The Lessons of the Seed-Grain

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Jessie Penn-Lewis

Jesus used many analogies to teach us the truths of the
kingdom. One of these was the lesson of the seed-grain, in which He
compared the life of the believer to the development process of a
grain of wheat.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the gound and
dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much
grain” (John 12:24, NKJV). This process is the same one we must go
through if we are to bear fruit as we are called to do.

Let us turn to the seed-grain and see the picture lesson,
that in these last days we may intelligently yield to the pierced hand
of God and permit His fullest purposes to be fulfilled in us.

Joined to the Lord, the grain of wheat awakens to the law
of its being and yields itself to the Son of God for sowing in the
earth. It cries to God to make it fruitful at any cost. The purpose of
its life begins to dawn upon it. It sees that there is an element of
selfishness in being absorbed in its “own” advancement and its “own”

The heavenly Husbandman hears the cry of the grain of
wheat, prompted by the Holy Spirit, and silently begins to prepare it
for the answer to its prayers. He prepares it for sowing in the ground
by gently detaching it from the bands that bind it to its stalk.

It may appear as if He has not heeded the cry, and the
little grain wonders why He does not answer; but the air and sunshine
are doing their silent work. The grain is ripening, unconsciously to
itself, until suddenly it finds itself loosened from its old ties. A
hand takes hold of it, and it is dropped down into the dark earth.

What has happened? The little grain of wheat asked for
fruit, not this strange path. Where are the sunshine, the old
companions, the former happy experiences?

“Where am I?” cries the lonely grain. “Where is my cozy
stalk? This dark spot of earth, so repulsive, seems to be injuring my
nice coat; it was so beautiful in my little nest on the top of the
stalk. I was so far away from earth, so far above all.” So the little
grain speaks within itself.

Presently it is shocked to find its covering beginning to
deteriorate. So long as it could retain its exterior beauty it did not
mind the isolation, the darkness, the apparent uselessness. But this is
too much.

Moreover it seems to be “giving way” to its surroundings.
It is broken by them and is not able to guard itself and remain “far
above all” as before. It thought it would never be moved by earthly
things again.

However, in spite of these strange dealings, the little
grain rests on the faithfulness of God. It knows He will lead it safely
by a way that it knows not. It cries with the psalmist, “I shall yet
praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Ps. 42:11).

Loss of Identity
Poor little grain! Now trampled upon in the dark earth,
buried out of sight, ignored, forgotten, this little grain of wheat was
once greatly admired. How the other grains looked up to it and listened
with reverence to its counsels!

Now it feels forgotten as it passes into solitude,
crying, “I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for
comforters, but I found none” (Ps. 69:20). It longs for other children
of God who may “tell of the sorrow of those whom Thou hast wounded.”
But these seem to have no anguish of heart for suffering with others.

Buried grain, say “yes” to God. He is answering your prayers to become fruitful!

Maybe you were occupied with your successful service and
with your happy experience in those old days. How little you were able
to understand the temptations and the difficulties of the little blades
of wheat. How stern you were with those who fell, not “considering
yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

How you talked to the tiny blades of green just peeping
through the ground, stating that they “ought” to be much older and more
mature! How “weak” you thought them because they were bowed to the
ground as soon as some heavy foot trod upon them.

How you discouraged them when they were weak in the faith
and did not “receive them” nor bear lovingly with their weaknesses! How
you tried to make them see what you saw in your greater maturity. You
did not understand how to wait and to encourage them and to give them
time to grow!

Buried grain, you were “truly guilty concerning [your]
brother” (Gen. 42:21) in your lack of “anguish of heart and many tears”
over the temptations and sorrows of others. How you guarded yourself
and feared to stoop down to earth—to become as weak to the weak, that
you might gain the more!

Now learn the mystery of the kingdom unfolded in the
picture lesson of the grain of wheat: The life of God in you could not
break forth into fruitfulness until you had been broken by God’s own
hand. The earthly surroundings and testings, the loneliness and
humiliation, were permitted by Him so that He might release into life
abundant the life that had come from God.

