One of the factors in the life of a Christian, which receives little attention, is the TIME factor. You may wonder how long does it take to grow into a mature Christian? How long will it take to grow us personally, and how long should it take?
In James 5:7 there is an agricultural parable used to explain the need for patience. According to this parable, the farmer is being patient because of the value of the crop. We, as Christians, should apply this principle of value and patience to our own spiritual growth process.
It takes a lifetime to fully mature a Christian. I won't ever take any less time, for our walk with the Lord in our growth is a continual process. As we apply this principle of value to our spiritual growth, we need to remember that what matters most is the fact that God himself is working in us His purpose and will for our lives. Whether His purpose for us appears to be great or small should be of no consequence to us, because any purpose He has for us is important. Each day in the Lord carries it's own special purpose, whether it is leading someone to the Lord, or a quiet, reassuring act of love and kindness.
Sometimes we find ourselves wondering why it is taking so long to grow us and we wonder why we aren't further along. This happens when we take our eyes off Jesus and His timing and look instead to our works to judge our growth. Sometimes the deepest growth shows no immediate signs at all. Here is a simple analogy to help explain that thought a little better…
We live in California and our seasons are not as drastic as other parts of the country. However, around the middle to end of November the weather does start to get colder. Outside our front window we have a beautiful plum tree that blooms the most gorgeous white and pink blossoms I have ever seen. It looks like a cloud of soft color when it is in full bloom. By December this tree looks pathetic, and boy is it ugly. No blossoms at all, and I don't think I have even seen a single remaining leaf. If I didn't know better, I would think that tree was dead. But what is amazing that during the winter time, that tree is really doing a lot of growing, deep inward growing, to prepare it for the next season of blossoms. The same is true with us, sometimes when we seem the most barren, we are really being grown into a deeper state. During times of barrenness we are being pruned and refined so that we may bear even more fruit.
Perfection is not the goal we are trying to attain to, but a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus. Just as the crop is valuable to the farmer, we are valuable to Him, and He will grow us as He pleases. What is interesting is that like the crop, we are valuable at all stages of our growth process. Our value comes from Christ, and we are always in Him and He is us, so we are always valuable no matter where we are in the growing process. Maybe we are just little sprouts, or maybe we are tall stalks, but either way the Father lovingly grows us along in His timing and for His purpose.
The scripture mentions how the farmer is patient because of the value of the crop and that he is patient for the early and late rains. We too, like the farmer, should be patient for the early and late rains, for they represent God's working in us, His provision, His nourishment, His love, His care, His ability to accomplish what He has planned for us. The blessing of patience comes through our growth, for in that we learn to rely and depend on God for our growth and maturity. For God is at work in our lives preparing the ground of our hearts and minds so that we may glorify Him.