“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” – John 12:24
As a fairly new gardener, I am excited to learn new things about God’s creation along with my boys. Instead of focusing on the failures of our gardening attempts, as a homeschooling family, I am learning to choose to enjoy the process of learning when our plants don’t turn out the way the experts say they are supposed to be. Call it a science experiment and have fun!
A few growing principles related to what I am going to share are:
- Plants start with a small seed, incredibly small at times;
- Seeds have to be planted in good soil;
- A plant looks totally different and is ENORMOUSLY larger than the original seed;
- A plant generally needs water, sun and again good soil to grow well;
- You reap what you sow or other volunteers have sowed without your knowing :-);
- If a plant is not being harvested at the prime time, it starts to flower and bear seeds;
- Plants all naturally want to grow and finish their growth cycle;
- One plant produces multiple seeds, I mean MULTIPLE…
- It’s always rewarding to reap more than I sow, even if it is just a little bit more.
- Different plants produce different fruits/seeds.
I am sure there are a lot more valuable lessons I can add to the list. But for now, this is a good amount of food for thought. I can definitely apply those principles in discipling our children. This could be another post for another day. My focus is on #3 along with the verse from John 12:24 listed above. This is a further reflection on my husband’s response to the question “How are you dying?”.
I do ask this question a lot to myself. A danger for a type A personality is a drift to self-denial or self efforts as a way to eternal life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit does not allow his children to go astray for too long. He uses His Word, His people and unique life circumstances to bring us back on track. We are saved by faith in Jesus alone. AND we are sanctified by Jesus our Master Gardener alone. He made us and He knows the best way and timing to trim us, water us, nourish us. We are here to bring Him glory and one day we WILL be in Heaven to bring Him even more glory in completion and perfection of His work.
So how am I dying? This is not just a check-in question and see how I am doing. A simple “fine” will not do it. It takes some thinking, meditation and repenting. Naturally, we don’t tend to think much about death. In China, it is a taboo to mention the word “死“， meaning “death”, which has a similar sound to “四”， meaning “four”. If you have been to China, you might have noticed the avoidance of the Number 4 in a superstitious way. If life is all there is, all we should focus on is now, life now and present, forgetting about tomorrow, and let’s eat, drink and be merry, right?
How am I dying? This is not a question on how I am doing BUT what Christ is doing. It is like when I observe my garden and marvel at the work He has done, and am excited to be a part of His wonderful design. Out of love for my Master, I desire to die to my old self, though I am unable to do so on my own, so I can live my life more fully. Dying is not a natural healthy desire. Look around at the little birds, rabbits, squirrels. They want to live and are full of life. God made them that way! A healthy person wants to live, and to live a good life! There is nothing wrong in pursuing a good life! God made us human beings this way!
However, a good life on earth does not satisfy us deeply. We are made to love and glorify our Maker! Without His revelation a life full of activity is just like a new phone without Internet connection, useless for communication purposes. On the other hand, life is certainly not wasted if we are called to sacrifice our lives. Many saints in the past and believers today around the world, have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such precious souls!
Not everyone is called to be a martyr, but all Christians are called to die to ourselves. So how am I dying? The Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 4:8 that, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”. This is not to promote physical torture, but physical training with a godly purpose. For me, it might mean setting up a certain amount of time for physical exercises for myself and my family even when my lazy bones don’t want to move. We want to avoid the two pendulum extremes, to either just focus on the physical training or to simply ignore the valuable physical discipline. We can’t truly worship our Lord with integrity by fragmentalizing our whole being. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). Our heart, soul, mind and strength all work together for His glory! This is a glorious dying process!!
This process is supernatural. It takes intervention from God and His Holy Spirit. We can’t die for glorious purposes on our own. Physical training can be for self-glorification. Suicide is deverstating and tragic. We need to call out to our Lord to have mercy on us to make us die so we can truly live! We can live more fully not only in this present life but also to live eternally with Him in the future! Let this glorious fact sink in a little bit and ask the Lord for a desire to die to ourselves. He hears us and does give us the strength we don’t possess on our own to say “yes” to His voice and say “no” to other easier paths.
Jesus, as One seed, died once for all who believe in Him. We, as His offspring by faith, are like Him. Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”.
So, my friend, how are you dying today? It’s not supposed to be comfortable, but it is all worth it. Back to #3, He is growing you to be more like Him. The transformation and multiplication are happening in His way by His timing. Trust and surrender yourself in His perfect care.
The follow-up question to “How are you dying?” could be “How is Christ living in you?”
P.S.: If your heartland is softened to receive more fertilizer, you might want to check out the articles below:
- When Our Hearts Revert to Self-Reliance (More for long-time followers of Jesus Christ)
- Is “eat, drink, and be merry” a biblical concept? （More for newer believers or seekers of the Truth)