I’ve been thinking a lot about the word cultivate over the last couple of weeks. One definition of the word is ‘to nurture and help grow.’ I like that definition because it speaks to me of building up, not tearing down.
When I was a new believer in Christ, I saw that the Word of God, or the Bible, gave me instructions on daily living. There were times I grew frustrated by the commands to live, speak and act a certain way when I didn’t know how to unlearn all the things I had learned before I came to Christ. It was an exercise in frustration to read the Word and see what it required of me, and not have the ability in my own strength to make it happen consistently. I tried and failed, tried and failed again to live the way it described. Then, I began to read about the Holy Spirit and how He was my teacher, my confidante, my helper, my comforter and the source of wisdom that I didn’t have. There was a divide between the space I lived, and the One God expected me to live in. The more I thought about the divide, the greater the divide became.
When I was a new believer, I also didn’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit. I would read the Word of God, condemn myself for not being what God expected and then try to fix myself. I didn’t know then that the Holy Spirit was the One who would cultivate my life. He was the One that would nurture me and help me grow. I didn’t realize that when I trusted the Holy Spirit to work in me, He was preparing me to act and when action was required, I would have the power, the strength, and the ability to do what He asked.
Over time I finally got it. It was an exercise in futility, trying to fix myself. I’m not talking about reading a self-help book and thinking about what I could do to make my life more productive. What I am talking about is at the core of my being, believing that I alone could change myself.
The Word of God is very clear in Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) which states ‘the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the hearts.’
When I spend time reading the Word to get to know God’s character and understand His ways, the Word works its way into my heart and nurtures change to the areas of my life where change is necessary (my mind, my will and emotions). It gives me new thoughts which lead to new actions. It gives me the strength to switch course or change direction, which speaks to my will. It sorts through the emotions of fear, anger, frustration, bitterness, etc. The negative things that come from a life lived without the awareness of God’s presence or His love for us are habits not easily broken or removed but they are through the Word.
As I’ve walked this out over time, I wish I could say that tendency to try to fix myself goes away. For me it hasn’t. However, I now recognize the pattern when I feel those same feelings of frustration rear their head. We aren’t meant for our emotions to lead us to action, but they do have a purpose. Our emotions give us the ability to gauge where we are at any moment. Am I trusting God or am I fearful? Am I seeking ways to fix me, or am I trusting the word to transform me and my life?
I love the scripture in Romans 12:1-2 in the Message Bible which reads, ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If you are reading this, let me reassure you that there is hope for a changed life, but our focus must stay on the working of His Spirit within us, not us changing ourselves. The world we live in values independence, will-power, and good deeds to prove its worth. God asks us to trust Him, to receive His help and to let the work of the Holy Spirit be the normal way we receive change and to transform the way we LIVE.
Father I pray for those reading this post today: For those that have worn themselves out trying to change, I pray for Your peace to envelop them. I pray that You would draw them closer in relationship to You so that they can know You, see Your character and understand that You are the advocate for and cultivator of their changed life. I pray that You would give them the ability to receive and to live their lives transformed by Your presence at work within them.
Philippians 1:6-11, Ephesians 3:20, Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 12:1-2