Cultivating a Faith Garden

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  March 14, 2015

            Next Friday is the first day of Spring. Along with the warming temperatures, lengthening days, and budding new growth associated with the season, Spring is also a time new planting.
            For the avid gardener, it is an exciting time when you get out the tools that have been collecting dust all winter, start working the soil, planning the spring planting, trimming back the wild winter growth and weeds, and preparing the land to bring forth a harvest of bounty and blessing.
            A lot of work goes into having a successful garden, but the process ultimately remains just beyond the reach of the gardener. No matter how hard one tries, no gardener can manufacture the fruit. Only the plant can accomplish that magnificent miracle of God’s creation. It is, however, up to the gardener to do the hard work of cultivating a quality environment, provide necessary nutrition, and protect the plant from the destructive forces of weeds, drought, and insects which would only destroy the ultimate crop.
            The Apostle Paul understood this reality. When writing to the Galatians, Paul was deeply troubled because many of the believers were working really hard to manufacture the church. As with any well-tooled factory, the Galatian Christian Faith Factory was defined by precision rules and strict guidelines. They had very low tolerances and the theological precision of their control mechanisms allowed for very little variance.
            Although well-intended, this Factory of Faith had run amok. Rather than producing the desired righteousness and faith relationships with God, the Galatians were producing horrific Christians. Consider the laundry list of negative behaviors Paul lists in Galatians. Rather than giving glory to God, the Galatian Christians were guilty of fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels licentiousness, factions, envy, drunkenness, and carousing.
            Paul was speaking to a specific church, in a specific time, regarding very specific situations that he knew were destroying the Gospel and undermining the ministry to which all Christians were called. They were trying to manufacture a faithful church and control all aspects of the process. As a result, they were failing at being church, failing at developing a genuine faith, and failing at truly serving God even though they were working exceptionally hard at making it work.
            Paul realized that nobody through hard work can manufacture the fruits of genuine Christianity. All the rules, all the standards, all the creeds, all the structures and traditions that often define what is, and is not, Christianity will never produce the bounteous harvest that God desires for believers. It is like a gardener who tries to make fruit, rather than cultivate a healthy garden in which the fruit may grow and thrive!
            It is God who brings forth the fruit and Paul tells us in Galatians that we experience the miracle of God’s blessing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when it comes to bearing the fruits of the Spirit, no laws, no rules, no traditions, no buildings, no sermons, and no doctrines will be able to produce that which only God can bring about through the amazing gift of the Spirit in the life of the believer.
            Our job is to focus on tending the field where God brings forth blessing. Cultivating a healthy, affirming, and biblically grounded church prepares a garden where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control define God’s church.