"Let it grow!"
I’m not much of a gardener! In fact I don’t really know much about gardening; I plant flowers, shrubs, vegetables, herbs, and expect them to get on with it while I go off and do other things. I am not very patient in the garden. I want it to look nice, but don’t spend much time in learning about horticulture. Yet when things do grow I love to sit among the colours, smells, and beauty of all that God has created and grown.
Recently I planted some beans, but nothing much happened; some where eaten by pests, others just seemed to struggle. Perhaps, I thought, they were in the wrong place, the wrong soil, or maybe I had just not planted them correctly. At one stage the beans seemed to be dying rather than growing, I thought it might be best to uproot them and replant them in another part of the garden. The idea to move them seemed a good idea until my wife told me, “Stop messing about, leave them alone, let them grow.” She has more faith than me in these things!
Recently I was reading the letter of James. I hadn’t got far, in fact only to the 4th verse in the 1st Chapter when the words, “So let it grow,” caught my attention. Jesus says that in our Christian life we will have trouble and difficulties, (John 16:33). Peter writes that we may be tested by fire, as our faith grows, to the glory and honour of the Lord Jesus Christ, (1Peter 1:6,7). It is only natural that we should not desire difficult times and the thought of considering it all joy when we are suffering seems just a little incongruous to say the least. We do not welcome hard times and would rather have everything just coming up roses!
Today’s society promotes self-help, inner strength, in order to remove or avoid difficulties in our life, but when they come, as they will, this can leave us feeling despondent. We can feel inadequate, weak, and ineffective. But our strength should be in God, not ourselves, this is viewed as counter-cultural. God knows all about us and will guide us along the best pathway for our lives, if we allow Him, (Psalm32:8). He knows that going through difficulties can be the best for us in the long run. Yet sometimes these troubles can be off our own making as we continue in deliberate sin, or unconfessed sin, yet even here God may allow troubles to teach us how to overcome and give us the strength to repent.
So what are we letting grow – as James writes? What should we allow in our growth? The answer is endurance. When our growth as Christians seems hard work, can we see God working through us, making us stronger, equipping us to live and work for His kingdom? Can we thank Him for this? Through these trials is God showing us the depth of our faith? Do we ask Him to help us overcome, or do say to Him, ‘get me out of here?”
When we pass through difficult times where we are unsure about God, about our strength as Christians, about our commitment to following the Lord Jesus Christ and obey God’s commands – God is teaching us. When we feel unsure about all the things that are happening around us, and we ask, ‘Where is God in all this?’ ‘Why is this, or that, happening to me, to others, I don’t understand this?” It will all come back to the one thing – the thing we should fall back on – and that is our faith in God and His Word – our trust in Him and His promises. These are the opportunities to endure and grow. James is saying, in his letter, do not try and stop this growth to make things easier for yourself, allow God to work in you, then as we receive God’s strength and come through the hard times of growth we will notice our faith has become greater and our strength to endure and overcome stronger and we will rejoice.
Jesus said, in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” How do we overcome? Jesus says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith,” (1John 5:4). When faced with troubles in our Christian life be encouraged because God loves you and is working through you for His glory and for you. When James writes about the joy we should have, he does not mean leaping around with a fatalistic sense of abandonment, but rather knowing the joy of being part of God’s great and glorious plan for mankind and knowing that He loves us.