We live in a world where quick success is desired and celebrated. Interestingly, God’s kingdom works differently. Those who place every aspect of their lives in God’s hands come to the realization that He is deliberate about building His own. The Bible calls the sons of God “trees of righteousness,” and indeed, the Lord plants His own in the way one would plant trees. But He plants them as one would plant oak trees not bamboos.
Oak versus bamboo
There is a huge difference between the way oak and bamboo trees grow. Bamboo, it is said, sprouts and grows up to 90 feet tall (depending on the specie) by its fifth year. The oak tree, on the other hand, is still small in the fifth year, small enough to be nurtured in a pot, or nursery, if the owner so desires. But when it matures, the oak tree can grow up to 100 feet tall, its trunk circumference as wide as 32 feet, and the spread of its canopy between 85 and 135 feet in diameter — a gigantic tree, indeed!
During its seemingly slow years, the oak tree works underground to develop the massive root system that will support its large size when it matures. Similarly, God takes time to develop the foundation that will support His servants when they enter into His purposes in full. In speaking of purpose, the reference is not to short-term goals such as getting a job, starting a family, buying a house, starting a business, and so on. Rather, our life purpose is about our overarching raison d’être — the contribution God has ordained for each of us to make to life on this side of eternity, the positive impact He has created us to have. Intertwined in our occupations, education, and experiences are threads of God’s purpose; through them He prepares us, and using them, He provides a platform for execution of His purpose. Often, we look at our short-term goals lives in isolation and wonder why God does not always give us what we want. We miss the fact that He looks at a much bigger picture, and what may seem significant to us may not fit into His picture for our lives. On the other hand, what may seem trivial to us may be an important piece of the puzzle.
The silent years
When God is developing a person, it may appear to others that nothing noteworthy is happening in his or her life. However, the individual undergoing development knows the transformation and growth that’s taking place within. The Lord passes him or her through several experiences aimed at building the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life and expects the individual to learn —with diligence — the principles that will drive a more complex life in the future. He develops the person privately until he or she has reached the level of maturity needed to function openly. Then, and only then, does He release that one into the public arena to represent Him. Even this release occurs in stages: first, on a relatively small scale and as the individual masters the lessons for each level, He expands the scope of involvement and influence.
The lives of three prominent Bible characters bear witness to this growth process:
- Joseph, who spent approximately 13 years in God’s training, under very unusual circumstances, before being released to fulfill his divine purpose (Gen. 37:2; Gen. 41:46).
- David, who was anointed to be king at a young age but endured years of difficult training before being enthroned as king of Judah and then Israel (1 Sam. 17:42; 2 Sam. 5:4-5).
- The Lord Jesus Christ, who for 30 years lived an average Jewish life, enduring the limitations of a fallen human race, before publicly stepping into His divine ministry as Savior of the world (Luke 2:52; 3:23).
God has reasons for training His servants the way He does, and some of them become apparent to us even before we get to the end of our training process. Whoever trusts Him enough to follow His way soon switches from being skeptical about His methods to rejoicing. We soon see the wisdom in His ways and thank Him for steering us down His unique growth path. We realize that we could never attain the heights we’ve attained without His direction and help.
May He continue to fill us with the desire to fulfill His purposes and the willingness to follow His growth path to this end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.