Psalm 92:12-15 New International Version Bible (NIV)
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
It’s been lovely lately to see all the trees and flowers starting back into life; spring is my favourite season of the year when everything is “flourishing”……what a great word!
Now there are a few meanings to the word flourish depending on the context in which it is being used, the meaning I want to concentrate on today is “to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way”.
I would like each of us, including me, to ask ourselves two questions:
1) Am I flourishing in God?
2) If not what do I need to do to flourish in my walk with God?
“Am I flourishing?”
Is my walk with God strong, healthy and vigorous? Or am I stale, stuck in a rut, at a standstill? Is my Bible dusty? My prayer life lacking? Is my spirituality dying? I need to ask myself these questions regularly, and if any of that sounds familiar then we need to ask ourselves the second question…
“What do I need to do to flourish in my walk with God?”
I read the scripture here in Psalm 92, and it says in v92 the “the righteous will flourish like a palm tree”.
I love palm trees, especially if I’m sitting under one on the beach!! They are very strong – have you ever seen a palm tree withstand a hurricane? They give welcome shade from the heat of the sun, and they give us food. Usually they are seen growing in idyllic places by the sea.
This started me thinking about other trees and flowers; and I was thinking about what they need to grow. I love my garden, but I have to tend it properly for the flowers to grow and flourish. Now I’m no expert on plant biology and physiology but I do know that, generally plants need certain things to grow. They need:
A good air supply
Right soil to grow in
It’s the same for us; we need certain things to help us grow physically, but also to grow spiritually.
Plants need light
I suffer with something called SAD during the winter because of the lack of daylight and which sometimes make me feel really depressed so I use a special lightbox to top up. Spiritually we need as much light as possible…by that I mean SONlight. The light that comes from Jesus, the light of the world.
We need to be close to Jesus, everyday to be looking to Him, through good times as well as bad times. I think sometimes there is a danger of almost ignoring God when everything is going well and then suddenly a problem comes along and we go running back to Him for help, crying that the devil is having a go! Well let’s not give the devil any glory here, I think sometimes it’s God ruffling our comfortable nest and drawing us back to him, gaining our attention and focus again! He’s saying, “Hey remember Me?”
And the closer we stay to God the closer we are to His light and the more we will become like Him. I remember a long time ago now, talking to a Christian friend about something that bothered me. I had watched something on TV that left me feeling really troubled. I’d watched stuff like it before I was a Christian, no problem. So I spoke to my friend about it and she said that is was only human nature to want to watch such things, but as I was getting closer to the Lord, His light in my life was revealing to me that it was wrong, and that’s why I felt like that. You see the closer we get to His light the more He will show up and reveal things in our lives that need changing. Just like the natural sunlight is showing up my dirty windows at home, I really need to clean them, so the supernatural light of Jesus will reveal things in our lives; and not just sin but it will also give us direction about our decisions and knowing God’s will.
We need to, as it says in Hebrew 12:2, “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus”, and then we’ll see the clear picture. Proverbs 4: 25-27 also says “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
I have this very clever book called Magic Eye, you may have seen them. They have pictures in them that look like nothing really, just a lot of colour; but you have to look at them in a certain way to see something beautiful. You have to fix your gaze on the picture and don’t look away or you’ll miss the beauty of what’s hidden. We need to be fixed on Jesus, to see His beauty.
Plants need water
So do we in the form of the Holy Spirit. We need the water that only Jesus can give. John chapter 4 Jesus meets the woman at the well, you know the story. It says:
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)
1Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”-
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
We need that spring of living water welling up inside us every day. We can’t get through life without this anymore than we can live naturally without water, it’s essential. The Holy Spirit is Christ living in us and through us, Acts 1v8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” How amazing is that? We shall receive power! I could use some of that!
If I don’t drink enough water I get dehydrated, I feel lethargic, I get a headache, and if I left it too long my kidneys wouldn’t like it either. If we are not constantly filled with the Holy Spirit we will become weak and “spiritually dehydrated”, we’ll shrivel up in our spirit. Every day ask God to fill you afresh and see what happens.
Plants need a good air supply.
|Conditions||Photosynthesis v respiration||Overall result|
|Oxygen taken in
Carbon dioxide given out
|Dim light||Photosynthesis rate equals respiration rate||Neither gas is taken in or given out, as each cancels the other out|
|Bright light||Photosynthesis rate greater than respiration rate||Carbon dioxide taken in
Oxygen given out
They need to breathe, just like we need to; I see my prayer life as my spiritual air supply, my lifeline to God. I need to spend time talking to God, it’s the only way I’ll get to know Him. It’s the only way we get to know each other isn’t it? So why should it be any different for God. When we spend time with God we’ll be different and we’ll be able to give out to others what we’ve taken in from the Lord; we’ll be wiser, and we’ll know His will more and more. When Moses came back down the mountain after being with God his face shone! He was different!
