Last month I looked at a pastime of mine – gardening – in relation to God’s kingdom. This discussion brought attention to the need to firstly plant the seed and secondly water and fertilise the seed. By giving attention to our investment in God’s word, and subsequently our obedience we will realise the fruitful ‘crop’ we are all designed to bear – spiritual fruit that will affect great impact upon the world in which we live. With an attitude of love we serve our God and others rather than self-centredly focussing on our ‘rights.’ God affords each of us the luxury of having a different input into his kingdom’s work than anyone else but the collective expression is more glorious than the individual one as it shows the unity of God’s kingdom. It is rather like the cottage garden feel with many flowers randomly mixed together producing small and tall plants, flowers of different shape, aroma and colour all doing their part to create this wonderful impact for those walking in the garden – well at least those with their eyes open!
However, one problem for gardeners is the unwanted plants or weeds. These draw away the nutrition of the plants we wish to develop; they rob the space and take away from the effectiveness of the harvest or floral display. Getting rid of weeds helps the garden grow strongly and efficiently. So too our lives and witness needs attention directed to what must be ‘rooted out.’ As you think about your life are there aspects that you know you’d be more effective in your witness without them? Maybe it is a habit you’ve formed or the response to a life experience that your sense now is that God wants that to change and be presented differently. Here is the place of growth and development; bring your prayers and petitions to God. We can trust him to bring about the changes and produce the development of fruit in our lives rather than a mere acceptance that it will always be the same. We stop growth the minute we turn away from the pressing and pruning of the Holy Spirit. We bring grief to the Spirit of God and limit his power. How then can we say we are filled with the Holy Spirit?
In the parable of the sower Jesus tells what seems to be a simple story that tapped into his audience’s life experiences to illustrate profound concepts of the kingdom of God. Though Jesus was the master story teller often the point seemed to elude the listeners, so it is hoped that we don’t miss what Jesus is saying and thereby limit our expression of fruitfulness. Jesus indicates that it is God’s word planted in our hearts that brings forth the harvest, when the soil is right, ready and able to produce fruit. In the soils that proved to be unproductive and unfruitful it is the hardness of the ‘soil’, the depth of ‘soil’ and the condition of the ‘soil’ that makes a difference to the outcome.
Let’s explore and examine under the loving spotlight of God some potentially life-changing but hard questions. Are our hearts hardened in any way to the work of God? Are we resilient in the face of testing? Do we have the ability to continue to be faithful and obedient in troubled times? Does the impact of worldly interests influence us in unhelpful or even destructive ways? What are the temptations that draw us away? How about the cares or troubles of the world? Or what are pleasures that the world offers (even if deceptive and short lasting)? Does the pursuit of riches place a hold on us causing us to be self focussed? Are there attitudes and actions that reflect greed and self interest rather than building the kingdom of God? Personally, I’ve been stopped recently by God to meditate on the things that distract me. I’ve been challenged to seek the ‘best’ of God not just some of God. This involves looking at what makes me lose sight of the fullness or best God has to give in my unique life, personality, life experiences and interest base? Maybe he is speaking to you about similar matters.
The fruit of our lives will reflect the attributes of God’s character. We are made in God’s image (fearfully and wonderfully says David in Psalm 139:14) so we are designed to be image bearers of the creator of the world. It is sin, rebellion and the pursuit of our desires that ruins and mars the presentation so is it any wonder that as those restored by his Spirit we become once again the true reflection of the image and character of God. We take on his nature and live according to his values principles and precepts. Maybe the psalmist reflected this well in his song in Psalm 119 (especially in verses 34-40 and 89-96) about how God’s word, his principles and statutes make a positive benefit to all who live under its influence and direction. God bless you all.