No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
We have more than 200 trees and an untold number of bushes on our acreage. Rainy season is a constant game of catch-up as sideways storms thin out branches and everything grows out of control – especially the vines.
In a matter of a week or two, vines can overtake whole gardens or entire clumps of trees. And it’s never just one kind; it’s multiple, resulting in a tangle of vines. Some are fine-stemmed and easy to trace and uproot; others are thick and buried deep in the recesses of a patch of bushes, where it’s not unusual to encounter venomous snakes.
I can readily see where I haven’t removed vines by the roots because the first rain sparks a new spate of growth, causing me to begin all over again. And then I curse myself for having not made enough noise to scare away the snakes and save myself several more hours of sweaty labor.
How many times do we fail to get to the root of problems in our Christian lives? And how many times do we yet again find ourselves ensnared?
In our marriages, for instance, we focus on a symptom of the greater problem – “He never has anything nice to say to me,” perhaps – and we think that if we can throw some kind words into the equation, we’ve fixed the problem. But we fail to untangle the multilayered vines whose roots are in sin, which often is a matter of our wanting what we want without compromise or apology.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? – James 4:1
Then there are the women who feed their weakened minds with 50 shades of disgusting just so they can keep up with the cool crowd in the employee lounge. Your foray into smut central is but a symptom of your problem.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. – 1 John 2:15
So it is with strained friendships and family relationships, out-of-control spending, “innocent” flirtation, emotional outbursts, lies, addictions and just about every other human-based problem we face in our day-to-day lives. Unless we get to the root of our problem – our desperate need for repentance before a holy God – we will continually be overcome and ensnared by our sin.
This lesson was not lost on me tonight as I wrapped up my third hour of trimming and weeding. God is showing me areas in my life where I have allowed sin to flourish and inhibit healthy growth. The problem doesn’t ultimately lie in my relationships with others. The problem is ultimately in my relationship with the Lord. So it is with each of us. Father, may I remember this lesson in the dry season, when sin creeps up more slowly and insidiously. Let me be like a tree planted by water.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1