Yesterday, as I watered my garden, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between two mounds of pumpkin plants. As you can see in my photo, the plants on the right are several times larger than those on the left. Now, I planted both from the same seed packet on the same day, using the same soil, watering them at the same time each day, and each receiving the same amount of sun. So, why would one set grow so much bigger so much more quickly?
I still don’t have an answer to that question, but this conundrum did remind me of a passage in Scripture.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV).
Paul was addressing the jealousy and strife in the Corinthian church as they divided themselves into groups who followed only one teacher. Paul emphasized that both he and Apollos were simply fellow workers together in God’s field, accomplishing God’s purposes. They were workers, but God was the one to give the growth.
As I watered I thought about this truth of the burden of growth being on God (and obviously the individual, but that is not my focus here). When Christians give the gospel to unbelievers or help other believers, when pastors shepherd their flocks, when teachers teach their listeners, there is only so much that the “seed planters and waterers” can do. The burden of the growth of another is not ours to bear.
Perhaps it would be easier if we could control the growth of our family members, friends, and church members. We like to be in control of the whole process. We could see the instant results of our planting and watering. Sometimes (often in ministry) it is frustrating to plant and water and see little or apparently no growth in some, while others grow under the same conditions.
This is where the truth that it is “only God who gives the growth” is so comforting. It not only removes the burden of growth off of our shoulders, but it helps everyone (planters, waterers, and plants) to rely on the ever-faithful God rather than the frail planters and waterers.
If we faithfully plant and faithfully water, we have done our job. Leave the growing to God and rest in his sovereignty and his greater care for the plants.