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The Jesus Community: Growth Happens Because God Wants It To

Michael Gatlin

Michael Gatlin

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You and I cannot make anything grow. Not a garden, not a baby, not a church, not even ourselves. We can provide the proper conditions and nourishment, but after that, our power is over. Things grow because they are designed to, because God made them to.

Over the past couple of posts, we’ve been dwelling on Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and the yeast (Matthew 13:31-33), letting what Jesus is teaching through these images unfold—ideas about growth, community, and how God’s kingdom works. In them, we see tiny, ordinary things grow into beautiful, extraordinary things. Seeds become plants big enough to be a home for birds. Yeast particles cause a lump of dough to rise to double, triple, or even quadruple its size, to create sustaining food.

This happens because God wants it to. Seeds grow because that’s the way God made them to function. Yeast makes dough rise because God made it to work that way. So what do you think he wants for you? God’s vision for you is to become more and more like Christ. When he created the seed and the yeast, he put it in their DNA to grow, and so they do. When he called us to follow him, he put it in our DNA to become more like Jesus, and as we follow him, that is what he will continue to do in us. Take a look at Philippians 1.6. Paul says that he prays for the Christians in Philippi,

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Until Jesus returns, your heavenly Father will continue to work in you, causing you to grow more into the likeness of Christ, because that’s his purpose and design for you. You won’t get completely finished before then—none of us will. But like a very cool rock in a tumbler, you will become more and more refined, more and more like Christ as you submit and surrender to him and allow him, the master craftsman, to address and change whatever needs to be polished.

Take a moment to think of the challenges, joys, and irritations in your life today. Can you feel your edges getting polished away? All kinds of things that we tumble against in our day-to-day lives can contribute to the process of God honing and polishing us.

I think Romans 8.28-30 in Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, perfectly expresses this idea:

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.”

The original and intended shape of our lives; think of that for a minute. The original and intended shape of your life is to resemble, as closely as possible, Jesus himself. Does that change the way you think about yourself? The end goal, which God himself is working toward, is for Christ to live in you and in me, for his life to be our life, for more and more of his nature to become our nature. And the Father is making it happen. Right now.

That’s the kingdom of God. The seed and the yeast have everything they need to grow, in and of themselves, because God put it there. Men and women cannot build the kingdom. It’s God’s. We have a part to play in it, and a responsibility to proclaim it, but we can’t make the kingdom grow ourselves. If we try, we fail. It is always God’s job to make his kingdom (and us) grow.

So for us, this spells surrender. We can encourage the church to grow and be healthy, and we can encourage growth and health in our own lives, but ultimately, we must let God be in charge. What do you think it would mean for you to be aware of this in your own life, to remember that God is at work in you right now, growing you into the likeness of his Son and to let him oversee that process? What would look different in the way we do church and ministry if we remembered all the time that we can’t make any of it grow?

In your life and in ministry, how have you learned to balance between partnering with God and surrendering control to him? Comment below, or come join the ongoing conversation on our forum. If it’s your first time, signing up only takes a minute.

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