Only God Gives the Growth (1 Corinthians 3:5-8)
By: Betsy St. Amant Haddox
Today's Bible Verse: What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 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. - 1 Corinthians 3:5-8 (ESV)
I love this passage written by Paul in 1 Corinthians. He very plainly states some truths that the church in Corinth desperately needed to hear. Contextually, Paul was addressing them because they were starting to argue amongst themselves about “who they followed”. Paul was quick to bring them back to reality by pointing out “who cares—we all follow Christ.” (I paraphrase!) He reminded them that the men who brought them the message of the Gospel were just men. The only thing that provided real growth was God.
These facts are comforting in two entirely opposite ways.
First, for the Christian struggling with pride, it’s a fantastic reminder that they, themselves, aren’t saving anyone. They have zero effectiveness with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about them, it’s about Christ. They are a tool being used to share the Gospel, but they don’t deserve or get the glory. Only God does! So, whether they’re planting or watering, it’s for naught without the involvement of the Lord.
Secondly, for the Christian struggling with feeling like a failure, this fact brings great joy. It takes the pressure off—because it’s not about how eloquent they are when spreading the gospel, or about gimmicks they create, or about finding the right word or nailing the perfect timing. They can’t manipulate heart change and salvation—only the Holy Spirit can. So, whether they’re planting or watering, it’s for naught without the involvement of the Lord.
This truth should encourage Christians everywhere to be bold in spreading the Gospel. We should throw out those seeds and pick up the watering can, so to speak, and spread the Gospel to those in our daily lives and circle of influence. We can do so without fear of failure and without pride—trusting the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do. If growth—salvation—doesn’t occur after our attempts to plant and water, it’s not on us. We were obedient to the Great Commission and did our part. But it’s hard sometimes to continue to plant and water when we feel like we never see the fruit of our labor, isn’t it?
It’s crucial in times like these to think about a garden—growth happens secretly. For a long time, that budding seed isn’t seen from the surface. It’s growing in the dark, via a miracle of the Lord’s hand. Eventually, finally, leaves can be seen straining through the dirt. Vines develop, flowers bloom, and fruit blossoms. Sometimes, we’re blessed to be able to see the entire project from start to finish. Other times, we’re called to plant and water elsewhere and don’t get the privilege of watching the fruit develop.
But don’t grow weary—the harvest is coming. It’s not up to you to create growth, simply to water and plant despite all your imperfections in your labor. The Lord will do the rest—and He’ll do it perfectly.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of more than fifteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hero of a hubby, two total-opposite young daughters, a vast collection of coffee mugs, and an impressive stash of Pickle chips. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she’s not sweating it out at Camp Gladiator or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha—no whip. Look for her upcoming novel with Revell, Tacos for Two, in October. Visit her at http://www.betsystamant.com.