You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure[a] hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, and may[b] the Lord give you understanding in all things.
~2 Timothy 2:1-7
I have this insidious weed growing in my gardens. I don't know what it is and haven't bothered to find out. I just know that I find it extremely annoying. It is everywhere. It's this clover-like weed with little yellow flowers and tiny little thorns. It spreads like crazy, it seems. As soon as I pull them up, I find them growing somewhere else! As I was weeding this evening, I was reflecting on this and how it relates to the condition of my heart. It's another one of those times where my studies in the Word with 2 Timothy are coming to life! I love that! (Love the lessons, though not the weeds)
This past week in our Sword Studies, we studied the three examples Paul gives in 2 Timothy of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. I can identify fairly well with each example. Though I am not personally a soldier, I live very close to one and know quite a bit about the world of a soldier. I probably most identify with the athlete, having been a serious one at a stage of my life. I also grew up on a farm and know about the work entailed in farming. As I was weeding, you can guess I was thinking of the farmer. And "hardworking" is sure a good description of a good farmer (and a good athlete and a good soldier)!
There are things I wrestle with. Insidious weeds like to take root in my heart and choke out the seeds of the gospel. I'm not always sure how many of them get there and others I can have some idea about. I find that some of these weeds have strong roots. I'll pull them up from time to time and sigh a breath of deep relief, only to have them grow back again. Not only that. It seems they can spread sometimes and become bigger. Just like that clover weed in my garden, it annoys me terribly. For I wish that I could pull it up and have it be gone forever. Somehow it doesn't seem to work that way. It usually comes back.
I think the enemy knows our weakness. In fact, I am convinced of it. I am regularly attacked in that particular place of weakness. In my ear I can't help hearing Dorcas Lane in "Lark Rise to Candleford" as she always says--"It is my one weakness." When I pull weeds in my garden and ask the Lord why it is that I can't seem to uproot this weedy seed in my heart permanently, I tend to think it is time to get out the big guns. You know, some Spiritual Roundup or something. Surely it exists somewhere.
How do I continue to be that hardworking farmer? I keep working on those weeds. I must take my thoughts captive (hard as it may be). Part of cultivating good fruit seems to be the inevitable pulling of weeds. It is one way I "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." And who can forget elsewhere that Paul says that His power is perfected in my weakness? Ouch. Must it be so? I rather like operating from a position of strength better.
To help counteract these weeds, I find the best solution is to feed and cultivate the fruit. Where more fruit lives, there is less space for weeds. The biggest antidote is to feed on the Word of God. Over and over and over again until it sinks into my heart. I'll admit there are moments I do this and think, "It's not working!" That usually means do it again. And do it until it starts to sink down deep into the roots. This summer the verses I am memorizing are really being called into action many times. And I have to keep saying (or singing) them over until I "get it." It really does work if I keep at it. Must be why this is called a spiritual discipline? I think so!
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
~1 Timothy 1:15-16
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
~2 Timothy 2:15
Truly, one of my greatest joys in gardening is that it provides me with endless lessons about my life in Christ.