*The God Of Increase
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
1 Corinthians 3: 6-7
It’s easy to get mixed up about the role we play in the Kingdom of God. The Lord has given us the inexpressible privilege of being partners with Him in the greatest venture of all time: reaching every person on the planet with the message of Christ. He could have used angels, rocks, or volcanic plumes of skywriting, but He Chose to use us. He wants us to look for opportunities to touch lives, to love people unconditionally, and to explain the message of the Cross. When God transforms a life, though, we may think we made it happen!
We aren’t the power source; God is. We don’t change lives, God does. We can’t make spiritual life occur from a dead heart; on,y God can do that. We need to recognize the price ledge and the limitations of our role. Yes, God call us His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), but we represent Him, not ourselves. And in the metaphor Paul uses in this passage, God gives us the privilege to plant seeds of the gospel and water them with truth and grace, but the transformation of a human heart requires divine intervention. We’re just the gardeners. God is still the Creator.
Understanding our role and limitations humbles us, refocuses our faith on God instead of our own abilities, promotes prayer for God to work, and lifts the burden of changing lives from us and puts it on God where it belongs.
It’s not enough to do God’s work; it must be done in His way and for His credit.
Partners with God. What an amazing privilege we have been given to partner with the Creator and Redeemer of all humanity. Cambridge Dictionary defines a partner as someone who is:
one of two people who do something together or are closely involved in some way:
That pretty much describes our relationship with Christ. While He was here on earth, He carried out the work of the Father exactly as instructed and spoke the words just as He heard them from the Father. He invited the disciples and us to partner with Him in this work and to continue that work after He went back to heaven. The powerful truth, however, is that He Carrie’s the bulk of the load. It’s an interesting partnership. We do a very small portion of the work- telling people the story of the Gospel and witnessing about the love and grace of Christ through our interaction with them by acts of kindness. Both of these are simple, easy and anyone who has been born again can do them, mostly because Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and provide the boldness and power. God’s part is to convict the sinner (John 16: 8-10), to give them the gift of faith to believe for salvation (Ephesians 2: 8-9), and to transform their hearts and minds (Romans 12: 2).
Many of us have chosen to do nothing because we somehow think we’re responsible for the outcome of our endeavors. Every farmer would quit farming if they believed that the crop and its fruit was solely their responsibility. They know that their job is to prepare the soil as best as they can, to plant the seeds, and to make sure the seeds are watered. They may weed the garden but they have no control over whether or not there is an abundant or a skimpy harvest. They recognize that after all their labor, it’s up to God to produce the fruit of harvest.
Now let’s apply this to us since, after all, Christ told us that the harvest was plentiful and the only thing lacking was partner laborer. If we, the people of God will do our small part, we can always expect God to do His.
What then is our part? Well, Paul says that we are to all be planters, sowing the seed and Jesus told us that the seed is the Word of God. We sow the seed by giving appropriate scriptures to those around us and may I say that we need to give encouraging and uplifting ones. Along with telling people about the goodness of God, we could also offer to pray for them and their needs. This seed sowing isn’t finding some trite words from the internet and parroting them. This seed sowing must come from having the Word of God seated deeply in our spirits so deep that it directs our lifestyle. We dare not sow untried seeds, only seeds that have been planted and produced a harvest in us.
Every person who has been born again has had somebody to plant a seed in their lives. But planting a seed isn’t the end of it for no seed will grow unless it receives sufficient water.
When Paul describes his partnership with God and Apollos, he says that he planted and then Apollos watered. Paul introduced people to Christ, describing His love and grace and Apollos came behind confirming and explaining. I dare say that everyone who comes to Christ is the product of several who have partnered with Christ and each other to speak into that person’s life. We may be the one who tells someone about the goodness of God. Someone else might invite them to church. Someone might sing a song that touches their heart. Someone might preach a sermon that grabs their attention and perhaps a decision. Someone else might offer kind, caring words or words of affirmation. You get the picture of this constant process of planting and watering. We should never become discouraged if we don’t get immediate results from our efforts. Far too many times, churches will do a minimal attempt at outreach and after a single effort that doesn’t produce an abundant response, they draw back. If they were farmers depending on the harvest to eat, they would starve. It’s easy to forget the Big Partner in the equation, but Paul didn’t. He says that he and Apollos planted and watered but it was God who gave the increase. Every farmer knows that to be true.
As a country boy who has farmed to some degree most of his life, I can tell you that every season is different. You can spend the same effort, use the best seeds and make sure the garden is weeded and watered, but you won’t always get the same results. Some years there is a bumper crop and other years you get next to nothing. About three years ago, my squash had grown into huge leafy plants and there were dozens of tiny squash growing but we hit a hot dry spell and all those little squash withered away. The next year I planted less plants and we had so many squash that I couldn’t give them away fast enough. Same farmer, same seeds, same ground but different outcome.
Once we learn the secret of partnering with God, learning where and when to plant, listening to His instructions about weeding and watering, we will begin to experience a harvest. It may take some time. We might not get instant results. It might be a risky, expensive venture with no guarantee of a quick harvest but if we don’t plant and we don’t water, one thing is for sure, we’ll get no chance of a harvest.
Sometimes the soil is deceiving. Sometimes soil that looks good is poor and sometimes soil that looks not so good has hidden nutrients that produce an abundance. We don’t always know this but when we partner with God and follow His leading, He will direct our efforts.
Ready, set, plant and water and watch God give an increase.
Dr. John Thompson