Even in the crazy paced society we all live in, many still make a commitment to gardening. When you ask most of those individuals why they go to all the work and effort to garden, the most popular answer is usually about the harvest. They want the reward of the fresh food that the effort reaps.
My husband and I have had different commitments to a garden over the years. I remember the first year we were married and lived by his mom and dad and we helped them with a huge garden, but the reality was, his parents really did the hard work.
In recent years, we have started doing a small garden in our back yard, but we really weren’t too serious or dedicated to it, until this year. This year we decided to make a brand new commitment to gardening and my husband built this amazing raised bed for us.
Now the stakes had changed. When we used to just plant a few things out by the fence, there wasn’t much of an investment, so if we didn’t feel like protecting it to see if it would grow, there wasn’t much to lose.
This new garden was expensive to build, and it certainly cost us much time and effort to maintain, but we decided that if we wanted something we had never had, we would need to do something we had never done!
Many could make this relate this same analogy to their spiritual lives. There are seasons in our journey where our devotional lives become stagnant, and our relationship with our Savior becomes a bit cold. It is during these moments that we stand at a crossroads and we determine, “If we want something we haven’t ever had, we are going to have to do something we have never done!” This decision most likely will cost you something; it may be an investment of your time and energy, or some other kind of sacrifice.
Let me be the first to say this is easier said than done….especially for the long term. I vividly remember one Sunday afternoon during our gardening season, I was tired and wanted to go crash in my recliner, but I had to travel for work that coming week and there were all of these green beans to work through and preserve. I remember standing at my kitchen sink and asking myself “IS IT WORTH IT?” I could buy a bag of these at Walmart for $1.44! It was during this moment of weakness that I kept reminding myself about the investment, and I tried to focus on the reward. If you want something different, you have to do something different!
The problem is, we want different without a commitment! We want different without it costing us anything. We do not want it to be INCONVENIENT!
I love the story of the blind man named Bartimaeus that is found in Mark 10:46-52. You know why I love this guy? He decided if he wanted something he didn’t have, he was going to have to do something he had never done and that was crying out with all his might, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He was committed! When the crowd told him to be quiet, he just yelled even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus saw his determination, He saw his investment, and He responded, “Your faith has made you well.”
What about the woman with the issue of blood? We read about her in Mark 5:25-34. This woman is another great example of someone who said, If I want something I don’t have, I have to do something I haven’t done! She had seen many doctors, she suffered much, but when she risked everything to touch Jesus, she was made whole!
There is one more example from the Old Testament that shows us a different situation. Let me give you the background because this is a lengthy passage. There was a great man who was highly respected and the captain of the army of the king of Aram named Naaman. He was a valiant warrior but he was a leper. There was a little girl from Israel who knew the prophet Elisha, and she told Naaman’s wife that if he went there he would cure him of his leprosy. Naaman went and told his master what the girl had said, and he sent him with a letter and payment to the king of Israel to cure him of his leprosy. The king got upset and tore his clothes at the request, but Elisha heard about it and said, “Let him come to me.” Let us pick up reading the story from there:
2 Kings 5:9-14 NASU
9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.
We see a very different example here. I wanted to use this example because if we are honest we often have the same attitude that Naaman had. We want the preacher to pray for us, and the problem to just go away. While sometimes that is certainly the case, often it is a process.
Naaman didn’t want the process, he just wanted the prophet to wave his hand and pray to God and it be healed. He was mad when he told him he had to go dip in the Jordan, he even asked why he couldn’t go to one of the other two rivers…..IT WAS INCONVENIENT! Naaman had to do something different to get a different result.
I could give you many more examples, but I just want to remind you that when your commitment seems difficult to keep, remind yourself of your investment and focus on the reward.
Let’s consider more about the commitment. Revival is a time where we stir up the gifts God has inside of us. It is a time that we fan the flames and renew our passion for the things God has planned for us, and our corporate bodies we are a part of. With that thought in mind, I want to encourage you to keep pressing forward and to not allow your momentum to slow or your fire to go out by sharing some of the lessons I learned in my garden this year.
Lesson #1: Sowing and Reaping
Sometimes we plant seeds and nothing seems to happen! I felt like it would take forever before I had my first tomato this year! On the other hand, there are some things that grow really fast, but burn out fast, this was the case with my lettuce…we produced two good crops but then it was gone.
There are other things that take more than a long time; they also require patience and hard work. This was the case with my husband’s strawberries! He wanted to get a good base crop, so he focused on reproducing more plants this year instead of producing the crop.
