Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Tri Robinson's new book, Rooted in Good Soil: Cultivating and Sustaining Authentic Discipleship, (Baker Books, 2010).
Jesus told a parable about a farmer who sowed plant seeds in the ground, and the story represented how people can grow spiritually. Some seed was picked away (like people picked off by evil lies), some seed didn't take root because it was planted in poor quality soil (like people who allow life's cares and troubles to distract them from making it their top priority to pursue God), and some seed couldn't grow because it got choked out by weeds (like people who allow the world's values to choke out biblical values in their lives). Only the seed that fell on good soil grew to maturity - capable of bearing a harvest that could reproduce itself, like spiritually mature Christians who can lead others to relationships with Jesus.
Don't be someone who believes in Jesus, yet isn't staying close enough to Him to grow. Root yourself in good spiritual soil so you can grow to become the person God intends you to be. Here's how:
Let yourself be cultivated and broken. God's truth won't take root in your soul unless you open yourself up to face the brokenness in your life and let it lead you to genuine repentance. By confessing your sins and turning away from them, you invite God to cultivate your soul so faith can grow there.
Don't avoid the compost of your life. The suffering you naturally encounter in this fallen world is like the messy compost of animal waste, rotted garbage, and microorganisms that fertilize soil for plants to grow. Rather than trying to escape suffering, recognize that it accelerates your spiritual growth, and ask God to show you everything He wants you to learn from it. Remember God's promises that He will use all situations - even the worst circumstances - to accomplish good purposes in your life if you trust Him. When you encounter suffering, open yourself up to receive God's love in the midst of it, and invite God to use it to the fullest to help you grow.
Surrender and wait patiently. Just as seeds remain hidden for a while underground after they've been planted, you need to give up your own plans and submit yourself to God's plans for your life, inviting Him to do deep work in your soul that's designed to transform you. Don't rush ahead of God's work by relying on your own efforts instead of depending on His power working through you. Don't fall behind God by being apathetic and missing the opportunities to which He wants you to respond. Instead, ask God to teach you how to rest patiently in sync with where He wants you to be in your spiritual journey. Listen for God speaking to you through His Spirit, and trust that He loves you and wants the best for you.
Cooperate with the essential influences in your life. Once a plant grows upward far enough to break through the soil, it needs nourishment from the soil, light and warmth from the sun, water from rain, and carbon dioxide from the air. These influences are each essential for the plant to grow. Similarly, the persons of the Trinity - God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit - are essential to your spiritual growth. Invite them all to work together in your soul.
Invite God to work through you to transform you. The miracle of plant photosynthesis involves plants using energy from sunlight to produce sugar that nourishes life, while converting carbon dioxide that poisons air-breathing life into oxygen that people and animals need to survive. So the photosynthesis process turns substances that could cause death into substances that nourish and produce life. Spiritually, God calls you to be transformed so He can use you to help transform others from the death that sin brings to new life in a relationship with Him. Invite God to do transform your heart so it becomes loving, and your mind so you can think accurately and see life from the right perspective. Once God has transformed you on the inside, the changes will ripple out and affect your behavior, motivating you to reach out to others in need of God's love. Ask God to work through you to spread His love like life-giving oxygen to people who poisoned by deadly sin in their lives.
Participate in a symbiotic community. Plants live in symbiotic relationships, in which they work together with other life forms that are both similar and diverse, for their mutual benefit. God created you to bring your unique qualities into a faith community so you and others there could work together for the common good. So join a church and participate there to the fullest, using your spiritual gifts and natural talents to bless others and help make the world a better place.
Bear fruit at harvest time. Just as plants that are ripe are picked at harvest time and used for a special purpose (such as fruit being eaten), God wants to use you when you're ready. When you've reached spiritual maturity, God wants to send you out to communicate the Gospel message to lost people through loving words and actions. He wants you to use you in His harvest field, letting Him work through you to draw other people into relationships with Him - spreading new seeds of faith into the world.
Adapted from Rooted in Good Soil: Cultivating and Sustaining Authentic Discipleship, copyright 2010 by Tri Robinson. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Tri Robinson is the founding pastor of the Vineyard Boise Church and author of Saving God's Green Earth: Rediscovering the Church's Responsibility to Environmental Stewardship and Small Footprint, Big Handprint: How to Live Simply and Love Extravagantly. Tri and his wife, Nancy, manage an 80-acre farmstead at the base of Timber Butte, about an hour from Boise, Idaho.
Original publication date: June 21, 2010