Monday, July 19, 2010

What Can We Learn From Our Tomato Plants?

Looking at how vibrant our tomato plants are now, it’s hard to believe how sickly they were in mid-May. The transformation has been tremendous—they went from barely hanging on to being the picture of fruitful vitality. How did that happen? What can we learn from it? At least five things.

First, they were transformed because they took in things that they lacked. Those plants were undernourished, so we placed bone and blood meal in the soil where they were planted. They thrived because they took that in.

It’s the same way with us. Scripture tells us that we’re deficient in our own, natural, state. John 13:8, Romans 3:23. We therefore need something beyond ourselves—from God—if we are to grow into the healthy, fruitful, people He wants us to be. See Proverbs 2:6, Wisdom 8:21, Sirach 1:1. We have to accept that reality—and those things—to grow.

Second, those plants had to go to the extra nutrients. Those nutrients were mixed into the surrounding soil; the plants had to extend their roots beyond their original balls to get to them. They never would have become vital if they hadn’t moved beyond their original condition.

That’s also true of us. Jesus tells us that we have to make affirmative effort to grow into what He wants from us, that we must make the affirmative effort of going after what God has for us. Matthew 7:7-8, Matthew 11:28, Mark 8:34-35. Those directions are in line with what is said in the Old Testament. Proverbs 2:4-5, Proverbs 4:5,7, Sirach 14:22-27. Although real change is impossible without God’s grace, it also impossible unless we move towards Him.

Third, they had to incorporate those nutrients into all aspects of their being. Those plants are healthy now because they absorbed those nutrients into their very substance: their stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. They wouldn’t have thrived if those nutrients never went beyond their roots.

Once again, the same is true of us. Scripture study, Bible memorization, and teaching do little good if we don’t incorporate what we learn from them into our day-to-day lives. We have to apply scriptural principles in all aspects of our lives—in our work, in our stewardship, in our family and social interaction— to become as fruitful as God wants us to be. That’s why the Bible says that we must be “doers of the Word.” James 1:22. See also Matthew 7:24-27.

Fourth, their current fruitfulness was the result of many small, subtle, changes made over time. They weren’t transformed over night. Instead, their current fruitfulness was the result of a series of small changes that were mostly imperceptible as they were made. They had to expand their roots and strengthen their stems. That happened a little bit at a time, a few millimeters each day. That incremental growth was not obvious, but each increment was essential to their reaching their current levels of fruitfulness.

Our fruitfulness comes about the same way. It is the result of innumerable small changes. One day we decide to implement some scriptural principle by giving up some little activity, thought, etc. that’s not terrible, but that’s also not terribly productive. Another day we put God’s word into practice by doing something positive that it teaches. Most of those changes do not seem very significant at the time, but they each lay the groundwork for increased fruitfulness, and their cumulative effect can be amazing. The scriptural principle that accumulation little by little is the way to riches, Proverbs 13:11, applies to more than finances.

Fifth, the result of all those things is an enhancement of what those plants are, not their transformation into something else. They became very healthy tomato plants, not eggplants, squash, or peppers. All the things discussed above didn’t change their basic nature; it just brought out the best in that nature.

The same usually occurs when we apply God’s principles to lives. He usually doesn’t change our basic nature. Instead, He makes us a much better version of what He’s always intended us to be.

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