I remember it like it was yesterday, and it still makes me
sick to my stomach. I had a big paper due the following morning during my
freshman year of college. I had worked for weeks researching, writing, editing
and getting everything just right … and then I lost it. My computer failed, and I
lost my work. It was the worst feeling. There’s something about projects — like
my paper — that make them terrible to reproduce. I hate redoing work I’d
Another area of my life I hate losing ground is in my
spiritual growth as a Christian. I hate when I work hard to shake a bad habit
or establish a regular discipline and then over time slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s just me, but there have been times throughout my life that I’ve had
to learn the same lessons over and over again. And I hate it. Just like losing
that paper, I hate having to start again and redo what I’d already done.
A great moment of insight came for me in this regard when I
learned the Christian life is less like a project and more like a plant.
Projects, whether at work, at school or at home, often have tangible points of
accomplishment you can check off. Like painting a bedroom, it’s very easy to
see the progress you’ve made which is often motivation to keep going. And we
usually don’t have to redo what we’ve accomplished. When we’re done, we’re
However, the growth of plants is less obvious
moment-by-moment. Plants require regular attention and upkeep. Plants need to
be fed and watered regularly, or they will dry up. Whether a plant is
flourishing or struggling, leave it alone, and it will decay and eventually die.
The Bible regularly compares spiritual life to things that grow and thrive. Jesus
described His relationship with His followers as a vine and its branches (John
15:1-11) and himself as the “living water” (John 4:10-14). The Psalmist
describes righteousness as flourishing like a palm tree and growing like a
cedar in Lebanon (92:12) Isaiah compared the spiritual life to grass and
willows by a flowing stream (44:3-4). It seems plants are a very common biblical
descriptor of the Christian life.
I find this truth comforting because it offers a helpful explanation
for all my backslidings and declensions. It’s not that my life is a project
that regularly needs to be redone, but rather is a plant that regularly needs care.
Those times that I’ve slipped back into old habits and patterns, I wasn’t getting
the spiritual nutrition it needed and just like a plant, began to show signs of
I believe we sometimes think of the Christian life as a
series of plateaus. Once we make it to the next level, we can relax because we made it. Our relaxing
makes us lazy, and we forget to feed our souls on Christ. As we neglect this
living water, our spiritual life starts to wither and we slip back to old sins.
Frustrated, we give up and figure the Christian life must just be too hard.
The good news is that the answer is plain. We merely need to
keep ourselves in regular communion with Christ. The more of Christ we enjoy
the more our lives flourish. And like plants, we never lose our need for the nourishment
of communion with Him. We never arrive and lose our need for more. Just as our
stomachs require food several times a day, so our spiritual lives also need
So believer, if you would see your spiritual life thrive, do
not neglect its regular feeding. Spend time regularly thinking about Christ, praying
to Christ and meditating on the greatness of Christ in God’s Word. It is our growing knowledge
and faith in Him that transforms us into His image. He will be solid food for
your spiritual life, and you will find yourself thriving and flourishing in ways
you could have never imagined. Feed on Christ. Repeat.