A friend from Focusfest asked me to speak about Spiritual Health at a women’s event. I couldn’t because I was scheduled to work that day. And public speaking was never my gift & any inkling had been discouraged out of me. But also I really didn’t feel spiritually healthy myself. Not at all.
I know it’s about faith not feelings. But at that time I was feeling as spiritual as a cigarette (stub!) If I was part of the body, I was the runner’s fourth toenail. Missing in action- lying detached
But, the declined invitation made me think about spiritual growth.
There are analogies about plants & gardening throughout the Bible. And the thing is we can’t actually make ourselves grow.
‘So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’
(I Cor 3:7)
So what can we do? I found this helpful answer:
‘Our responsibility is to cultivate the soil of our hearts through sincere devotion & surrender-so He might find favourable ground to produce His fruit.’
We need to cultivate our hearts & make space for soul-care.
‘Soul space is not an end in itself, it’s not, but it is a way for us to place ourselves in the presence of God. And we can find him anywhere, even beneath the piles of busy, everyday life.
But sometimes we need something drastic. Something longer, something that will allow spacious places for deep work that can only happen in the silence.’
(Emily P Freeman)
We need to come away for a while from the distractions & stresses of the everyday.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
(John 15:4 MSG)
We need to make space to be connected to God. We can’t do anything in our own strength.
“Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.”
(John 15:5 MSG)
When we’re disconnected from God , we’re like a dead twig.
And I guess that’s the starting point for growth- Contemplating where we are at.
‘Sometimes when you are in a dark place, you think you have been buried, but you have actually been planted’
‘We must remove that hard crust on our hearts which desensitises us, so that we are open, tender and sensitive before the Lord.’
(Stephen Owen-Evangelical Times)
We need to confront our brokenness & sin.
‘I am just as in need of grace and forgiveness today as I have ever been. My life doesn’t look like Jesus’—it looks like someone who needs Jesus. And it is utterly exhausting (and counterproductive) to pretend otherwise.’
‘Jesus Christ knows the worst about you. Nonetheless He is the One who loves you the most’
We need to face our anxiety & fear.
‘And yet, freedom waits for the soul who is willing to walk back into the mess of itself, admit the truth, & wait for a real God to move..We can cling to grace at our centre & learn to preach the Gospel to ourselves in small, honest ways’
(Rebecca K Reynolds)
We need to be real with ourself & understand our true identity, then be comforted by God & trust Him for growth.
To flourish & grow we need to be nourished:
‘But blessed is the man who trusts me, GOD, the woman who sticks with GOD. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers-Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.’
We are fed spiritually by God’s Word:
‘Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.’
We are renewed by worship:
‘Worship does to the soul what a spring rain does to a thirsty field. It soaks down,seeps in & stirs life’
We need to break up bad habits & clear away life-weeds:
‘Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.’
(Hosea 10:12 ESV)
‘But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.’
(Galatians 5:22-23 MSG)
‘In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.’
(James 1:21 MSG)
And even our little acorns of faith may grow to ‘be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.’
(Isaiah 61:3 ESV)