to do a work in us, and we can be certain that we’ll come through on the other side of it stronger and healthier than ever.
While we’re waiting on God, we grow.