Ever play that game Red Rover where two teams line up opposite each other, then call a player from the other team over, chanting “red rover, red rover, will … come over.” That player called has to break through the human chain wall to capture players from that side, or be captured himself. I remember playing this game as a kid, and always choosing the weakest spot in the chain to run through.
I think when it comes to our hearts, we need to remember that all of us have our weak spots, where it is easy for the enemy to break through and steal (John 10:10) whatever word has been planted in our hearts. It is his intention to look for the weak spot in our hearts and break through our defenses to steal.
Scripture warns us to “guard our hearts, because everything we do flows from it.” (Prov 4:23) We are also reminded in Phil 4:7 that the “peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds.”
It seems that there are threats to our spiritual garden and that we need to take actions to protect it.
It starts with the threats to our hearts: being able to absorb and implement the truth of God’s word.
In the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:3-8: The birds are present in the garden: some seed “fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” I think that it is important to remember that the birds are always present in the garden and that we have no control over whether they are there, or not. This would describe to me circumstances, difficult people, attitudes, habits, temptation and lies. We often don’t have control over the presence of these in our lives, or may feel that we have no control over these.
The presence of birds however enables them to snatch away the seeds of truth from your heart so that it cannot take root and help us grow. Jesus explained in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:15) that:
“Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”
We have an enemy that will use circumstances, difficult people, attitudes, habits, temptation and lies in any way he can, so that the Word of God will not take root in our hearts. Satan knows that when we believe this word and it grows into faith in our hearts that he will lose control over our lives.
To aid this process, he will cause us to be too busy, too distracted, to self-reliant for the Word of God and if that does not work, he will make sure that He steals it from our hearts and minds.
To deal with the birds, you need the biggest scarecrow you can find. The bigger your scarecrow is, the more effective it does its job, right?
a. Jesus is the biggest scarecrow in your life. The bigger Jesus becomes in your life, the more circumstances, attitudes, habits, lies and temptation will have less power over you – you will effectively scare the birds away. It is like realizing that you cannot control your environment, but Jesus is in control. The more we focus (keeping our eyes) on His sovereignty and control, the more Jesus is firmly established in your life, and the birds have less power to steal truth. It starts by making Jesus the center of your life, your first priority, the One you trust (Matt 6:33)
b. You also need to invest in a few other good scarecrows in your life, in the shape of faith-filled friends and family, that encourage you and help you to grow in faith? People who will remind you about truth, remind you what God has said to you and about you. Do you have a spiritual brother or sister who is also building a spiritual garden, coming to visit quite often and discussing the condition of your spiritual garden? Prov 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
c. Are you protecting your spiritual life with a hedge around your garden? A hedge around a garden has to be grown, it is not there right from the start. However, having a hedge is important to protect your spiritual life from those that would plunder it, like the little foxes. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Songs 2:15
For me, the hedge refers to spiritual habits and disciplines we develop as believers. These habits are not there instantly, they take a while to grow. Are you growing a hedge (growing spiritual disciplines that protect your spiritual life and growth)? Growing the hedge is disciplines of prayer, bible study, church attendance and fellowship to protect your spiritual life. These disciplines help your garden to grow and become stronger. They protect it from outside influence, or invasion by enemies that are out to destroy your garden. No matter how long you have been a believer, developing these disciplines and maintaining them is a lifelong pastime.
- Think back on your life in the last six months, to what extent has your spiritual life been bombarded by circumstances, difficult people, attitudes, lies, habits and temptations. Has it been easy for these to take a hold of your life and wreak havoc? How has the enemy used these tactics to steal your trust and belief in the truths you have learnt?
- If you had to make Jesus your first priority and the One you trust in every aspect of your life: to what extent would this bring a greater level of emotional peace and stability to your life? If you retrained all your thoughts to go past the scarecrow of Jesus, how many of these thoughts would stick around? What can you practically do to make Jesus more No 1 in your life?
- Do you have friends and family who are also cultivating their spiritual garden? What would you look for in their lives that would demonstrate to you that they are nurturing and keeping their spiritual garden? How can you go about making sure that you encourage each other on a regular basis? Do you enquire regularly about their spiritual walk, or do you expect them to always ask you, how you are doing? Even the strongest believer can have a weakness in their security system. One of the greatest strengths in my life has been a prayer partner. Someone who I meet with regularly to pray about our lives, together. Why not consider doing it with a close friend.
- What do your spiritual disciplines look like? Are you reading your bible regularly? Is prayer, worship and thanksgiving a characteristic of your daily walk with the Lord? Perhaps these disciplines could do with a rebuilding or refreshing in order to take the “ho-hum” that sometimes creeps into them, out!
Father, thank you for reminding me to guard my spiritual life, in particular my heart. Help me to put you first and foremost in my garden, so that You are larger than life itself. Help me to keep You in the center of my life and to fix my eyes on You. Help me find people in my life that will remind me of truth and correct me when I am getting it wrong. Help me to develop healthy spiritual disciplines by regularly spending time in your word, praying, attending church and spending time with good believing friends.
Next: Catch for us the Little Foxes
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A Vital Spiritual Discipline