“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
For the last several years, my wife and I have dabbled in gardening. I say “dabbled” because each year has brought more frustration than juicy cucumbers. First, we realized the importance of finding a spot that gets enough sunlight. Then, we discovered the joys of unfit or exhausted soils. Most recently, we’ve found how much deer like to nibble on just-about-to-bloom plants.
Master gardeners we are not. All those visions of vegetables and fruits dancing in our freezer have met the brown reality of stunted corn and shriveled peas.
You see, we come at this with some serious deficiencies. Namely, we have no idea what we’re doing. Everything we’ve learned about clays and fertilizer and propping up pumpkin vines has come from a book I picked up at Tractor Supply and various YouTube videos. We’ve cut back the weeds on our ignorance page by page because neither of our families really did much in the way of horticulture (unless you count cutting the grass).
But that doesn’t mean we’ve been completely unsuccessful. In fact, every time we pick something from our garden that’s actually edible, it’s pretty much a party. “We have beans. Who wants to do the bean dance?” I have no shame when it comes to herbal success.
Perhaps that’s because my spiritual growth has come pretty much the same way. Everything I’ve learned about God, salvation, faith, and love has come from the Bible I picked up in 2003 (and all the others since then) and the examples of Christians I’ve met along the way. I stumbled along for years, trying to figure out my newfound freedom in Christ, trying to grasp what it means to be an effective ambassador for Him.
Over and over, I kept trying to make things grow. I’d rush to this fad for spiritual success, dig into this surefire method to overcome my sin nature, and pluck up whatever Christian book that had the answers. Surely the next one would help me be fruitful. Surely this pastor/writer/author/blogger has the best answers for how I can really do what God wants.
The whole time, I missed what Paul said to the Philippians: “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” The fruit comes from Him. God prepared the works for us (Ephesians 2:10), and He provides the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Those other sources of wisdom are fine, but they were never any substitute for Christ being formed in me (Galatians 4:19).
It takes time (and will take much, much more), but I wouldn’t trade it for all the juicy cucumbers and plump beans in the world, even the ones in my own little garden.