Growth Like a Garden
I have found it to be true throughout my life as a follower of Christ that there are times of great growth and closeness with God, and there are times where we feel very distant from the power and presence of the Almighty. In listening to many different stories and experiences from my friends about their own personal walks with Jesus, I have often found similar patterns and examples in their accounts of growth as Christians.
It was a week at church camp during the summer. It was building a house on a missions trip in South America. It was hearing the name of Jesus preached in an unknown language. It was staring into the face of an orphan, so overjoyed that someone would actually give them the time of day to be treated like a real person. It was seeing a life changed by the transforming power of the Gospel. These were the times of growth. These were the times where we saw God moving and we could not help but bear witness to His movements.
But we recount the times of our lives as a sapling, violently plucked from the soil like an intrusive weed in a flowerbed, our fragile roots torn from the warm soil that was God's embrace. All of our growth, choked out by the thorns and brambles of the sins we cannot overcome, tangled in the vines of our bitterness and anger, scorched by the white-hot rays of our pride and conceit, drowned in the rainstorms of our doubts and sorrows.
I have heard countless tales of mountaintop Christian experiences marked by incredible growth, an insatiable hunger for God's Word, and true Spirit-led work all done for the glory of God. Prayer was spoken with limitless power, the Gospel shared with all boldness and confidence, genuine encouragement used to edify and build up the Church. But as I have listened to people speak about their homecoming from camps, missions trips, and other life-changing experiences, there is always a hint of longing in their voices. There is always a desire to return to the place where growth was inevitable, where growth was expected, where growth was the reality of the day-to-day.
Upon returning home we enter back into the life we left behind with all of its problems, people, and struggles. We enter back into the mundane with a refreshed and revitalized Spirit, seeking to conquer the very gates of hell with the Shield of Faith in one hand and the sharpened Sword of the Spirit in the other. All around us listen eagerly to our tales of triumph over sin and spiritual battles, but there is no reciprocated boldness, there is no "call to arms," and in our being surrounded by a group of seemingly stagnant Christians, we lose our desire to grow.
But we cannot allow our growth to be determined by our surroundings or those that are surrounding us. Our growth is not determined by how much we read our Bibles, how many times we lift our hands during songs of praise, or how many hours we spend in prayer.
Our growth is wholly determined by our relationship with Jesus and the amount of power we give the Holy Spirit to truly move and work in our lives.
During the times you feel dismayed at your lack of growth, or just feel like God is far away, take the time to truly analyze your relationship with Christ. Is His grace sufficient for you? Is He what you begin and end your day with?
We must never leave the altar of worship we establish high in the mountains. The place where we knelt at the feet of God a faithful servant seeking only His will for our lives, that is where growth will occur. When we take our eyes off of Him, growth is impossible. We are daily being made into the image of His perfect Son. Let us never forget we strive not to be better versions of ourselves, but better representations of Christ to this world.
"After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”