Monday, July 27, 2009

Lessons from Weeding

We had neglected the garden. In one short month, weeds were growing waist-high. They were overtaking the annuals I had so carefully planted and fertilized during the cooler spring months. During the “dog days” of summer, gardening is a hot, sticky proposition. In the previous weeks, the July sun beat down mercilessly, and staying in the cool house was too great a temptation to resist. Now the weeds were winning the battle.

As my husband and I went outside to work in the early morning temperatures, I surveyed with dismay the damage that had been done during my absence from the garden. Every spare space once neatly groomed blossomed with overgrown weeds. My beautiful flowers were struggling to survive sharing space with their greedy neighbors. Without sweat and effort, it would only get worse. As I began to grip the weeds one at a time and pull, God began to reveal truths about the weeds in my own life, and suddenly the work became a spiritual inspiration.

Jesus used a gardening theme in several of his parables to teach those gathered around him about the Kingdom of God. This was in part because it was an agrarian society, and planting and harvesting were familiar to everyone. But as I pulled weeds and meditated on God’s Word, it struck me that Jesus must also must have used plants as an object lesson because they are so appropriate to what is true about the rest of his creation.

Weeds are the undesirable part of the garden. In parables, weeds or thorns were used to represent sin or the work of the evil one. We can learn a lot about sin by taking a closer look at weeds.

Dig deep.
In order to permanently remove the weed, we must remove the root. Dandelion plants have a long taproot, which is thick and difficult to pull. If you just pull off the foliage at the surface, that dandelion will have new leaves in a matter of days. We have solid and strong roots in sin, because we were born with a sin nature. Our only source of victory over sin is through the blood of Jesus Christ. When we trusted in him for salvation, Jesus went right to the root of our sin problem and changed us from the inside out: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
(I Corinthians 5: 17)

Be proactive.
Keeping weeds out of your garden is a matter of being deliberate. Do nothing to stop them, and they will grow. When it comes to our spiritual lives, because of our sinful nature, it is a constant battle to avoid sin. Like a swimmer in a current, we only make progress or even keep a steady position by working tirelessly. Relax for a few minutes, and we will quickly lose ground. Paul commented on this: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17) In this constant conflict, we can never ease up, or sin will get the upper hand.

Weed early and often.
When weeds are small, they are relatively easy to pluck from the ground. However, when allowed to remain, long, strong roots grow deep. Pulling out a mature plant becomes a major challenge. So it is with sin. Carelessness becomes pattern, and pattern a habit. Soon the sin has a hold on us, and the effort to repent and replace that bad habit with a righteous one becomes extremely difficult. This is demonstrated in James 1:15:
“ . . . after desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Better to stop the sin early on, when it is easier to remove from our lives.

Plant purposefully.
The best way to keep weeds from flourishing is to plant something desirable in the space. Bare soil and even a layer of mulch will not stop most weeds from taking root. However, where my annuals and perennials are flourishing, weeds have little opportunity to thrive. Making the effort to fill our minds with good things will keep sin at bay. Meditating on God’s Word is the best place to start. I often play praise music in my car as I travel, singing words that focus on Christ. Psalm 119: 11 says, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Weeding is hard work, especially in the hot summer sun. It involves sweat, aching muscles, back strain and even blisters. Yet the end result of that labor is beauty. My plants are once again healthy and thriving, freed from competition for sunlight and water.

Dealing with the ugly sin in our lives is also hard and grueling work. We must be willing to take an honest look at ourselves frequently to see the sin lurking in our attitudes and actions. It is never a pleasant process! Yet bringing sin out into the light, confessing it to God and turning away from its control on us will bring a new beauty to our lives.

Living a sin-resistant life is only possible because of our heavenly power source. We humans are weak and prone to give in. Yet “incomparably great power” from God is at our disposal. “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

I Corinthians 3 tells us that we are “God’s cultivated field.” With purposeful effort we can keep back the weeds of sin in our lives. Then we will be a beautiful garden, a “planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3)

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