Most all living creatures grow. I don’t believe this takes some fancy science degree to come to this conclusion, just some simple observation of the natural world around us. I have yet to fully understand or even embrace the growth process in my life, but have resigned myself to accepting it. I believe the hardest part for me has been the fact that growth occurs over time, usually a long time. I realize we experience spurts of accelerated growth but that is certainly the exception, not the rule. If you do dive a bit deeper into the science, you’ll discover that the adequately named “growth hormones” in our body are responsible for this. They are mostly released in regulated levels for steady growth, and other times released in high levels for accelerated growth.
True to mankind’s constant pursuit of more stuff better, faster, and cheaper, we’ve capitalized on utilizing growth hormones to unnaturally speed up growth in some of the animals we eat for food. I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but we can now grow cows, chickens, pigs, and more, to full maturity in a fraction of the time compared to their natural rate. We just have to feed them copious amounts of growth hormones. It works in humans too. If regulated, it can help someone who is lacking these hormones, but all to often it is a detriment if ingested in our food supply, causing unintended and unnatural growth in our bodies. Now I know it sounds like I’ve been watching far too many food documentaries on Netflix, and I have, but the undeniable fact is that if you attempt to speed up growth beyond the natural rate designed by God, you can have unwanted side affects. This occurs both physically…and here’s the real rub; it happens spiritually too.
I’ve spent the last few weeks taking a look at identity and beginning to unwrap the truth of how God has made you. It takes time to strip away the lies that have kept us fearful and begin to dream again about the huge plans God has for our life. Part of what I love to do is encourage people to take the cap off of what is limiting them and truly go after what God has placed in their heart. It’s exciting to see the spark come back into someone’s eyes when they grasp the truth that they have a special role to play in God’s plan. As incredible as it may be, I’ve also learned to expect them back in my office not long after our initial meeting. I’ve seen it in as little as a week, but most times it’s a few months down the road. “Pastor Joe, I know what God wants me to do or what He has in store for me, but it’s not happening!” They want the injection of growth hormone; the accelerated plan, but the hard truth is that God doesn’t work that way. God is the original organic farmer and time is often His most nutrient rich ingredient.
About ten years ago is when I first had an idea that I was meant to be a pastor. People saw it in me and told me, I felt it, and God began to speak to me about it. That elusive “calling” we all desperately want to know about began to be clear. There was one problem, well several actually. I had no educational experience as a pastor, in fact I had a biology degree and a lot of good that would do me. I had just started regularly attending a church and didn’t have many relationships yet. And to top it all off, I had recently been thrown a curveball in life, and found myself selling cars to make ends meet. Knowing what you are suppose to do, but not knowing how to get there can be a terrible spot to be in. I will likely share more of the details of that time in later messages, but it’s safe to say, many of those years didn’t feel so good. The last few were actually quite emotionally painful. Many days I questioned myself and I what I was doing.
I’m suppose to be a pastor God! Doing Your work! Not selling cars! And I’m not even making enough at that to make ends meet!
It was growth. Uncompromised, God directed growth towards making me the man I am today. I wish I could tell you that in those years my attitude was perfect, but I can’t. It was about eight years total and often times my attitude…well sucked. Not sure how else to put it. I am a pastor now, leading a new church, so obviously I made it through. I’m also happy to say I learned a few things about that time in my life in relation to growth. Let’s take a look.
One of Jesus’ famous parables will hopefully make this come to light: The Parable of the Sower. It spans the first half of Mark chapter 4 and is great for learning because Jesus actually gives the meaning behind it. He tells of a farmer who sows seed on various types of ground and the outcome of each scenario. We will pick up with the explanation:
“Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on the rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall way. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4:15-20
Now I realize with a Scripture like this, it’s pretty straight forward. Jesus told the parable, then explained it to take all the guess work out for the disciples. I know enough from studying the Bible that when it’s explained we take it at face value and don’t read more into it than there is. In this case, Jesus is specifically referring to the “seed” of God’s word entering a person’s life. Each person and their heart is like a different type of ground; either receptive or not. I encourage you to read and study this section of Scripture in it’s entirety. Often times however, the Holy Spirit will guide us into a new understanding of God’s character and truth using verses we’ve read a hundred times. It’s a common experience when reading the Bible and explains why God tells is it’s “living and active” (see Hebrews 4:12).
With that being said, I believe the principles in this parable can also be applied to a different life scenario; not only referring to where God’s Word is being sown, but also to where YOU are being sown. The Scripture says, “Some people are like seed…” That’s you and me, so the question must be asked: Where have you been sown?
Let’s pick back up with that person who’s came back to me a few months later, knowing what they are to do for God, but finding themselves in a place where they don’t think it can be done. I knew I was to be a pastor and I was selling cars! Many times in life we find ourselves being cast upon the path, or rocky places, or amongst the thorns. Maybe it’s our own doing or maybe it’s not. Either way you feel stuck.
Here’s the exciting part, God doesn’t want you stuck! What you put into the soil you find yourself in will determine whether you grow or not. Bad soil can be made good by breaking up the clumps, removing the rocks, and depositing nutrients. Most of us just want a shot of growth hormone from God. We want him to remove us from where we are at if it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or not conducive to what we believe our purpose is. We’d rather be planted in the soil where all the work has been done. I wanted that too. However, I found that if I continued to trust God and His timing, and I “worked” the area I found myself in, it led to richer and richer ground where eventually I, and the others around me, grew naturally as God intended.
He is so generous that He even provided a list of what nutrients will allow you to grow and change the soil wherever you are sown and it’s found in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Some of you know where you want to go and what you want to do, but you look around and find yourself miles away from getting there. Fight the temptation of thinking it’s your lot in life! Replacing your grumblings with the rich fruit from this list will turn your dry, dusty wasteland so lush your storehouses won’t be able to contain the harvest that is to come. Who knows, you may just discover that you like farming along the way and you’re closer to harvest time than you think. That’s our God and that’s about as free range, certified non-GMO, hormone free, organic as it gets.