My dad sometimes got exasperated with me. He sometimes got exasperated with me and, looking back, I can’t say I blame him. After all, while his passion was to nurture life within his precious gardens, mine was to kick back with a good book. While his burden was to do things well, mine was to do them with the least effort possible. I’m sure I didn’t make much of an employee on those days I accompanied him to job sites.
For a number of years much of dad’s work was done on a rich man’s estate not far from here. I remember a day when he brought me along to help him plant some flowerbeds. He dug the holes and I dropped a flower into each one, then pressed the soil back around the roots. When all had been planted, he left me to water while he turned his attention to other matters.
I took the hose in hand, gave everything a quick spray, then got my book from the truck and settled against a tree to catch up on some comics. Sure enough, he soon hauled me back to the flowerbed to water it all again. “I told you to water everything well and I expect you to do it. Do it again, and this time do it right!”
I guess I learned a lesson that day, though in retrospect it was rather an obvious one. I learned that you can’t just give freshly-planted flowers a quick spray in the heat of a Canadian summer and expect them to take root. Rather, you need to give the soil a deep soak. If you don’t, the sun will quickly dry the ground, the roots will be scorched, and the flowers will die.
The Bible often draws spiritual lessons from the natural world and there is one for us to gain here. Had dad failed to correct my negligence, it would have been no surprise when we returned the next week to find that those flowers had withered and perished. And there would have been no need to speculate on the cause of death. We would have known that because we failed to water the flowers, we failed to nourish them and give them any chance to grow.
And in much the same way, there are many Christians who do not grow spiritually precisely because they go unnourished. They may hope for life and health, they may hope to thrive and to bloom beautifully, but they cannot because they will not avail themselves of the means God provides. They do not pour over the words of sacred Scripture, they do not labor in prayer, they do not exert effort in being faithful to worship and serve in the local church. They may dabble in these things—their eyes may flit over the Bible, their mouths may recite a few memorized prayers, their feet may occasionally lead them to church—but they do not commit to them, they do not give themselves to them, they do not take full advantage of God’s provision.
Had I failed to water the garden, I would have had no cause to be surprised when I returned to find the ground dry, the roots parched, the flowers withered and faded. And if you, my friend, fail to nourish your soul, you have no cause to be surprised when your soul feels dry, when your faith feels parched, when you seem only to whither and fade. For the God who is so eager to give you his sanctifying grace, tells you how you can expect to receive it, the means through which he pours it out upon you. It is for you to receive, to drink deeply, and to thrive.
(To that end, you may enjoy my book Knowing and Enjoying God which shares quotes from a host of Christians on how to grow in your faith and develop a rich relationship with God)