So how often do we take time just for “me & God”? Jesus did it all the time!
Mark 1:35 – “He arose and went out to a lonely place to pray”
Mark 6 – “He departed to the mountain to pray”
Luke 4 – “He departed to a lonely place”
Jesus was in constant communication with His Father. Are we? We can have so many excuses! Usually it’s “I don’t have time”.
Think about all the things we do have time for…
Shopping with a friend
Chatting on the phone
Going out for a coffee
Catching up on Facebook, Twitter or our Blog
There’s nothing basically wrong with any of this, I like to do all of them! But if we are not careful they can rob us spiritually. We can always make time for the things we want to do or for the things that are easier to do.
If you don’t already have your time with God planned why not start today by substituting something else for a 10 minute pray-time with God & 5 minutes reading the Bible; and each day building on that. Why not ask hubby to look after the kids for an hour or two or for a morning and take your Bible and notepad and go for a walk with God away from everything. It’s easy for me because my kids are grown up and left home. I love to get alone somewhere peaceful, usually the zoo. In the nicer weather I sometimes just sit in the garden and read my Bible or a Christian magazine; and I try to spend at least a morning on my own with God twice a month, and then everyday I have a time with Him, sometimes at night and sometimes in the morning. Give it a try!
So what else do plants need?
Our spiritual food is God’s Word, the Bible. We need this food to keep us going; we need to feed our soul and our spirit. Jesus often quoted scripture; particularly when He was tempted in the wilderness.
I know sometimes it’s hard reading the Bible and you think you’re just not taking it in; but because it’s God’s word it’s alive….and when we read it with that understanding then that LIFE will give us LIFE – even when we don’t realise it.
We are so fortunate to live in a country where we are free to read our Bibles. In places like China, Indonesia and the Middle East having a Bible is illegal and Christians risk their lives to own them. So let’s not take it for granted and allow it to gather dust on the shelf. God’s opinion is more valuable than anyone else’s so how about committing ourselves to finding out what He thinks by reading His word…and then living it!
The final thing that plants need is…
The Right SOIL
It has to be good soil, and have to be well planted in that soil, it’s no good plonking a plant down and hoping it will grow, it needs planting properly.
My “soil” is my Church. I’ve been “planted” there for almost 39 years and I believe it’s a good soil, where I’m nourished. I’m planted with so many great people too; they encourage me and support me and help me. I would add that it’s not perfect, no church ever could be because it’s full of imperfect people!
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Church in Chicago, says that the “local church is the hope of the world”. That is so true. When the world looks at us, the Church, we want them to see something of beauty that they are attracted to. Like bees and butterflies in your garden attracted to beautiful fragrances. We need to have the fragrance of Jesus.
If you’re on the “fringes” of church I urge you not to stay there. Get stuck in, get involved. Use your gifts and talents, join a life group, pray, lend a hand where you see a need. There’s always something you can do even if you think you don’t have a specific skill or talent. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do…think of what you can do!
Helping in crèche
Help on reception
Giving a lift to someone
Sending a card
Giving someone a pat on the back
These things are so important…much more important than the upfront stuff like preaching!!
Start to “Blossom where God has planted you”
God loves you so much and longs for you to flourish; maybe you’re holding back. I know from experience what it’s like to feel you can’t do anything because maybe you’re shy, you had a difficult upbringing, you’ve been hurt, you’re afraid, you think everyone else has it all together and they don’t need anyone else. Whatever the reason you have for not letting God do a work in you is just not worth hanging onto. Let go and let God do an amazing thing in your life.
I just want to finish b sharing something with you…
“Closer is He than breathing, Nearer than hands or feet.” (from a small red book, read years ago in an Episcopal home)
God is near. He fills the room around you where you are sitting or standing. He is in the air above you; He is in the ground below your feet. His presence is everywhere. He fills the highest heavens, the deepest seas, down to the centre of the planet and out beyond the farthest-flung reaches of this galaxy, past myriads of other galaxies, to the edge of the universe, and beyond that… Up, down, east, west, out to infinity. And yet He stands beside you, now, hearing each breath you take, noting every motion and every thought that comes from you.
He knows how many hairs are on your head; He knows the hair count of every man, woman, and child all over this green-and-blue globe, all five billion of us, at this instant. He knows everybody’s white-blood-cell count, how many nerves everyone has.
