Change is disruptive, frightening, and hard.
And although it can be painful, change is part of the process God uses to grow us and make us more like Jesus.
In John 12, Jesus uses a grain of wheat to illustrate how God can bring amazing things out of change.
But only if we’re willing to do something quite extreme.
At the beginning of John 12, things are going great for Jesus and His disciples.
Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead and this amazing miracle is being talked about far and wide.
In fact, so many people are coming to believe in Jesus that the Pharisees are plotting to kill Lazarus again.
Jesus is even greeted with acclaim and shouts of “Hosanna” as he makes His way into Jerusalem.
People are really starting to believe! It must have been a nice change after all the disbelief of the crowds and persecution from the Pharisees.
If there was ever a time to stop and smell the roses, this was it. This would be the perfect time to keep things just as they were.
Yet that’s not what Jesus did.
There were some Greek men who approached Philip, one of the disciples, with a request: we want to worship Jesus!
Philip brings them to Jesus, surely expecting Jesus will meet these men and accept their worship.
But Jesus’ response must have taken Philip by surprise!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
That’s a strange response!
Imagine if you brought some guests to your worship service. You excitedly introduce them to your pastor, and he says “You know… a grain of wheat can’t grow unless you plant it.” You might be very confused!
This is an obvious truth. We all understand that seeds have to be planted before they can become a plant and bear fruit. An apple seed can’t become a beautiful apple tree unless it’s planted!
While the physical truth is obvious, Jesus is making a spiritual point that is quite profound: if we want to grow and be fruitful, we have to experience change.
Jesus applies the analogy to his followers in verses 25-26:
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me.”
Of course, Jesus isn’t talking about loving your life from the perspective of how much you enjoy your life. Jesus doesn’t want us to be miserable sad sacks who are ungrateful and complaining.
Jesus is talking about your priorities. Someone who loves his life is someone who puts his own comfort and dreams above anything else. They are not willing to change!
Imagine a seed that loved its life this way. This seed would refuse to ever be planted. It would refuse to become what it should be because it was unwilling to go through the painful process of change.
We are so often afraid of change because even positive change is painful. For something to change, what it used to be has to be destroyed. The seed has to die for the plant to grow and bring fruit.
Some Christians are unwilling to allow God to change them. Like a seed that refuses to become a tree, they stubbornly refuse any change. They cling to their own comfort and dreams, even though it means they will never be what God wants them to be!
Jesus calls us to something different. He calls us to hate our lives!
Remember, He’s talking about our priorities. We should so love God and eternal priorities, that we consider our own comfort and dreams to be low in priority. That’s what it means to hate your life.
What happens to the kind of Christian who hates his life in this way? Like the seed, God can change and grow them into something amazing! He can use their lives to bear fruit that will matter for eternity.
For some, this has meant leaving their homes to take the Gospel to faraway lands. For others, this means sharing the Gospel to your coworkers. It may mean something as simple as giving up some time to help clean the church or be involved in a ministry.
God has work for all of us to do, but it requires going through change that can be difficult and painful!
Yet Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything He wouldn’t do Himself.
Remember, Jesus is at the height of His popularity. It would have been comfortable and easy to continue accepting the acclaim and worship of the crowd.
But God had work for Jesus to do. Accomplishing that work would mean a very painful change, indeed.
In Jesus’ case, He literally had to die on a cross. He gave up the comfortable position He was in and endured an excruciating death.
But through that death, He brought forth amazing fruit: salvation for all mankind.
Jesus was willing to give up what was comfortable to go through this terrible change and purchase redemption for all of us. Like the seed, He willingly died so He could bring forth fruit.
Now we have to decide. Will we be like the seed as well?
Will we “die” so that we can bring forth fruit?
What “dying” means will be different for all of us. It may be stepping outside our comfort zone to lead a small group or be more involved in spreading the Gospel. It may even mean leaving our homes to take the Gospel to foreign fields!
Whatever it means for you, know that this “dying” is unavoidable if we are to be what God wants us to be.
Yes, God calls us to a change that will be very hard at times, but He will use that change to bring some amazing results.
Would you take some time to prayerfully consider how God wants to use you?
Will you let Him change your life and bring great fruit from it?