Cultivating Healthy, Deep, and Lasting Faith
Have you ever heard of the term, black thumb? It’s used to describe someone with a notable inability to make plants grow. I am that someone! I have killed every plant that has ever entered my home and also all vegetation outside my home. It’s so bad I have even killed a cactus.
Scripture is known for using many agricultural references to communicate ideas of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, all I can associate agriculture with is death. Even more unfortunately death does have a strong theme in the Bible’s use of plant metaphors. We see in the parable of the sower that there was a lot of death and only one scenario where life was found. This caused me to pay attention.
The first deadly heart condition in the parable is an uninvolved heart. To be uninvolved is to be unconnected or unconcerned with someone, especially on an emotional level. This heart resists repentance, obedience, love, and the reality of its own desperate need for Jesus. This heart can hear scripture, read scripture, and continually be fed with Gospel truth and yet nothing is produced.
When the seeds of the Gospel fall on such hearts, they are immediately snatched away by the enemy of our souls. They are easy to snatch because in an uninvolved heart, the top layer is hard, not allowing any seeds to penetrate. Let us meditate on Hebrews 3:12-13 (ESV) to break the ground of this heart condition. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews warns us against this kind of heart because our fate will be like those Israelites lost in the desert, never seeing the Promised Land. Instead, we must encourage personal commitment to “take care” and seek godly community for daily encouragement. This will break up the hard ground and let the seeds of truth get in.
The second deadly heart condition is the opportunistic heart. Although we are talking about heart conditions, this one takes place in the mind and never really reaches the heart. This heart becomes temporarily interested in the beauty of God’s truth and His blessings become the reason for commitment. A person with this heart begins strong and begins to see growth, but at the first sign of trouble or persecution, there is immediate death.
Unlike the last heart's condition, the topsoil here is soft and receptive but lying underneath is a hard rock that prevents root life from flourishing. The hot sun comes and since there is no change of heart, no connection to deep underground nutrients; it dries up and dies. In order to unlock the depth needed for growth we must meditate on 1 Peter 4:12-14 (NIV). Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
We must understand that our suffering is a chance for God’s glory to be revealed in and through us and that the Holy Spirit of God has chosen to rest on us. Any suffering in this life is far outweighed by the glory of the life to come! This truth opens up the depths of our souls for roots to flourish.
The last deadly heart condition is the distracted heart. This heart understands the truth of God’s work, and knows that trials will come, but has allowed its environment to influence it. God’s priorities slowly get overtaken by the cares of this world and the pursuit of riches. Unlike the first two, this heart experiences a slow death, almost unnoticeable.
This heart slowly begins to believe that it is missing out on some “good thing,” and that the world has something of value to offer. Instead of giving in to the lies we must meditate on 1 John 2:16-17 (CSB) For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions — is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
To overcome a distracted heart, we need to set our eyes above, on the kingdom, on God’s word that is eternal. We need to rise above the temptation to give in to the cares of this world. This truth produces what is eternal in us.
I realized too late that the reason I killed my cactus is that I overwatered it. This can also be true for how we tend our hearts. We can become so focused on where we are, how far we’ve come, or how much more we have left to go, that we forget this garden belongs to the Lord. As long as we remember to … seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for us. Then we don’t have to worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34; CSB)
A good heart, like a good harvest, is in the Lord's hands. Trust Him. We grow by looking at the Son as our source of life; not by staring at ourselves searching for evidence of growth.
|Vanessa Bonilla lives with her husband, Eli, in Brooklyn, NY where she homeschools their five children. Vanessa is also the Children’s Director at her church, and she loves fire pits, friends, and spending time with her family.