At each stage of growth there must be the casting off of
much that was necessary before if there is to be fuller development. At
the beginning, the germ of life is hidden within the outward form of
the written word; the shell may pass away (that is, from our memories)
but the life—the Living Word—remains. Under favorable conditions for
growth, in “an honest and good heart,” cleansed from all that would
choke the seed, the life progresses, showing itself in varied outward
forms that may be described as the blade, the stalk, the ear, the full
corn in the ear.

In the fullness of time the knife must be used, for there
must come the severing from old supports, the parting with old
experiences, the passing away of outward things that once helped us.
The blades of green, the stalk, the ear of wheat—these were only
outward coverings for a life that was pressing through them to full

Severed from old supports, detached from old
surroundings, again the life within the matured grain cannot break
forth into the hundredfold without a further stripping—a breaking of an
outward shell that would prevent the fruitfulness.

In honest hearts crying out to God for His fullest
purposes to be fulfilled in them, the Holy Spirit works even when they
do not understand His working. The danger lies in their clinging to old
experiences, old helps and old supports when the Spirit-life within is
pressing them on to another stage—especially if that stage seems
“downward” instead of “upward.” Our picture lesson shows us that
“downward” means fruitfulness and is the sequence to the “upward” path
of the full development of the grain of wheat.

What all this means in practical experience the Holy
Spirit alone can make us understand. It is sufficient for us to know
enough of the principles of His working that we may learn to yield
trustfully to all His dealings.

Bearing Fruit

At last the grain of wheat is willing to be hidden away
from the eyes of men. Willing to be trampled upon and lie in silence in
some lonely corner chosen of God. Willing to appear what others would
call a “failure.” Willing to live in the will of God apart from
glorious experiences. Willing to dwell in solitude and isolation, away
from happy fellowship with other grains of wheat.

The little grain has learned something of the meaning of
fellowship with Christ in His death, and now comes to pass the saying:
“‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matt. 16:25).

Silently, surely, the divine life breaks forth into
fruitfulness. The grain has given itself, it has parted with its “own
life”; yet it still lives—lives now in the life of its Lord.

A buried seed-grain, it is content to be forgotten! For
who thinks of the grain and of all the sorrow and suffering it
underwent in the dark when they see the harvest field?

But the grain of wheat is satisfied because the law of
its being is fulfilled. It has sunk itself and its own getting and now
lives in others, not even desiring to have it known that from it the
hundredfold has sprung.

So Christ Himself poured out His soul unto death that He
might “see His seed” (Is. 53:10, KJV), see the travail of His soul and
be satisfied (see v. 11) as He lives again in His redeemed ones. Thus
in God’s wondrous law—the law of nature repeated in the spiritual
world—the first Grain of wheat, sown by God Himself, is reproduced in
other grains, having the same characteristics and law of being:
“‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by
itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’” (John 12:24, NASB).

Life Out of Death

We have followed the little grain in its downward path
into the ground to die. It has “hated its life in this world,” and now
its life is hid with Christ in God. While it has been consenting to the
breaking and stripping in its lonely, hidden path, the divine life
within it has been breaking forth in life to others and silently
springing up into stronger, fuller, purer union with the ascended Lord.

This is not an easy path. Even the Lord Christ was
troubled as He drew near the hour of desolation and suffering
foreshadowed in Psalm 22. “‘Now My soul has become troubled; and what
shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour?” But for this purpose I
came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name’” (John 12:27-28).

The hiding of the Father’s face was more than broken
heart, nails and spear. Jesus knew what was to come, and He could have
saved Himself—He could have spoken to His Father and had legions of
angels fulfill His requests—but where then would have been the first
fruits unto God and the Lamb? Nay, the Master’s only prayer could be,
“‘Father, glorify Thy Name.’”

If we follow the Lamb where He went, if we are willing to
die in order to bring forth life, there will surely come to us, as to
Him, the assurance from the Father: “‘I have both glorified it, and
will glorify it again’” (v. 28). And in the end a great reward will be
given us: “‘To Him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My
throne’” (Rev. 3:21, NKJV).

Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861-1927) was a frequent Keswick
speaker whose messages proclaimed the centrality of the cross in the
life and experience of the Christian. She regularly contributed to
The Overcomer, a worldwide quarterly, which she founded in 1908. Adapted from All Things New by Jessie Penn-Lewis, copyright 1997. Published by Christian Literature Crusade. Used by permission.

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