John Piper once wrote that to not weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. His words paint a picture of a structured garden, that once had a purpose, but is now is in disrepair and overgrown. It has the shape of a useful plot of land, yet is now only growing unusable weeds that rob the soil of nutrients and choke out any new growth. The point of the proverb is that nothing is neutral; every day we are changing and moving in some direction. Not only we, but our families, communities, jobs, and nations are never idle.
To not weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden.
While we have waded in these waters for some time, we are beginning to pursue the idea of family discipleship as a congregation. I wanted to write a post for myself, mainly, but I know that we all need encouragement and reminding of the weighty charge of cultivating a family.
Firstly, the task is given to us by God for our good and His glory. So often we believe the original lie that God is withholding something from us, that what we’ve been given is not the best option. True, the world is broken and many of us work through situations that will not exist when Christ comes again to restore all things, but at the same time, God is sovereign over the world’s events. God is not holding back from us and everything thing that comes to us is for our ultimate good (Romans 8.28, 32). Thomas Watson, a English minister in the 17th Century, said, “As the Lord makes use of all the seasons of the year, frost, and heat, to bring on the harvest, so all prosperous and adverse providences, are for the promoting the work of holiness in the soul.” Whatever situation your family finds itself in at the moment, trust that it is not lost on God. Sometimes it is easier to believe that God is truly not ruling over the world and that is why suffering occurs. Let us fight to take the narrow road of Truth, rather than the broad road of Ease. Even if the situation is a result of deliberate sin in your life, God is working it for good.
God is not holding back from us and everything thing that comes to us is for our ultimate good.
Secondly, we are the primary agents of restoration in our homes. But before we lead in restoring our homes, God must be restoring our hearts and minds. Watson noted that, “The pious soul loves God and therefore thirsts for him. The more he has of God, the more still he desires.” Do we desire God? Do we want to read our Bibles to know more of Him, to be more like Christ? If we do not see this desire in us, yet we have claimed to love God, praise God that He has graciously revealed our hypocrisy. Watson, like a good doctor, gives the remedy along with the diagnosis, “Go to Christ. Beg of him that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue this sin, and put it under the yoke.” Prayer is vastly underutilized in my life. I claim to believe God is caring and sovereign, yet live as though He expects me to handle everything.
Thirdly, growing the garden that is our family towards its designed, God-honoring end is not something we can accomplish in our own power. You may possibly raise well-behaved, academically-excelling, hospitable humans by the common grace shown to all men. But if you seek to raise up arrows that fly into the heart of our world as testimonies of redemption, through the pounding rain of temptation and the howling winds of demonic bombardment, then you must rely on God who sustains. Lead by example, strive for holiness, and do not make light of your sin. Work hard through the strength given to you by God (Colossians 1.29), yet understand that it is God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3.7). Pour into our home groups while allowing yourselves to be filled by the community of God, which is given to us for our benefit. Do not outsource your discipleship, but teach your families, both in the privacy of your home and communally with our home group.
We were never meant to raise our families alone. While fathers are held responsible for their individual households, God never intended for those families to be isolated. We might have individual plots of land, yet the garden is communal, one in which we can all share in the labor and in the harvest.