“Whoops,” I thought, peering into the little pots full of dry, barren earth and shrivled stalks of brown foliage. Last fall, the pots had contained beautiful, blooming house plants, but I had apparently neglected to water them all winter. Now the stalks crunched in response to my touch as the last shriveled leaf still clinging to a stem took a dive for the dry earth beneath it.
The plants had received plenty of sunlight and soil while sitting on my window sill all winter, but without water, they withered away. One of them was so shriveled, I couldn’t even tell what type of plant it had once been. It was, without question, dead.
The other plant, however, looked promising. Although its stalks were dry and brown, they still somewhat resembled a plant. Could I revive it with a little bit of love and attention?
Yearning for spring and something green to nurture, I decided to give it a try. What did I have to lose? Every day, just after breakfast, I tipped a little bit of water into the pot of dry earth filled with plant decay. Every evening, after dinner, I’d shut the blinds as the sun went down and observe the progress of my little plant. The results of my nurturing experiment were incredible! Within a week, my plant began to grow green again! Within two weeks, the plant doubled in size, both in girth and height. Three weeks after I started watering my “dead” plant, buds formed and bright pink flowers burst open at the ends of branches.
Now, nearly a month since I first decided to revive a dead pot of dry earth, my plant is full and growing, providing beauty to my windowsill once more. The pot I chose not to water, however, is still non-surprisingly just a pot of dry earth and shriveled stalks. It’s amazing what a difference just a little bit of water can make!
The Bible is full of language comparing our faith lives to the lives of plants. (The parable of the sower and the seed anyone? (Matthew 13:1-23).
In one such instance, the apostle Paul draws a plant life metaphor when he writes to the church in Corinth:
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
If the seed in question here is meant to represent the faith of believers, then in the case of Corinth, Paul planted the seed when he shared with them the Gospel message. Apollos, another Christian, watered the seed by continuing to share and interpret that message, helping the believers to grow stronger in their faith. Both Paul and Apollos did important jobs as God’s “workers” in planting and watering the faith of believers, but Paul stresses that only God can make faith grow. God has chosen a beautiful system for growing faith, hasn’t he? Through the symbiotic relationship of His “workers”, His “field,” and His “building,” each Christian serves a purpose in God’s faith-growing process. God uses the relationships between these believers (aka fellowship), to grow faith!
Just as a house plant without water will soon shrivel or even fully die, a Christian without an opportunity to learn and grow in God’s Word will struggle to grow in faith, and may even lose it entirely.
It’s such a simple thing, watering faith. Sharing God’s Word with and encouraging one another in Christian faith does not need to happen formally, restricted only to designated church functions and left enclosed within the walls of the sanctuary. God says: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Yet how often do we forget to water our faith and the faith of others by sharing and encouraging one another in God’s Word?
As easily as I neglected to water a house plant for an entire season, I can just as easily neglect the priority of Christian fellowship for entire seasons of my life. When I fall into these seasons of neglect, not only do I stop regularly attending church or Bible study, but I stop looking to God’s Word first for words of encouragement when a friend needs help. I stop asking friends to pray for me. I stop praying for and with friends. I stop asking to dive into God’s Word with others, looking instead to secular advice and wisdom for answers. And in this period of neglecting to water my faith with Christian encouragement, I feel my faith begin to wither, nearing death.
If you’re in a “withering” period of faith, remember my house plant. With just the tiniest amount of regular water, I was able to bring my plant from the brink of death to overflowing beauty and life. And I’m only human ;) Just imagine what God can do with you and your withering faith if you allow him to water it, even a tiny bit, through regular fellowship with other Christians.
Ask God to lead you to this regular Christian fellowship in your life. Pray for his guidance, then actively seek it wherever you go. Can you bring God’s Word back into your daily conversations with friends and strangers at the grocery store? Can you set up a regular meeting time with a “prayer partner” for prayer and encouragement? (In a pinch, this can even work over the phone or email). Can you get a bunch of other ladies together for a weekly Bible study? (That’s how this blog came into existence. We meet once a week after our kids go to bed, from 8:30 pm until 10, or let’s be honest, sometimes midnight!) Can you set up a regular time to study God’s Word with your spouse or other friend or family member? Can you see what fellowship opportunities your church provides and get involved in one of them?
If you’re withering or nearly dead, ask God to send your withering faith some rain, soak up the refreshing water, and marvel as He enables you to grow.