Farmers work hard to prepare their soil for planting. They plow through the packed earth, pick out the large rocks, and throw down fertilizer. When the time is right, they plant their seeds. Then they wait. If the rain is insufficient, they irrigate their fields. Then they wait. They keep watch over their fields to keep out the livestock. Then they wait. They can plant and water, but only God can make seeds grow.
Gardeners know that some seeds are harder to germinate than others. It takes the cold of winter to wake apple seeds out of dormancy. Lodgepole pinecones hold their seeds tight until the intense heat of a forest fire opens the cones. Redbud tree seeds must be eaten and digested to wear away their hard seed coat before they will sprout. Nursery workers can mimic the cold with a refrigerator, use a blow torch to burn resin-coated pinecones, and grind away the hard seed coat of redbuds with sandpaper to mimic the trials that help these seeds sprout and grow. But even so, once they’ve planted the seeds, all they can do is wait, asking God to bring life out of the deadness of the seed. That is something only God can do.
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. (1 Cor. 3:6—7)
Only God Can Sprout the Seed
The apostle Paul compared evangelism and the conversion of people to the growing of seeds. We can share the gospel, but only God can make that message grow in an unbelieving heart. When it comes to our children, the same is true. We can plant the seed of the gospel into their unbelieving hearts, but no matter how hard we try, only God can cause the gospel to sprout and grow.
While this might seem like a discouraging reality, it is actually a comforting truth. Once we’ve shared the truth of God’s Word with our children, we can rest, knowing that the sprouting of that seed is not our responsibility. We continue to share the gospel message as the Lord provides opportunity, knowing that he can soften their stony hearts and sprout that seed at any time.
While we wait for God to do his work, we should remember that we can institute rules and discipline, but apart from the saving work of God, those rules and discipline won’t soften their hearts to believe. Rather than be consumed with forcing them into a Christian mold, we can rest in our role as truth-tellers. We present the truth of God’s salvation, and then we commit the work of transforming their hearts to our all-powerful God.
Can you imagine how discouraging it would be if God made us responsible for changing our children’s hearts? If he required us to be a sufficiently godly example or to come up with just the right words that could reach them in their rebellion? That’s discouraging! But how encouraging is the truth that God retains that responsibility. We can only point our kids, through the gospel, to a God who saves. Our confidence rests in God’s plan to use the story of Jesus as our substitute, dying on the cross, as the means to reach them. The apostle Paul spoke of the gospel’s power in Romans when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). That word “everyone” includes your children.
We plant the seeds of the gospel, but only God can make them grow. Until he does, we keep sharing the truth that Jesus is the only way, “watering” the seed. We watch like a farmer for the first sign of green popping out of the blackness of the soil. When we see initial evidence of true repentance, we rejoice, knowing it is God’s work. Until then we continue to water the seed and wait for God do what only he can do. And as we prayerfully wait for God to save them, we must cast off the false guilt that the Enemy lays on us for their lack of change.
Excerpted from Parenting First Aid: Hope for the Discouraged © 2018 by Marty Machowski, published by New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.