I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 ESV
I’m no horticulturist! However, to my surprise (with no small thanks to my wife and friend Sterling), the flowerbed in my front yard has finally advanced beyond looking like something out of a Louis L’Amour novel filled with blowing tumbleweeds! Sterling gave the ideas, I planted and my wife waters. Yet, even after all our efforts I’ve come to acknowledge that it’s God who gives the growth. It’s as if something finally magically clicked and all at once dead things have come to life. The whole scenario reminds me a bit of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Jack and his mother were poor. Their main source of income was a cow that graciously provided milk. One day the bovine no longer produced a product to sell and Jack’s mother sent the lad off to the market, cow in tow. As the story goes, just before reaching town our young hero was presented an offer he couldn’t refuse. A grifter with a handful of enchantment made a proposal—magic beans for the cow. Being content in his own wisdom, the young lad returned home to mom with a pocket full of promise instead of cash. At the revelation of the foolish deal, and in a fit of fury, Jack’s mother took the beans and tossed them out the window in despair of circumstance. When morning came the discovery was made that a huge beanstalk had grown overnight out of the tragic magic beans.
Just as Jack in the story, I have no idea how the actual growth in my flowerbed takes place, I’m just thankful it’s there—notwithstanding my great lack of horticultural gift. The fairy tale reminds me of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3, verse 6:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
I learn three things from this little adventure:
1). God can work despite me. When it comes to growing plants, I’m not blessed with an overabundance of aptitude. My confession: over the years I’ve killed my share of greenery. Whether planting too deep, or too shallow, or too close together, the little saplings have never stood much of a chance until God gave growth.
In a spiritual sense, despite my past failures and faults, God can and will give increase to anything He desires to see grow. It is only God who gives the growth. Miracles are abundant, not because of my “gift,” but, as a result of His mysterious working will!
2). God can work because of me. The statement does not mean that God needs me to help—quite the contrary. I find, in actuality, He can use any planter He wants. Verse 7 reads:
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Seeing the privilege that I’m included as God’s fellow worker is the point! The choice I made to be involved in planting is the decision that’s carries great joy. This happiness of witnessing growth is reward enough and gives affirmation to say, “Hey, I was able to make a contribution to see that development take place!”
3). God will work because He is God. Ultimately, it’s God that deserves the praise! Sure, Jack’s beanstalk grew despite of the careless effort of planting. The morning’s discover of the gigantic stem was apart from any struggle of Jack’s, or his mom’s. It’s all about the magic in the seed itself. The thing grew because of the character of the beans—magic beans!
In our case, growth happens because of the mystery of God’s working. The supernatural developments are a result of the character of God and what He desires to see mature. And, as God’s fellow worker, my part is to just enjoy God’s field of enterprise—in fact, in truth I am that enterprise: For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
So, the next time I step out my front door and look at the flowerbed I’ll be reminded that it’s God who gives the increase and growth. Just like Jack and the Beanstalk, I can relax and let His efforts prevail!
J. Robert Hanson