Increase is God’s sovereign, supernatural principle of multiplication at work. We participate but may not see the harvest He commands through our obedience.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
I love the word ‘increase.’ It sums up everything God does in the most wonderful way, painting a picture of fruitfulness and abundance. In one little word we see His principle of multiplication at work, His supernatural power that is able to transform a single seed into a great harvest – despite us. This is the crux of today’s verse. God’s increase is sovereign. It is not dependent on us or what we do or don’t do. He does invite us to share in the process, but what a relief it is to know that the end result is out of our hands. We can neither claim responsibility nor praise for the harvest.
Increase is commanded by God.
The command to go out and multiply was given to both Adam and to Noah after the flood. From this we can see that multiplication according is woven into His will and into the natural laws He had put in place to govern and direct this world. Increase is part of God’s command for His creation. We need only look at a field of corn or maize to see the wonder of His principle of multiplication. Each tiny seed planted in the right conditions will in massive multiplication. The seed used in planting may have fed a single family for a few months. But the seed reaped in harvest can feed many people for many months. Multiplication or increase is God’s supernatural provision.
It is a command that operates in every area of our lives. The New Testament uses the word fruitful many times to define our Christian walk. We are commanded to bear fruit for God. It is our fruit that confirms our faith, and His expectation is that we ‘abound unto every good work.’ Once again, we see His principle of multiplication at work. Each single branch grafted into the true vine bears fruit. One feeds many. We reach far more people by bearing fruit than if we simply remained ourselves and separate. The point, however, is that God’s command to increase remains in place. It is part of His sovereign purpose for each and every single thing in His creation. That is as true for us spiritually as it is for the natural world.
Increase is sovereign.
Our verse today, however, stresses the fundamental truth that increase is sovereign. There is powerful release and relief that comes from this truth. The moment I realised fully and accepted that God alone holds the ultimate power of multiplication in His hands, I experienced real peace. Life had, I have to confess, turned me into something of a control freak. I had to know that I was in control – or, at least, believe I was. In doing so, I shouldered the responsibility for everything in my bubble, whether I had anything to do with it or not. The result was tremendous stress, guilt, and totally unrealistic expectations that I created for myself.
Now, I don’t for one moment believe I’m somehow totally different or ‘extraordinary.’ This weakness – and it is a weakness of self and pride – exists in everyone in varying degrees. Perhaps God allowed me to experience it in the extreme so I could fully understand. All I can testify to is that increase is God’s sovereign prerogative. He may use me in the process if my life is surrendered, but I am neither the cause nor the defining factor in the harvest. The freedom that has come from taking hold of this truth is enormous. I have no weight of projections, short term or long term or strategic planning, or even for project management. I simply listen for and obey when He commands. The harvest is entirely in His hands. It’s powerfully liberating.
We participate in God’s increase.
This may seem like a direct contradiction, but at heart, it’s not. Our role is participation, not creation. There are a number of reasons why God invites us to work with Him, but the most important is that He reveals Himself to the world through us, just as He did through Christ. As the body of Christ on earth, each of us manifest an aspect of His nature, will, and purpose in the world. On our own, the picture is incomplete. Together, we provide a perfect representation. Of course, no one can actually see the big picture at this point. That’s reserved for eternity. But just as different seeds bring forth fruit according to their kind, so do we. In the hands of God, we produce the harvest that He has determined for us.
Again, His sovereign increase is at work here. I don’t wake up one day and decide to produce oranges instead of apples. If I’m purposed to produce wheat, I cannot produce maize. The type and extent of the harvest is determined by God. But He accords us the incredible privilege of being the branches. He also invites us to be part of the work. Alongside Him, we plant and water in the lives of others at His guidance. They, in turn, will bear fruit according to their kind. We have no idea what kind of fruit they will bear, and we may never even see the fruit. Instead, we participate in absolute faith that He will perform His supernatural multiplication in every work. We are part of, not responsible for, the end result.
God’s increase always involves two.
As I was writing this, I realised a wonderful truth. God’s principle of multiplication is never single. It always involves two. There can be no increase without pollination or fertilisation. Things cannot ‘self-reproduce.’ What a wonderful nugget of understanding into today’s verse. One plants, one waters…it’s a coming together that God uses to multiply. Once again, it reinforces the truth that we cannot go it alone. In His process of increase, we cannot do all the work – or take all the credit. I see it over and over in my own life and ministry. Sometimes, I plant and sometimes, I water. I’m sometimes granted the grace to watch the harvest manifest, but as many times, I obey and move on and never see the ultimate result. At first, this bothered me until I accepted the full revelation that increase is God’s sovereign prerogative.
This also brings us back to the fact that we are the body of Christ. Hands and feet cannot exist alone. We cannot operate alone. God’s will is that we always have others to work with us, to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to love us. They are also there to remind us that it’s never ‘all about me.’ I am never singly responsible for any achievement or perceived failure. Neither praise nor condemnation play a part. I am an obedient servant working alongside others. We obey according to the will of our head, who is Christ, and He brings forth the increase according to His purpose. The powerful truth here is that alone, we cannot produce a harvest. God’s principle of multiplication is always a ‘coming together’ in His power.
To increase is our practical purpose.
Whichever way we look at it, we cannot avoid the command to ‘multiply.’ It’s entrenched in Christ’s final command to go out and make disciples. One disciple makes ten disciples, who in turn each make ten… That’s increase. If we’re living worship lives of surrender and obedience, multiplication must follow. It’s an immutable law of God. When we work alongside others, guided by the Spirit, there is always a coming together, even though we may not realise it. This is a miracle of harvest. We may never even meet the other person. They may have planted a seed long before, and we may be called to pass by and water it. But both the planting and the watering share the same space in eternity. In the Spirit, it’s a perfect, God-ordained ‘coming together’ that produces abundant harvest.
Lord, we worship You today for Your perfect purposes and sovereign will, and the wonderful way You order Your universe to increase and multiply according to Your command. Remind us always that it’s not about us. Thank You for the joyous freedom of knowing You are in control. Help us to surrender to Your perfect will, to plant and water as You direct, and to celebrate the harvest in faith even though we may never see it ourselves.