He knows everyone’s thoughts, all five billion of us. Every thought we ever had, every thought we are having right now, and every thought we ever will have, are known to Him, now, this very instant. Every hurt we ever experienced, every bruise, every scrape, every scar, every tear, He knows and remembers, all five billion of us. But most importantly to you, He remembers every tear of yours. He knows every thought you ever had or will have, and he knows all of your thoughts right now. And he loves you.
He loves you despite everything bad, or good, that you ever have done, everything that you ever will do, and everything that you are doing right now. His love for you is with full knowledge of who you are, and what you are.
He loves you infinitely, for he is an infinite God. Your God loves you infinitely as your father, infinitely as your brother, infinitely as your friend, infinitely as your helper, infinitely as your commander; and more. For he is also your Shepherd, your Counsellor, your Saviour, your Healer, your Righteousness… infinitely. If you have given yourself to him, then this infinite God is also infinitely yours.
And if you have given yourself to him, then this infinite God also dwells In Your Heart. Closer than close! He is closer to you than you are to yourself, for you are only aware of a few things about yourself at any given moment, but God knows all about you at every moment. He knows what you will think next, what your next move will be; he knows when you will sneeze next, when you will speak next, when you will sleep or stand.
He has searched you and He knows you. He knows every struggle, every question, every desire, every need, every want that you have, whether you are aware of them or not.
And the thing that he wants most from you is very simple. What is the first and greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God, with everything in you that you can muster. He wants your love. Why else would he choose, as his dwelling place, your heart?
He wants you to love him. Since he loves you, as we have seen, infinitely, and in multiple ways, this sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Why shouldn’t we love him back, gladly, with all of our hearts? What could possibly hold us back?
Here’s a few tips to help you in your time with God
Find a good place to be alone with God. Free from distraction and noise.
Have all the right resources when you spend time with God
- A Bible – This is a no brainer. But make sure it is version that you can understand. Just go to your local book store and test a few out. See how easy they are to read and if you can understand the words that are being used.
- A Journal – This is where you are going to write down your thoughts. This way you can look back and see what your have been learning.
- A Reading Plan – Use whatever you want. Just have a plan. You could make it as simple as reading two chapters a day or two pages. Whatever you do use a plan or else you’ll spend half your time trying to figure out what to read.
- A Planner – It’s going to happen. You are going to be in the middle of having a wonderful time with God. Journaling your heart our…and you are going to remember that you’re out of milk. This is where your planner comes in handy. You can write down, “get milk” and go right back to your journaling. If you don’t have a planner, just use a piece of paper. I don’t know how many times my God time was hijacked by random thoughts of things I need to do for the day.
Try using S.O.A.P. It stands for the following:
Scripture: Start off with the Bible. Read the verses that are on your plan for the day.
Observation: As you read, write down any observations that you have from the text.
Application: Based on what you have read…what should you do? Try to make this practical and realistic. Maybe set a goal for the day based upon your reading. Write it down and hold yourself accountable to it.
Prayer: Last but not least, spend some time in prayer to God. Confess and repent of any sins that were brought to light while you were reading. Spend time thanking God. Also spend some time in silence listening to God. Pray for yourself and for other’s needs.
Keep it simple. The goal of your time with God is to try to grow closer to Him. It’s not to check off your list. Don’t add extra burdens to this focus. “I have to make at least 15 observations.” “I have to write at least 5 pages in my journal.” “I have to pray for at least 45 minutes.” The goal is to spend time with God and to grow closer to Him. Do what it takes to do just that…the rest is just distractions, burdens, and religion.
WHY SHOULD WE PRAY AND SPEND TIME WITH GOD ?
BECAUSE GOD DESIRES OUR FRIENDSHIP, SINCE WE ARE VERY SPECIAL AND PRECIOUS TO HIM. HE CREATED US SO WE COULD HAVE CLOSE RELATIONSHIP AND WALK WITH HIM
“The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not just get hold of the answer. Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer, we are off track.”
Good reading – Oswald Chambers”My Utmost For His Highest”
“The time a Christian gives to prayer and fellowship with God is not meant for his/her carnal or natural life, but to nourish the life of Jesus in him/her.” (Oswald Chambers)
GOD DESIRES FOR US TO KNOW HIM, TO BELIEVE HIM, TO UNDERSTAND THAT HE IS GOD. (JOHN 17:3; ISAIAH 43:10; PSALM 27:4)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 God has special plans for our lives, plans to bless us and prosper us. The next two verses spell out the necessary conditions for you and me to receive the benefit of His plans, “Then when you call upon Me and come and pray to Me, I will hear you. When you search for Me, You will find Me; if you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
IT IS GOD’S WILL FOR US TO PRAY:
– “PRAY CONTINUALLY; FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST JESUS.” – I THESSALONIANS 5:17, 18