I’m so thankful for the Bible. Aren’t you? And I’m so glad that the Lord arranged to have four different men write the life of Jesus. It must be the most important part of the Bible – the life of Jesus. So much of these four gospels is a record of what Jesus said. His name is called the Word of God. He is God’s thought made audible. He came to this world to share God’s thinking with us. And if we listen to what He says, we
will understand God’s thoughts.
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith? – Luke 12:25-28
The lesson we are going to study deals not so much with the physical clothing – the dresses and suits and shoes that we wear — but rather we’re going to think especially about the spiritual clothing. This is connected with the lessons from the lilies in the garden.
–Christ’s Object Lessons–
This is a wonderful text for every gardener. I hope you all are gardeners. If you’ve not yet gotten into the joy of it, I hope you will. Jesus put our first parents in a Garden. And all through these 6,000 years, He’s been drawing wonderful lessons from the growing of fruits and vegetables and flowers and trees.
Now keep in mind we’re looking at the relationship between clothing and gardening and the spiritual experience.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. – Isaiah 61:10-11
What is God’s program for giving us righteousness? In the 10th verse, He illustrates it by a garment that clothes us, or covers us. In the 11th verse, He illustrates it by referring to the garden. Each of these illustrations has certain lessons for us.
Suppose it’s springtime and I’m anxious for a crop, whether it be radishes or carrots or lettuce or tomatoes. Suppose I get out and stir up the ground. Then I put the seed in. Then I kneel down and pray. The thought comes to me that if I would pray all night, that perhaps I could get a crop tomorrow. Could the Lord do that? What would we call that? A miracle. Don’t you wish that we could mature Christian character like that? Or do you wish it? I read:
Christ Himself calls our attention to the growth of the vegetable world as an illustration of the agency of His Spirit in sustaining spiritual life. – Acts of the Apostles, pg. 284
What about the grapevine?
The sap of the vine, ascending from the root, is diffused to the branches, sustaining growth and producing blossoms and fruit. So the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Saviour, pervades the soul, renews the motives and affections, and brings even the thoughts into obedience to the will of God, enabling the receiver to bear the precious fruit of holy deeds. – Ibid, pg. 284
Do we see God working out in the vineyard? No. Is He at work? Yes. Do we see God working in human hearts? No. Is He working? Yes.
The Author of this spiritual life is unseen, and the exact method by which that life is imparted and sustained, it is beyond the power of human philosophy to explain. – Ibid
So when someone has it all explained by psychology or philosophy or theology or any other way, you can be sure he doesn’t have the right answer. Because it’s beyond that.
Yet the operations of the Spirit are always in harmony with the written word. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world. – Ibid
How are things in the spiritual? As in the natural.
The natural life is preserved moment by moment by divine power; yet it is not sustained by a direct miracle, but through the use of blessings placed within our reach. – Ibid
Are there manifestations of the power of God that are not miracles? Yes. The plant is living and growing day by day; the child is living and growing day by day – but not by a direct miracle.
When Jesus turned the water into grape juice, that was a direct miracle. When He took five little barley loaves and multiplied them by His word to feed 10,000 people, that was a direct miracle. But when He grows grain on the hillside using the sunshine and the rain, and you and I cooperating with Him in tilling the soil, that’s not a direct miracle.
But let me hasten to say, friends: it’s just as much the power of God one way or the other. It takes just as much of the power of God to grow grapes, and take months to do it, as it did for Jesus to turn the water into wine instantly – just as much the power of God.
Well then, why does God stretch it out? There are several reasons. One is that you and I can have a chance to do something besides just watching. Aren’t you glad He gives us a part? I’m glad we can till the soil, cut out the weeds, prune the vines, and take care of the garden. Think of the joy we get and the health we get and the fellowship we share.
We sit at the table and the food is where? It’s within our reach. But we don’t get a single calorie by looking at a piece of bread or hearing lectures about it. It’s the bread that I take and put into my mouth and chew and swallow. That’s where I get the iron and phosphorous and amino acids and starch and protein.
So the spiritual life is sustained by the use of those means that Providence has supplied. – Ibid
No matter how much we eat, our bodies have no way of appropriating enough food in 24 hours to last us a year. No matter how much fertilizer or water we put on the garden, there is no way to give it enough so that it takes care of itself from here on out. Neither is there any way that we can put enough food in a boy or enough work on a garden so that miraculously things happen overnight.
Yet this is exactly what multitudes of people are looking for religiously. This is why there is such a response to these fanatical, excitable movements that are occupying the center of the stage in many religious circles today and the Pentecostal movements and fringe movements that go along with them. They appeal to the emotions, the excitement. People want something to touch them, to electrify them, so that from then on they have nothing to worry about. Everything is all settled.
There is an experience of being born again – of being converted. That’s like the birth of a child or the germination of a seed. But what we are studying is that growth that continues. Stones don’t grow, and dead seeds don’t grow. But live Christians must grow just as gardens grow. They must grow gradually, day by day, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, using the means that God has provided.
God does not generally work miracles to advance His truth. If the husbandman neglects to cultivate the soil, God works no miracle to counteract the sure results. He works according to great principles made known to us, and it is our part to mature wise plans and set in operation the means whereby God shall bring about certain results. – Christian Service, pg. 228
Even if I go to prayer meeting and pray hard and get friends to unite with me, none of that takes the place of my getting a hoe and cutting the weeds. Prayer is not a substitute for action. We are to cooperate with God. So it is God that causes the seeds to grow. We couldn’t grow roses or strawberries by ourselves.
We can’t do it without God, and God doesn’t do it without us.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.