I have recently taken to the idea of gardening. The thought of growing something from seed to table sounds appealing. The problem is I'm not a gardener. I have countless times proven that I do not have a green thumb. Nevertheless, I'm taking another crack at it.
When I first got the bug to garden, I began reading, watching videos, chatting with folks who've done it before all in an effort to figure out where to begin. With so much ground to cover I was unsure where to begin. Where I landed as a starting point may surprise you...I began by purchasing three 65 gallon barrels in an effort to collect rain water to eventually water my yet to be created garden. That project alone took up the better part of a weekend, building elevated platforms for their barrels to sit on, cutting into the downspouts of my house, fitting the barrels with spigots and overflow holes, making sure nothing leaked, etc. At the end of that first weekend I honestly didn't feel much closer to actually gardening but I knew deep inside that I was laying a foundation and that I had made progress.
My next weekend was spent building a 3-bin compost pile. A simple system built from metal stakes, two types of garden fencing and about 50 zip ties took up several hours a few Saturdays ago. At the end of the day I felt satisfied with my creation but had still yet to actually do any real gardening.
As I continued to survey my backyard I realized that to have success I would need to level the playing field...literally. The preferred spot for my future garden is in a slightly depressed area of my yard that quickly fills with water during any moderate rainfall. After a little research I'm in the process of having 2 yards of topsoil and 2 yards of playground mulch delivered to my driveway to use as a foundation for my "yet to be built" raised garden beds.
Speaking of those raised garden beds, I have to even purchase the first board to build them. The topsoil is on back order because of our recent rains and currently the seeds I have purchased have only been planted in tiny cardboard pots and currently reside on a table in my family room.
If you were to swing my house today and took a look around you would see little evidence of actual gardening. I you stood in my backyard you wouldn't see a garden. But I see it. I can clearly see a well maintained, flourishing garden right there in my backyard. I can almost taste the peppers, zucchini, broccoli, banana peppers, strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes that will come from that yet to be created garden.
Friends, allow me to draw some parallels from my "almost garden" experience to our spiritual lives. Water and soil are vital to my success, without them all my efforts will be in vain, they are the foundation on which to build a successful garden. Long before I planted my first seedling in a tiny pot I was installing rain barrels and building a compost pile. The right groundwork has be laid down before the first harvest ever takes place.
In the same way it's vital that we lay down a foundation for our spiritual development. The Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ Himself is the Cornerstone (Psalm 118 & Acts 4). We are in need of no one and nothing else to enter into right relationship with God. When I speak of "foundation" I'm referring to those areas of life that we often forget to tackle in an effort to just get to "right living". Right living is so difficult if we don't first have right thinking and we develop right thinking as we immerse ourselves in the truth of God's Word, develop and practice a prayer life and stay connected to other believers. Too often we fail to set ourselves up for success when we try to go it alone without the right foundation.
I think that's why people so often struggle to develop deep study habits, an intentional prayer life and fail to foster deeper relationships with other believers. We just don't see the results we were hoping to see. We read but we don't fully comprehend so we throw in the towel. We pray but we feel like the answers we wanted didn't come, so we stop praying. We try to reach out and make friends with other believers but we soon discover that our feelings have been hurt or we feel left out so we quickly give up and think "What's the point?" Rest assured that if you've felt that way, you're not alone. Countless Christians struggle to lay a strong foundation of spiritual development.
The good news is that it's never too late to start laying the right foundation that will lead to your spiritual success. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) says, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
Make a plan to carve out time each day to dig into God's Word. Read a devotional, use your favorite Bible app, pick a book of the Bible and just immerse yourself in it. Read it, re-read it and then read it again. Talk to others about what you're reading, ask questions, seek wisdom from those whom you trust in the things of God.
Write out your prayer concerns, record how God responds even if you don't like the answer. Map out a prayer strategy like: A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication). Talk to others about their prayer concerns, pray with them.
Get connected to other believers. Join a small group (via Facetime or Skype for the next few weeks). Subject yourself to the truth of God's Word through preaching, teaching, podcast, etc. Dwell on the things of God.
Right living comes naturally when right thinking comes first. Make a commitment to lay a strong foundation for your own spiritual development. My garden will come, I will eat what I've grown but for now I'm busy collecting water and creating quality soil. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.