Responding to Different Seasons of Growth
By Mark Lenz
An analogy is something that shows how two things are alike, with the goal of making a point about the comparison. The purpose of an analogy is not merely to show, but also to explain. Analogies help us understanding complex ideas. They can also help us understand our growth in the Christian faith.
The analogy of a growing plant can be used to describe a person’s faith journey. The Apostle Paul writes, “As you have put your trust in Christ Jesus…now let Him lead you in every step. Have your roots planted deep in Christ. Grow in Him. Get your strength from Him”, Col. 2:6-7.
Here are 5 ways a plant can be used to describe someone’s journey of faith.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that it takes many people to “grow” a person in faith, and that planting a seed is the first step. He wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow”, 1 Cor. 3:6.
A person is often not aware they’re in a season of planting. God is at work in their life softening a hard heart, nudging a response, teaching a truth. There is spiritual activity, but it often goes unnoticed.
After a seed’s roots have grown down and it is nourished, it begins to sprout. Gradually it bursts its head through the topsoil into a whole new world. What was hidden, growing in the dirt is now sprouting above ground for all to see.
Again, Paul reminds his Corinthian readers that “when someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”, 2 Cor. 5:17.
Christians are meant to grow and mature. Paul again writes, “Then we will no longer be infants… Instead…we will grow to become…(like) Christ”, Eph. 4:13.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to “press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics”, Heb. 6:1.
Pruning is a difficult, painful season all growing Christians experience. Author Bruce Wilkinson’s book Secrets of The Vine details the difference between God “cutting off” a branch and “pruning” one. Jesus said, “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine”, John 15:4. However, when a person doesn’t remain in Christ, the Father “cuts away every branch…that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit”, John 15:2.
To achieve a bountiful harvest a gardener cuts off unfruitful branches. But he also prunes other branches to remove unproductive parts. Both processes feel the same. Both hurt. But they have vastly different results. The writer of Hebrews says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on…for those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace”, Heb. 12:11.
The flourishing season is when God is working in the person and they bear fruit, make disciples, serve, or lead a ministry. The goal of spiritual growth is always creating healthy disciples that create healthy, flourishing disciples.
Paul told the Colossians that they should “bear fruit”, and the Galatians that “if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest”, Col. 1:9-10, Gal. 6:9.
Responding to the seasons
Wise pastors and Christian leaders respond to people according to their season. Don’t press too hard on newly planted seeds. Cultivate the soil. Protect the seed from being “snatched away” by the enemy. See Matt. 13:3-4.
Feed, nourish and protect newly sprouting plants. Peter said newborn babies crave the pure milk so make sure to recognize their newness give them the right kind of nourishment, 1 Pet. 2:2.
Encourage and equip growing plants. A pastors’ role is “to prepare God’s people (or ‘equip the saints’) for works of service”, Eph. 4:12.
Urge those in a pruning season to be steadfast. Peter said, “you have to suffer different kinds of trouble for a little while…The purpose of these troubles is to test your faith”, 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Finally, release those who are flourishing into ministry opportunities. Don’t stifle their growth. Allow them freedom to grow and move on.