I recently did a small landscaping project in our backyard; a decorative block retaining wall to edge a new grass area and make a step down to a lower level of the yard. Nothing particularly amazing, but as the work progressed, God seemed to remind me of truths about working in His kingdom. Here are my thoughts – no deep theological insights – just observations and reminders from God’s Word and personal experiences in missions and ministry:
1) Preparation is important. First, I developed a clear idea of what needed to be done and then I had to gather all the materials and prepare the sight before the actual building could begin. In ministering to others, I must first prepare my own heart and life through prayer and time spent in the Word and God’s presence before I am ready to speak to others. Then the soil of people’s hearts is cultivated and prepared by the Holy Spirit to be ready to receive the truths of Christ. I should not grow weary or impatient with the time and effort this preparation demands.
2) The right foundation must be laid. A bed of small gravel needed to be laid first in order for the block wall to be stable and hold up through the storms and winter weather. For eternal life, Christ is the only firm foundation (1 Cor. 1:23 & 3:11; Matt. 7:24-27; Heb. 12:2). Our faith cannot be based on any other substitutes (ie. Elaborate programs, contests, prizes, charismatic personalities or abilities, etc.). We preach Christ and Him alone. The Son of God is Lord of Lords, the author and perfecter of our faith, and is alone sufficient for all we need for life and godliness.
3) The level is the guide. That simple tool was crucial to keeping my wall on the level. It was the standard. I could not rely simply on my eyesight or personal perception if I wanted the blocks to be right and true. God’s Word, the Bible, is our guide and standard for Christian living. Personal feelings and our church traditions take a “back seat” to the primacy of the Holy Scripture. The Word is the light on our path and the clear accurate instruction from God that all true disciples must follow. (Ps. 119:105; Matt. 4:4; John 8:31; James 1:22; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
4) The project took longer than I anticipated. I had a morning set aside to build the wall and thought I would get done in that time. But, working under the hot New Mexico sun, I got tired and overheated and only completed about 2/3 the first day. (I find that most of my projects take longer than I think they will!) The Bible reminds me that God has chosen the weak and that when I am weak He is strong. Ministry is done in Christ’s name and ultimately does not depend on my strength but on His. Working with people cannot be rushed or molded to my personal timeframe. Patience is, indeed, a virtue. (1 Cor. 1:27; 3:6; 2 Cor. 12:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:2).
5) The end result gives great joy! Just building the wall was good, but this ultimately made it possible for the living growing grass to be filled in and become beautiful. Growing green grass was the reason for all the measuring, digging, lifting, placing and leveling. In building God’s kingdom we must aim at the right goal; major on the major thing – making disciples of Christ who are growing (Matt. 28:19).
You can probably think of more spiritual parallels or lessons that could come from my landscaping project, or perhaps from one of your own. May we always be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit teaching and guiding us in the ways of the Lord.