Cultivating the Spiritual Life

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15 NIV)

If you’ve ever tried to grow something in a garden, whether it be fruit, vegetables or flowers, you know that having some gardening knowledge – and applying that knowledge – can make a huge difference in your crop.

I know some gardeners and farmers who are able to, year after year, produce bumper crops.

As for me, I am an extremely amateur gardener, and as a result, my garden production is hit and miss. Probably more miss.

Bottom line, I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

I understand the basics:

  • Keep the plants watered
  • Make sure they have sunlight (although some like a lot of shade)
  • Feed the plants now and then

But that’s about it.

I know that there are a lot of different “tricks of the trade” that I could employ to make my garden become way more productive. So, its not that I couldn’t learn to be a better gardener. Its just that I’m just not that interested. Even though I would love more production, I’m generally not willing to do the work to make it happen.

Here’s another thing I know: apart from God, I can’t grow anything.

I can’t make seeds, thus I am unable to manufacture a garden on my own.

Only God can make something germinate. But, through knowledge and discipline, I can impact the development and output of my garden.

As it is with my garden, so it is for many when it comes to the development of the spiritual life.

I can’t create a spiritual life. Only God can renew a heart and regenerate a soul.

But even if I can’t create a spiritual life, I can cultivate one. I can apply myself to certain practices that enhance the spiritual life that God has bestowed upon me. Yet, a lot of us treat our spiritual lives like I treat my garden.

We could invest time and energy into learning how to become more productive, but our lack of interest and lack of wherewithal prevent us from taking steps in that direction.

Truth be told, if I’m not growing as a follower of Jesus, that’s on me.

Throughout the scriptures, God reveals certain practices that help us move closer to him as well as become better equipped for ministry and mission.

Things like Bible study, prayer, Biblical meditation, fasting, and times away from all the noise are ways we can apply ourselves to better knowing God’s ways and His will.

Paul put it this way in a letter he wrote to Timothy:

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul’s point? If Timothy expected to grow in godliness, he would have to exert a degree of discipline. Put another way, Timothy ought not ever think that spiritual growth happens through passive osmosis. We must invest time, energy and thought.

V. Raymond Edman wrote:

Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down. Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to an entire generation that is largely illiterate in the scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can only come from discipline.

Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that our lack of desire to invest in our spiritual development doesn’t directly impact our spiritual maturity and spiritual production.