One of the most beautiful cities in the world is Vancouver, British Columbia. In Victoria amid a background of rugged, snow-capped mountains and passing ships in the harbor, you can visit the Butchart Gardens: 55 acres of beauty, a dazzling display of flowers, manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed hedges and trees, with one purpose in mind – to please the eye and delight the senses of visitors.
But even a small garden planted with flowers or a more functional vegetable garden is a work of beauty and blessing when those caring for it remain vigilant in their battle against weeds, every garden’s bitterest enemy.
In recent months, as I have been reflecting on God’s Word, I was directed back to Isaiah 58. In this passage God tells His chosen family of faith, if they would listen to what He said and practice His commands, they would become a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring (v. 11 NLT).
I remember the night of 9/11 when I shared this message with a national television audience, a message I believe God wants us to hear again today.
As believers, we are to be God’s cultivated field, literally His garden.
God revealed to me that in the comfort and fruitfulness of my own Christian life and ministry, I had tolerated some weeds in my life, which is, in fact, the “garden of God.” One example was my appetite for food, especially sugar. It was damaging me physically, leading to borderline diabetes. Rather than controlling my appetite, it had often controlled me. The Father let me know that I must be very concerned about any issue He sheds light on and get that intruder (weed) out of His garden. A weed may not look like much, but it can have explosive potential. An ordinary-looking weed can be easily overlooked, but it can grow to have the painful effect of an infestation of briers.
From the beginning of creation, God has told us to be fruitful. In Isaiah 5, God said He made His people a fertile vineyard, planted with the finest grapes to bring forth abundant fruit. If we fail to be fruitful, we become brier-infested, pestilence-ridden, trampled, unproductive ground.
Paul said to the Corinthians that as believers, we are to be God’s cultivated field, literally “His garden.” According to the New Testament, the fruit of the Spirit-filled Christian life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
The result of this fruit in our lives will have a profound and transforming effect on those who behold our good works and see our Father glorified.
In Isaiah 58, which I referenced earlier, God calls His people to repentance. He tells them that He doesnot like the pretense of worship, going through the motions or acting as though He’s first when, in fact, they haven’t put Him first in their hearts. He goes on to explain that real fruitfulness is living in freedom, helping set captives free and becoming a source of provision and care for those in need (see vv. 5-6).
God says we are to share food with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and provide clothes for the naked. We are not to hide from our own family – whether it is our birth family, the family of faith or the worldwide family of people in need. He says when we recognize not only these needs, but the opportunity to meet them, salvation will come like the dawn and our wounds will quickly heal as He leads us forward and His glory protects us from behind (vv. 7-8 NLT).
He will restore our strength, making us a well-watered garden and an ever-flowing spring.
He also says we will call on Him and He will answer quickly if we will stop pointing fingers at one another, speaking accusations, refusing to reason together and spreading vicious rumors – in other words, participating in character assassination (v. 9). God wants us to live as a healthy, fruitful family of believers.
When we help those in trouble, our light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around us will be as bright as noon (v. 10 NLT). God will guide us and give us water when we are dry, and He will restore our strength, making us a well-watered garden and an ever-flowing spring, as I shared earlier (v. 11 NLT).
God goes on to say when we live in this fullness, in real intimacy with the Father and with the fruitfulness He expects, we will become a rebuilder of walls (v. 12 NLT). Some Bible versions indicate we will also restore the “age-old foundations.” In other words, we will return to the absolutes – His unshakable truth. We will begin to build our families and future on this unfailing rock.
Sadly, in these times we find many who follow after idols – celebrity, political power, position, money – and foolishly lack appreciation for the freedoms we have. Many in leadership have a know-it-all attitude, but Romans 1:22 reminds us that, while claiming to be wise, we can prove to be utter fools (NLT).
May God help us to recognize that if we tolerate the briers, the thorns and the pestilence in our own lives, we are going to see the problem explode in very painful and damaging ways.
God revealed to me that if He sheds His light on an unhealthy habit or practice – some weed or brier – we are to be as concerned about it as He is. We need to get rid of it. Remember, we don’t confess our sins to one another to feel better; we confess our sins that we may be made whole. God is calling for us to come together in wisdom, reason together, find divine guidance and walk in it. When we do, we will be a watered garden producing beautiful fruit pleasing to God and inspiring to a world in darkness.
My commitment is to be a well-watered garden, an overflowing spring, and to help awaken the church and the nation to the absolute necessity of returning to God’s truth with our whole heart. As followers of Jesus, we do not have to live in the cycle of defeat that has sadly characterized humanity and even Christians throughout history. We must seek intimacy with our Father in order to live in freedom and fullness, while demonstrating the fruitfulness of His Spirit for His glory alone! This is the only way to rebuild the walls and restore the foundation of our spiritual and national life.