When Growth Feels Slow

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

A few years ago my family moved into a house with a large fig tree in the back yard. I’ve always wanted a fig tree. I love the musty, earthy taste of fresh figs. So, that first summer I religiously inspected the tree, looking for signs of fruit.

It looked bleak at first because the tree had been victim of a late frost and many of its leaves were withered. But then, in late June there were tiny buds, barely teardrops of fruit. My wife was confused by my excitement, not being a fig lover like myself.

But as the summer pressed on, I began to question this tree’s fruit producing proficiency. The process slow, the harvest not quite in sight. Late in the summer I took the kids out for an inspection—the tree was covered in figs, hard and green. We picked a couple, the milky latex oozed out of the stems. We cut the hard figs in half and registered the progress—definitely a few more weeks on the tree.

Those final weeks where when we had to watch for predators—squirrels and birds that sneak in and try to steal the harvest. My daughter was particularly distraught over the birds, and frequently peered out the window to warn me of their presence. We were watching for that heavy droop; that deep purple hue. Ripen, already!

If harvest is slow, it seems sanctification is slower. Waiting, resting, knowing the work is done… the rain will come… the fruit is guaranteed. Yet, waiting. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground, then goes to sleep. The seed sprouts, grows, and is ready to harvest. How does it happen? Jesus says that the man doesn’t know-he simply scatters the seed and sleeps.

Our hearts must rest in the fact that God is at work—that He loves His children, and that His Son is the proof. They must rest in the fact that God looks down on His own and sees a bountiful harvest.

Because of Jesus, we are not the sum of our failures, and thankfully we are not even the sum of the rare things we do well. We’re the sum of His perfect, finished work.

As I put my kids to bed we read about a little man who climbed up in a tree to see Jesus. A naughty, hated, friendless man, I told my kids. A man who deserved to be hated, a man like me. A fruitless man who sat heavily upon the limb like a well-gorged vulture. And Jesus looked past the crowds of respectable folk, and he told the little man that he wanted to feast with him.

He singled out the worst, most despicable blob on the branch to be a manifestation of His glory. Jesus can work with those who know they have no fruit of their own, who have to climb high into the tree seeking it elsewhere. But he plainly states that He has no use for those who think they can produce their own without him.

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