Having a green thumb is something I’ve always wished I had, but has only in recent months started to become my reality (thanks to my husband, Chris). Most of my attempts to grow plants, whether indoor or outdoor, have resulted in less than ideal situations, mainly, me throwing away a dead plant. Many people suggested I try succulents or aloes, because they are easier and don’t need as much care, but I am sad to report that they too met with the same unfortunate end as any other plant or flower I have tried to nurture into a flourishing foliage.
Chris and I moved into our first house in the summer of 2019, so this past spring was the first time we ever planted a flower and vegetable garden together! Chris owns and manages a landscaping business and is also a HUGE lover of all things nature! I’ve learned so much from his expertise, but to my surprise and enjoyment, the Lord has also been teaching me about His nature and His Kingdom through our garden. This shouldn’t surprise me seeing as how He started everything in a garden (Genesis 2:15) and He has weaved deep truths about who He is into the creation that He made so perfectly (Romans 1:20)!
During His ministry, Jesus spoke in parables and used nature many times to teach people: mustard seed of faith (Matthew 17:20), fig tree (Luke 21:29-33), oaks of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) are just to name a few! Chris and I have continually marveled at how many spiritual parallels there are when it comes to the simple act of gardening! Since I’m staying at home with our 10-month-old baby boy, I have had the job this spring and summer to water our flower beds, plants and vegetable garden in the mornings. I’ve loved having this as part of the routine in the morning with my son, but many times I still need Chris’ guidance. So, some days I will call him and ask if I should water the flowers and plants, the garden or both. Since he landscapes throughout the spring and summer, he is in tune with the weather forecast and how much rain is coming. Sometimes he will say to me, “Yeah, it’s been dry and we aren’t going to get rain anytime soon, so you can water everything.” Other days he will say, “We’ve had a lot of rain lately and there is more coming in the forecast, so maybe just water the garden and the flowers that don’t have mulch around them.” Most recently he has started to say, “You can water the garden, but you don’t have to water certain plants and flowers because they are well established.”
Well established. This phrase kept ringing in my spirit as God was teaching me through our garden. What does that mean? A gardening book or website will tell you that a plant that is “well established” means that the gardener has provided enough care at the outset of the plant’s life in order for that plant to develop the healthy and widespread root system it needs to absorb moisture and nutrients. Once a plant is well established, it may still need some watering, but not as much, and the level of support it needs decreases.
The Lord has been using this phrase of “well established” to teach me about maturity and discipleship. We all, in the Body of Christ, are called to mature in our relationship with the Lord, demonstrating through the years that we have become “well established,” and not needing to be continually watered and nurtured by those around us (Hebrews 5:12-13). Please understand that I’m speaking about spiritual maturity and not isolation. I know God created us for community, and being part of the Body of Christ is a necessary and wonderful part of being in God’s family! What I’m suggesting is that we continue to mature to a place spiritually that we are getting what we need to feed our spirit from our time with Jesus and through His Word by His Spirit. This is also our aim with discipleship. There needs to be watering and nurturing when plants begin in seed form and are just beginning to take root. They need a lot of care and attention in the right conditions (lighting, spacing, soil type, etc) in order to grow properly. They need this almost daily because they are still fresh and new. When sons and daughters first come into the Kingdom, I believe they greatly benefit through discipleship from a faithful believer who has walked with the Lord through the trials and triumphs of life, and who displays the fruit of godly character and lives like Jesus! Could God do this through His Holy Spirit without another believer present? Yes, I know He can, but I believe His desire is for us to grow TOGETHER so that we all grow up into Him in all things (Ephesians 4:15). In this discipleship process, we should come to a point when we have trained a new believer to have a sturdy root system and firm foundation that they can begin to grow on their own without as much daily attention and “watering.” Jesus instructs us in the Word with the following command: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)
Three other verses come to mind when I think of the Body of Christ becoming well established:
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. (Hebrews 13:9)
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)
Each of these three verses uses a different Greek word for “establish.”
Bebaioo: to establish, make sure, of men made steadfast and constant in soul
Themelioo: to make stable, establish, ground
Sterizo: to strengthen, make firm
You can study these more using a concordance or Blue Letter Bible. However, it’s clear that all three have a similar meaning. The Lord wants our hearts established in grace, in love and in truth. Ultimately, we need to be established in Christ and in Christ alone, and train others to do the same. My personal favorite is the Romans 16 verse, because it reminds me that WE are a planting of the Lord and HE is the one who establishes us! Praise God!
So, this exhortation is two-fold. If we are leaders or maturing believers, are we making disciples who are growing into a place that they can be considered well established? My second question to you is, if you were a flower or a plant in a garden, could you truthfully and honestly say that you are “well established?” Are you able to draw the living and life-giving water from the Word and your intimate relationship with Jesus? I believe there are times in all of our lives that we still require some “nurturing” and “watering” from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, because I believe God made us for fellowship with Him and each other (1 Corinthians 12). However, I know the Lord wants us to get to a place where we can also be mature enough to go directly to the source...Him. My desire for you, beloved brother or sister, is that you would be FLOURISHING and a FRUITFUL planting of the Lord wherever you are and whatever you are going through in this season. We know from the Word that the only way we can bear fruit is to abide in Christ and allow our roots to go down deep, deep, DEEP into His unending love for us.
Here is a picture of my husband, Chris, and our son, Roman. We love Isaiah 61 and the reference to oaks of righteousness, so one day we looked for an oak tree to take a picture in front of. Although we were looking for a mighty oak, the only one we could find was this little one. We knew the Lord was most likely teaching us even through that circumstance, and my husband (in true, wise Chris fashion) said, “Well, all trees have to start somewhere.” No matter where you are in your maturing process, we ALL have room to grow and we ALL started at the same place--needing Jesus! Hallelujah!