It hardly seems possible that this issue of the Gazette marks the move into the second half of the year. As I write I am preparing to go to the Bala Ministers’ Conference. In the publicity this year it says“The Bala conference is for pastors who love Christ and want to see the gospel at work in people’s lives.” The understanding and expectation is that the Gospel will bear fruit and change people’s lives. We are also at that time of year when our gardens are beginning to flourish and we look forward to the time when we will be able to “reap a harvest”, but any gardener will tell you the journey between seed and fruit is fraught with problems.
I was visiting in hospital recently and the patient was remembering that their garden would be in full flower, but they said “I do hope the slugs won’t eat them all.” We were eating breakfast one morning and I could see the sparrows swooping down and pecking, as I thought, at the roses. On closer examination they were doing us a good turn by eating the green fly. Sometimes you will see leaves crumpling up and dying off. It may not be obvious, but some little creature has got in, either to the leaf itself or into the roots and is doing its worst. On other occasions you get the mixed blessing of heavy rain. Rain is essential for growth, but when it comes heavily on flowers that are in full bloom, a wonderful display can suddenly be crushed.
In our Christian lives we are like the flowers and fruit in a garden. In fact the Lord uses that picture in John 15 where he says that we are the branches of The Vine. He explains that at times pruning has to take place in order that fresh growth might be stimulated. If you are reading this as a Christian today then God wants you to grow, no matter what age you are. He is preparing us for eternity, but just like a garden there are things that will hinder that growth. Slugs can seem incredibly lazy creatures. They might move slowly, but when they get something to eat they will gorge themselves and leave the plant decimated. Be careful about what you allow to creep up into your life and start to eat into your time and priorities.
If our roses had feelings I am sure they would be upset by ‘heavy’ birds landing on them and then insisting on pecking them, but in actual fact those are the faithful wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend). There are times when friends have to point out to us that we have allowed things into our lives that will ultimately distort the beauty that Christ wants to develop in us. On the whole green fly will not completely destroy a flower, but they will prevent their full beauty from developing. Be careful about what is distorting your spiritual growth.
Those crumpled leaves are incredibly difficult for the amateur gardener. There seems to be nothing obvious, but whatever it is it has got in unnoticed and is doing its worst. For the Christian this can often be the secret sins that no one else sees. Moses wrote, “Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart …” (Deuteronomy 15:9) As human beings we are all sinners, but when we come to Christ in repentance he forgives that sin, however we can enjoy sin and not be prepared to fully destroy it in our lives. It will destroy us. In a day of the internet and isolated living it is easy to cultivate secret sin, but Paul says
If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13
Make sure that you are not allowing your Christian life to be ruined by secret sins – put them to death!
The final problem in my gardening picture was heavy, untimely rain. A crop of grain can be virtually impossible to harvest if a sudden deluge hits it just before it is ready to be cut, because it gets flattened and the combine harvester cannot get underneath it properly. Some hymns speak of ‘showers of blessing’. We all want God’s blessing on both our church and personal life, but when we seek the blessing rather than God then we have missed the point. We can allow blessing to become an idol in our lives.
So as we journey through the seasons of life, let us keep close to God and seek His help to put off anything that will damage the harvest of righteousness in our lives, thus preventing proper preparation for heaven.