Learning To Ride A Bike
I remember as a young boy trying to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. Many of the kids that lived in our neighborhood were older than I was and had already made the transition, and I didn’t want to feel like a little kid anymore.
I remember the frustration that I experienced when that bike would fall over. It seemed that I was never going to get it to stay up right so that I could ride more than a few feet. Then one day, just like magic, it happened.
I hopped on a boy’s bike that was older than I. His bike was taller than mine. When I climbed on, my feet could not touch the ground. To get started, I put my left foot on the pedal and pushed with my right foot, sort of like starting out on a skate board. When the bike began to roll, I hopped up and put my right foot on the pedal and began pumping my legs.
I don’t know how it happened, but away I went.
A Parable Of Jesus
Jesus said something similar one day when he was teaching.
26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
– Mark 4:26-29 New American Standard Bible
The man simply planted seeds. Not one seed, but many seeds. And then, the magic happened. One day there was a sprout that surfaced through the soil. Then another, and another, until those sprouts grew and were fully grown. The end result being the maturing of the seed.
The emphasis in this parable is the process of growth and maturity for the seed. What Jesus wants his audience to understand is how that relates to their spiritual maturity. Spiritual growth seems to happen by magic. But just like riding a bike or the maturing of a plant, it is the result of work.
Lessons From The Parable Of The Seed
The things we invest in today, give us a return on our investment somewhere down the road. After the farmer does the work of planting the seed, he cannot immediately go out and enjoy the fruits of his labor. There is a process of growth that must take place over a period of time before the seed has matured to a place that it is ready to be eaten. Our spiritual maturity is the same. When we choose to plant spiritual seeds, the results of maturity are not instantaneous. There is a process of growth that takes place on the way to maturity.
For instance, one of the marks of a mature person, is the ability to hold their tongue, and to use their words to build people up and not tear them down. When we are young, we lack the ability to understand this truth. Therefore, most, if not all, of us having difficulty withholding our words. We say things that are mean and hurtful to others, because of how they or someone else has made us feel.
As we grow older and possess the ability to understand that there is a higher standard, we can begin to plant seeds that will lead us to be more mature with our tongue. Every time someone offends us, we have an opportunity to plant a seed. If we refrain from lashing out with our words, we have planted a seed that leads to control. If we respond by criticizing and condemning the other person, we have planted seeds that lead to impetuousness and lack of control. (Note: I am not suggesting that someone be a doormat and allow anyone and everyone to treat them poorly. There is a difference in standing up for yourself and angrily decimating someone with your words.)
If we plant a seed of self-control by holding our tongue just once, that does not make us mature. When we have planted the seed repeatedly, over the course of many years, only then are we talking about maturity. And not in the sense of having arrived, but in the sense of having advanced to a stage beyond where you were. It is only after months and years that there is enough significant change that has occurred that you can tell you have moved beyond where you once were.
If you want to be a different person in the future, you need to start planting seeds today. Maturity takes time and effort.
The type of seeds you plant, will determine the kind of harvest you reap. It is important to be clear about what you hope to produce. While the type of crop is not specified in the parable above, it goes without saying, if you want a harvest of grapes, you do not plant seeds for a fig tree. As it pertains to our spiritual maturity, the types of seeds that we plant can lead to positive and negative outcomes. As we saw in the illustration above, there are always two sides to the coin. When we are blessed with more than we need, we can plant seeds of generosity or we can plant seeds of greed. When we are offended, we can plant seeds of self-control or seeds of revenge. When we are confronted with difficult circumstances, we can plant seeds of perseverance or seeds of giving up. You get the opportunity every day to decide what kinds of seeds you want to plant. It is best that you know what kind of person you want to become so that you know what seeds to plant to help you get there. I would suggest that the best place to start to find answers to the kind of person you should be is with the bible. God gives us clear direction on the kind of people we should be as His creation.
If you do not plant the seeds, you cannot reap a harvest. No matter what you want out of life, you must put in the work. Whether it is your spiritual formation, losing weight, earning money, building friendships, or leading others, you must show up and plant seeds, to reap a reward. If you do not plant the seeds, you will be swept along and led by your emotions. This is a volatile and chaotic way to live. To get to where you want to go, you must work and you must be intentional. Whether you realize it or not, being passive with your spiritual growth is a choice. Being passive is almost always a choice for the negative outcome.
Growth that leads to maturity takes time and endures much. It is exciting when we see the first signs of change and when we get to reap the final benefits, but the process in between can feel like torture; it can feel like nothing is happening. You may not see any identifiable results, but don’t stop showing up. As we said earlier, it is only after longer periods of time that we can look back and see noticeable changes.
During the process of growth, a seed will endure the harshness of the environment around it. Not only can the weather conditions be an enemy but there is the risk of being trampled, choked out by weeds, or perhaps being eaten by an animal before reaching the stage of maturity.
The journey of spiritual maturity is much the same. During this life, we will endure many hardships along the way. These difficulties are risky and have the potential to derail our growth. Our environments can be our enemy, we run the risk of being trampled by others, we can have the life choked out of us by our critics, and we can fall prey to our enemy the devil. There are many obstacles to overcome, but the good news is, with every obstacle comes the opportunity to plant more seeds.
Spiritual maturity is a process, it is not a destination. We must endure the process to get to the next stage of maturity. We will only reach full maturity when we leave this world and step over into eternity. (Note: Even then, the outcome will be a result of the choices you have made.)
Maturity is not a destination. When a farmer reaps a harvest, he is making use of a fully matured plant. Once that fruit is pulled from the plant, it must be used. If it isn’t used it will decay and rot. The process of maturity is much the same way.
As we mature, we have to keep planting seeds and putting to use what comes to life inside us. If we do not, we will begin to grow stagnant. Our souls and our character will begin to deteriorate. Our words and our behavior will digress.
Once a farmer has reaped a harvest, the process starts all over. So it is with our spiritual maturity. Once we move forward, we must keep moving forward or we will begin to slip backwards.
Maturity does not happen by magic. It is the result of consistent work. However, during this journey you do not control the maturing process. You can control the seeds you plant, but God prepares the conditions and the harvest. What we know is this: if we show up and plant the seeds, the right kinds of seeds; and endure the growing process; there will be a reward.
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