What is the point I am making with all these examples? Some things will produce fast in your life. I believe God wants us to have those things to help us to persevere for the things that might take a little longer. Scripture tells us in Galatians 6:7-9 NASU
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Don’t get weary, and quit! If you sow in the spirit, you WILL reap in the spirit! Remember you can’t have different without commitment!
Lesson #2: Guard against Distractions
Just like weeds in a garden, distractions will choke the progress of growth. While I think we all understand the concept of weeds, I want to give you a very different visual. Using our raised bed for the first time this year, we didn’t know the challenge of planting our zucchini and yellow squash in the first section. Talk about a distraction! The large leaves overtook the entrance to the walkway and made it difficult to manage the rest of the crop. They also reproduced at a rate that there simply was not enough room for them to be housed in one section together. This picture shows the end result.
This is what distractions will do to you! You will be divided, not fully engaged in the plan God has for your life. Not fully committed or invested in growing spiritually. One day you are yellow the next day you are green! One day hot the next day cold, distractions will do that to you!
Let me tell you about distractions, they are often used as a tactic of the devil to take away your TRACTION for forward momentum! As soon as you start making some spiritual progress, the enemy wants you to be focused on something else to slow you down or detour you. He wants you to become DIVIDED!
We learned some lessons this year; we are NOT going to plant our zucchini and yellow squash there next year! We are going to put them in our barrels where there are boundaries! Sometimes we need to place some boundaries in our lives to stop the distractions the enemy brings our way!
Lesson #3 is about Preservation
We had such an abundance of tomatoes this year that I decided I was going to preserve some crushed tomatoes for cooking. Recently, I had to buy tomatoes for the first time in a few months and they just didn’t taste the same. Then later that same week, I decided to pull out a jar of the crushed tomatoes I preserved to make some chili, and I quickly remembered the difference in how these taste. Remember, if you want something different, you have to do something different!
This is just one of the things we preserved this year and we continue to benefit from the commitment even after the season is over. My point is, during a season of revival when you are making a new commitment, when you are fanning the flames, when you are stirring up the gifts, you will often get fresh revelation, new direction, a Word from God…you have to preserve it!
Don’t let what God is doing in you die with the first cold spell!
For some preserving it might be continuing to do something different and continuing to go after God with a completely new passion and energy. For others preserving it might be documenting some things you can go back and read at a later time. I am a real advocate of a spiritual journal. The reality is, if you don’t write it down, you will eventually forget it.
God will commune with you every day; He will meet you at your point of need and will give you direction. Those who are faithful with little, He will give much. If you will be faithful to do something with what He gives you, He will trust you with more!
I can take you to the day on July 9th in my journal when the Lord first spoke to me about my garden. On that particular day, I was calling out to God about prayers I had been praying and answers that seem are never coming.
He said to me, “You planted the seeds, now keep watering them…” In that moment of communing with the Lord, I continued to write. “We are learning first hand this year the work of gardening. It was such an investment to build, we will definitely stick with it. It requires daily watering and weeding and even when it produces – it is messy, so much work to do before the harvest is usable….It is not convenient, but the reward is worth it!”
Doing something different is NOT ALWAYS CONVENIENT, BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT!!
In closing, recently my grandson gave up on completing a difficult puzzle and it stayed unfinished on my dining room table for a few days. During that week, I was having my prayer time and I was telling God how so many things felt so BIG right then. He immediately reminded me of that unfinished puzzle sitting on my table with a gentle reminder, “if you just tackle one piece at a time, it won’t feel so big, and the puzzle will eventually be complete!”
That unfinished puzzle on my table now became my picture reminder to me that with God all things are possible and I needed to remember that when your commitment seems difficult to keep, remind yourself of your investment and focus on the reward. I needed that picture reminder that when you plant a seed, sometimes it doesn’t feel like or look like anything is happening on the surface, but if you will keep watering it, keep exposing it to the sunlight, something is eventually going to spring forth.
I needed that picture reminder that I couldn’t let the distraction of doubt, or feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances cause me to become double minded….I needed that picture reminder to put some boundaries up to guard against those things that would cause me to be distracted and lose traction.
That puzzle on my table became more than a silly challenge; it became a faith builder. Every time I walked by the table, I would stop and find a piece, put it in its place, and go on about what I was doing. I would remind myself that no matter how BIG the circumstances seemed, I would just take it one piece at a time. IF I WANT DIFFERENT, IT TAKES COMMITMENT! Before I knew it the picture was complete! Stay committed, when it seems tough, remember the investment, and focus on the reward.