This year, we tried to grow strawberries.
We purchased young plants, laid a foundation for them, added some soil, followed the directions to get the plants into the ground, and waited expectantly.
The plants did start to grow quickly. And, we did find a few little strawberries, some of which were mouth-wateringly delicious. But, that was it. A handful of little bitty strawberries, followed by nothing.
Well, I can’t exactly say nothing. Lots of green. But no strawberries.
Meanwhile, though, another vine has grown quite well in the same soil. And some grass. And a few other weeds. No matter how much we have tried to keep them out of the strawberry patch, they have stubbornly returned. And they grow well. Very, very well.
The same soil denies growth to the strawberries but allows the weeds to flourish.
What about our spiritual soil?
I suppose the real question is not about our soil but about our ability to discern whether the growth is fruit or weeds. You see, some weeds resemble desirable plants. The vine that is working very hard to take over our strawberry patch (and many other places in our yard) is not an ugly vine. In fact, looking out my window today, I see some pretty purple flowers on the vine. To an unpracticed gardener like myself, it might often be difficult to determine what is weed and what is actually a desirable plant.
And, sadly, the same is true spiritually. Many, many things sprout up from our spiritual soil that seem to be great spiritual fruit. Productivity at church. A great feeling of communion and community through a Bible study or other small group. Or even a belief that we “know” what Scripture is saying about this topic or that.
How can we tell if our spiritual growth is fruit or weeds?
1) Real growth always points to Jesus Christ. There will be a desire to glorify Him, draw closer to Him, and honor Him in every way.
2) Real growth dives deeply into the Word of God. It is not topical, nor is it focused on limited portions of Scripture. A passion for the whole of Scripture is evident.
2) Real growth deepens our hunger. We won’t be able to get enough. We’ll want more of Scripture, more of Christian community, and more growth for ourselves and those around us.
3) Real growth is unselfish. This is most evident in that small group time. Do we just want more of our group, or do we want more of God’s work, whatever that looks like? If we just want more of our group, it’s not real growth.
4) Real growth results in a passion for the lost and for growth in other believers. We want to see the kingdom expanded, and we’re willing to do what it takes to accomplish that.
Real growth does not crave comfort. It is never satisfied with the knowledge and understanding already gleaned. And it cannot be contained. It desires to explode and expand, and it is not satisfied with staying as it is.
My strawberry plants cannot move to new soil. In fact, it’s really too late for me to do anything about them this year. Next year, I want to do more to provide better, richer, more nourishing soil. I want to do more to rid our strawberry patch of the random weeds and annoying, invasive vine. I want to create an environment for my strawberries to grow well.
As believers, we don’t have to wait for next year, though. We can check our soil today. We can evaluate our growth and do what we need to do to make sure that what we see growing in our lives is true fruit, not weeds.
What’s growing in your soil?