“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28 ASV).
Here the Lord commands us to consider how lilies grow in order to realize how we are to live by intrinsic faith in God rather than by our own sweat and ingenuity. The way of faith is the way of reliance on God rather than the arm of the flesh. This is not to suggest that we do no work, but that whatever work we do, we do so in accordance with the superfluous nature of faith exercised. Many Eastern religions teach the idea of striving not to strive; even in error, Eastern mysticism grasps a state of being (nirvana—reaching a state of “imperturbable stillness of mind” and “blissful egolessness”) that is closer to the truth than Christianity practiced through the fractural and divisive prism of Western realism.
Merely surround lilies with the proper amount of water, soil, sunlight and warmth, and they will fulfill their destiny. Merely surround the human soul with the proper amount of the water of the word, the milk of human kindness, revelation of Jesus Christ and the warmth of God’s love, and the soul too will fulfill her destiny. Just as there are seasons of dormancy and seasons of flourishing in the life of a lily, so there are in human development and experience. For a lily to flower it must first set its roots in dark and damp earth; likewise, for man to flourish he must first set his roots in dark and dank experience.
The Western mindset emphasizes growth and “upward mobility” to the degree of perverting the very nature of the organism. Violent self-effort (toiling) and self-expression (spinning) impedes rather than feeds spiritual growth. The modus operandi for His people is always, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6 ASV). The word “might” means “force” rooted in the idea of twisting or whirling or writhing in pain or fear; “power” means “to be firm; vigor” and implies innate ability. So, not by the force of self-exertion born of pain or fear, nor by the resolute vigor behind one’s own abilities, but simply and gently by the Holy Spirit, are we to function.
“I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 NASB). Planting and watering certainly requires labor of sorts, especially if the land worked needs much preparation in order to make it suitable for planting. But “good soil [that yields] a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:8) is assumed in God’s redemptive plan. Only “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15 KJV).
So, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 49:10 NASB). Come to “imperturbable stillness of mind” and “blissful egolessness,” not by the false practice of yoga or other Eastern mystical practices, but by centering one’s self in Christ Jesus in contemplative meditation. It is God who causes the growth; we simply remain planted in Christ Jesus and do nothing apart from Him. Indeed, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28 ASV).