Life. This is what Jesus came to bring. He clearly states in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." God is a God of life. He is a giver of life from first to last. He created Adam and Eve and breathed life into them. He sent his Son that we do not perish but have "eternal life." Not a life that we get after death, but a life that cannot die.
Life, life, life. God is all about life. As believers we are partners with the Father in this world. Thus we are partners for life. As Ravi Zacharias says, "Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive." Yes. This is the kingdom. Yet often we get caught up in changing people's behaviors, thoughts, or perspective, instead of focusing on life. We get off track and replace the gospel (that is all about life) with moralism (which is all about behavior). Why do we do this? Because we are fallen human beings and we have a tendency to focus on ourselves. Behavior is something in our control (though we often feel it isn't), life is not.
We cannot create life, but we can certainly be a part of it. Understanding this relationship is essential if we are to be a part of our Father's work in this world. Take a seed. It has life in itself. We do not give it life by sowing it, but unless it is sowed, it's life will not come forth. Here are 5 simple ways to nurture God's life.
1. Sow God's word in yourself and others. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (John 6:63)." Jesus described God's word as a seed because a seed has life in it, but a life that only comes forth when it sown. Sowing God's word includes reading, listening, meditating, memorizing, studying, and of course applying. If we do not sow his word, his life cannot flow to us.
2. Embrace the way of the kingdom. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, are what I like to call, evidence of God's presence, proof of his life in us. It is not an exhaustive list, but still a good starting point. Fruit is the visible manifestation of something that has been sown in secret. God produces these results in our lives, but these are also choices we make. When we chose love over hate, kindness over retribution, and self-control instead of letting our flesh rule us, we align ourselves with our Father's kingdom, submitting to his ways, and become conduits of his life in this world. When speaking of his coming death, Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Thus, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of how God's life is multiplied, by sowing his life in sacrifice. We are called to do the same.
3. Feed your soul. Every gardener knows that plants need food. Our life in God, or better put, God's life in us also needs to be fed. We do this be spending time in his presence. Prayer is the food of the believer. A full and diverse prayer life will feed the seeds of God's word we are sowing in our lives and the lives of others. One of the best gifts you can give to another believer is teaching them how to pray, not telling them to pray but showing them how. Prayer includes worship, thanksgiving, praise, declaration, intercession, proclamation, petition, repentance, forgiveness for others, and many others. Communing with God and interceding for others, will feed God's life in you.
4. Be ruthless with weeds. Weeds choke out life. They do this by taking the nutrients the plant needs and using it for themselves. A weed can be a sin or just a distraction. In the parable of the seed, Jesus described those things that can keep the seed (God's word) from sprouting and also from growing. "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22). Anything that chokes God's life needs to be eliminated. Pull these weeds without mercy.
5. Learn to garden. Gardening is a great teacher. One the one hand, it is really hard work. If you drive by a house and see a beautiful garden, you know someone is spending hours there. A garden must be tended. If seeds are not sown, if plants are not watered, fertilized, weeded, and cared for, the garden becomes a mess. Things begin to die. It will not feed anyone or wow us with its beauty. There are things we can and must do to see God's live grow in us and others, but we must never be deceived into thinking we are causing this life. Our Father has given us the ability to partner with him, just like he gave Adam the job to tend the garden of Eden. In the same way that Adam did not create life in that garden but only tended it; we do not create the life of God in ourselves or others, but we must tend it. Thus, both we and God play a part in his life growing in us. He gives life, we tend it. Both are essential.
These simple truths have multitudes of application. For those of us in the work of kingdom diversity we are reminded that this is hard work, grueling work, heartbreaking work which requires many hours and much sacrifice. Still we must remember that we do not cause anything to grow. Thus Paul's words become to us both an encouragement- a call to rest, and a rebuke against pride and arrogance. "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:7)."