Challenge Central: a CBC devotional
By: Rebecca Feere
“How are you?” is perhaps the most common greeting in our culture. And two of the most common responses are – “I’m good” or “Super busy!”
We often say the “good” response even in the middle of a terrible day because we don’t really want to get into the nitty-gritty details of our circumstances at that moment. And the “busy” response has become a cultural expectation. Modern society values “busy” as if it were something straight out of the Bible. But how are you really? “How is your heart?” as Pastor Jeremy often asks.
Recently, I was challenged about how often I use these responses. By no means are they “bad,” and in some instances, they may accurately describe how we are at that moment. However, I was encouraged to consider a Biblical teaching that helps us think a little more deeply about the condition of our hearts. In Psalm 92:12, the righteous are said to “flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Would anyone in my close circle of family and friends describe me as flourishing?
The word “flourish” in that verse is the Hebrew (pa.rach), which means “to bud, sprout, shoot, bloom.” (www.stepbible.org) The righteous are compared to a plant, specifically a tree. A tree that is budding, sprouting, blooming, or growing new shoots is a plant that is thriving in its environment. This verse pictures a thriving tree! If I am honest, I was barely surviving for a good part of my life. In the world of plants, I would have had limp, weak, lifeless limbs; nothing was blooming in my life. I had allowed the soil of my life to get dry and hardened. I had pretended that everything was “good” for far too long and had created such a “busy” schedule that I hardly had a moment to realize how dried out, exhausted and depleted I had become.
How would a believer get from that state of merely surviving to flourishing? Is it even possible? What is the key to reviving a plant that looks like it is on its way to becoming compost? In these situations, the righteous person and the struggling plant need a new environment, a place with richer, nutrient-dense soil and adequate amounts of light and water. (Remember how Jesus called Himself the Light of the World [Jn. 8:12] and the Living Water [Jn. 4:10, 13-14]). The Psalmist continues with, “The righteous are planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish (pa.rach) in the courts of our God” (Ps. 92:13). This might sound a little like the beginning of a new cultish compound where we all seclude ourselves from modern society. No – that is not what Jesus modelled for us in His life on earth. This is a planting of our minds, our hope in the only One who never changes (Heb. 13:5). This describes a believer who is choosing to set their “mind on the things above” (Col. 3:2). This is what is described in Isaiah 26:3 which says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Those who are planted know who they are and what they have been given in Christ. They know their identity, first and foremost, is – Child of the Living God!
While this sounds quite lovely in theory, you may wonder, as I did, how do we make this work at street level? Like tomorrow, when the children are arguing endlessly, the cranky boss is more demanding than ever, or someone we love receives a terminal diagnosis. God is good. He never asks us to do anything without providing a way! The first two verses of that Psalm have some practical instructions on how to get and keep our hearts and minds planted in the rich soil of the goodness of God.
They read, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Ps. 92:1,2). Here are some practical steps that lead to spiritual flourishing taken directly from Scripture –
- Give thanks to the Lord – Rehearse the character of God. Read a passage of Scripture asking, “What does this teach me about God?” Focus on one attribute of God and say it aloud over and over! You could also jot down the things you are thankful for each day.
- Sing praises to His name – God wants to hear you sing regardless of your singing ability! Sing along with a YouTube video! Nearly every hymn and worship song you can think of is on there! You may be surprised how singing a song of praise will shift your perspective and attitude.
- In the morning, declare His steadfast love – Be intentional to remind yourself out loud of God’s steadfast, never-ending, unconditional love. Perhaps you could say John 3:16 or 1 John 3:1 out loud!
- Declare His faithfulness at night – take a moment to reflect on how God was faithful to you that day. Some of the things we take for granted (i.e., the sunrise, the sunset, our beating heart) bear witness to the faithfulness of God in sustaining the world and us.
We will flourish when our roots are growing deeper in the goodness and faithfulness of God; we flourish when we intentionally make time to be in His Word and pray daily. When these things become a living reality rather than a good idea that we read in Scripture, our spiritual limbs will gain strength, we will bloom, and others around us will be drawn to our God. The blossoms will be others who will come to know Jesus because of our flourishing. God calls us to fresh, fertile soil (His Word) rather than a dried-up life of busyness (our cultural standard). Jesus said He came that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).