When I was in college I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with other students who were very mature Christians for their age. From my perspective they knew God better, they knew the Bible better, they prayed better, and their lives revealed more of the fruit of the Spirit than did mine. So, being the “good” Christian that I was, and with my understanding of how spiritual growth works, I set my mind to catching up to them. I decided that if they prayed 30 minutes, I would pray 60. If they had a 30-minute quiet time, I would have a 60-minute quiet time. I pretty much tried to apply this formula to all areas of what one does to grow as a Christian. And — you can do the calculus on this — I figured that I would eventually catch up to them. The problem is, I never did.

As I reflect back on those couple of years, I wonder if I didn’t slow my growth down in my feverish efforts to speed it up? I also sense that I was focusing on the wrong thing! I think I was all about the seed, when I should have been all about the soil.

One thing this parable reminds me of, thankfully, is that the seed will grow when the soil is healthy. I was so fixated on coaxing and cajoling that spiritual seed in my heart to grow faster than it was intended to that I neglected the soil of my heart and actually did not provide the optimal conditions it needed to thrive. I was frustrated that it (I) wasn’t growing faster, even as I didn’t give that spiritual seed what it needed to grow as fast as God might have wanted it to. You can slow it down, but you can’t speed it up.

The good news for us is that God has planted a spiritual seed in our hearts and that it will grow. We don’t need to concern ourselves with that. What we do need to tend to, as this parable powerfully points out, is the condition of the soil of our hearts. We can continue to cooperate with the Spirit to ensure that we are “good soil.” And as Jesus points out here, that means that we focus on hearing the word of the kingdom and understanding it.

So, if you’re a person who wants to keep growing and maturing, don’t worry about the seed, concern yourself with the soil. God, who is faithful, will complete the good work he began in you. (Philippians 1:6)

And remember, you can slow it down, but you can’t speed it up. And that’s okay.

Scott Smith
Pastor of Discipleship Ministry

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