Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Lesson of the Amaryllis

A friend received an amaryllis bulb as a gift. It came with a soil disk and a pot. She planted the amaryllis and we watched as the bulb took root and the first green shoots sprung up out of the soil. Daily she watched over that little plant, making sure that it had enough water, the right amount of light, and that everything was done to ensure its growth. After a week of watching the plant, it's growth slowed and she became discouraged and doubted that the plant would ever produce flowers.

Sometimes witnessing is like that amaryllis. I try to share God's love with others and through all of my efforts I try to make them know and love God. Just like my friend did everything possible to ensure that the plant would grow and produce flowers, I do everything I can to ensure that those around me will grow in Christ and produce more Christians. So often, I become discouraged when their lives do not reflect my efforts.

Jesus tells a parable about this very thing. He says, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29). The man who sows the seed is clueless as to the work that actually takes place beneath the soil and inside of the plant to make it grow and produce. In the book Christ's Object Lessons, the author says, "Man has his part to act in promoting the growth of the grain. . . but there is a point beyond which he can accomplish nothing. No strength or wisdom of man can bring forth from the seed the living plant. Let man put forth his efforts to the utmost limit, he must still depend upon One who has connected the sowing and reaping by wonderful links of His own omnipotent power."

Just as my friend put forth all of her effort to promote the blossoming of the amaryllis, as Christians we must put forth all of our effort to produce more Christians. There was nothing more my friend could have done to make the plant blossom -- the rest was up to God. And so it is in our witnessing.

Christ's Object Lessons says, "The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God."

The Lord says, "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit..." My friend watched the amaryllis for weeks and it eventually bloomed, but it was not by her efforts, but by God's. In this life there may be times when we put forth all of our efforts, and never see the results. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime and we are called to put forth our efforts and allow God to sanctify the heart.

The object of the farmer in planing the seed and tending the growing plant is to produce grain to provide bread for the hungry and seed for a future harvest. So, it should be in the Christian life. CS Lewis wrote,"The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christ's. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose."

As Christians we must do everything we can to ensure a ripe harvest and allow God to do the work of sanctification. As soon as the harvest is ready, Jesus will not tarry to return and gather us all home.

Eat. Grow. Share.

("Eat. Grow. Share." is borrowed from The Lower Room, a ministry of the Spartanburg Seventh-day Adventist Church.)
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