At the beginning of this summer, my family and I decided to plant a garden. We started out with really good intentions, motivated to keep it watered, weeded, and fertilized in hopes of harvesting a healthy crop of produce. That went well for a few weeks. At the beginning, my siblings and I would walk out to the garden with watering cans and manually water our thirsty plants. Every week, I would step into my boots, get down on my hands and knees, and carefully pick any semblance of a weed that could be rearing its ugly head near my plants, threatening to deprive them of sunlight and nutrients.
But that didn’t last very long. Eventually the excitement wore off. School started and life got busier. No one wanted to go out and pick weeds anymore. Soon small weeds began to sprout alongside our flowering plants. They grew bigger and bigger, feeding off the nutrients meant to nourish our plants. Eventually those small sprouts weren’t so small anymore. They grew into huge weeds towering above struggling plants, soaking up their sunlight and water, slowly choking them out.
After just a few weeks of neglect, the garden we started with such good intentions has become so overgrown that hardly anyone dares venture into it to pick what fruit there is to harvest. The weeds have taken over so much that the thought of bringing back the neat, tidy garden we started with is too daunting to even consider.
This story about my family’s garden teaches a lesson that can be applied to our spiritual lives. Our hearts are like that garden and those weeds are the sins that creep into our lives, seeking to choke out a healthy love for God, zeal for spiritual things, and desire to walk in a new godly life. So often we start out with great intentions, motivated to keep God’s law, fight our sins, and walk holily. But soon tiny little sins creep into our lives. They may not seem like a big deal at first, and we might initially stamp them out. But eventually we grow weary. Our motivation runs thin and we get caught up in the busyness of life and the pleasures of the world. We forget to fight those little sins, or we just don’t care enough anymore. Besides, they’re just little sprouts; they can’t do much harm. Until we turn around and find that those small sprouts have grown into massive flowering weeds. By then it’s too late – those weeds of sin are so deeply rooted in our hearts and lives that we don’t even know where to start to root them out.
This illustration should serve as a warning to me and to you about the pervasive nature and power of sin in our hearts and spiritual lives. If we do not remain vigilant weeding out those small sins that persistently make appearance in our lives, they will take root and grow exponentially until they are choking out the good fruit of sanctification in our lives. How much easier isn’t it to pluck out those small sprouts when they first appear than to pull up the deep roots of a full-grown flowering weed?
But if and when we do allow those weeds to take root, we must not despair, thinking there is no hope and all is lost. Christ has given us His Spirit, Who strengthens and renews us in our godly walk. Constantly we must be examining our hearts and lives for sins that may be taking root so we can weed them out. With the power of the Spirit, we can and do fight against those sins, plucking them up at the root and tilling our garden back into neat rows. The life of the child of God is a constant battle against our sinful flesh, but we are not alone. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).