heart-planing//fertilized by life's experiences

catch up on this series:

as we close this series on planting faith, i hope and pray that at least one of these steps has spoken to you.  faith is often mistaken as a gift that God gives us when we choose to follow Jesus.  though we claim our faith with our words, we soon see that it is still very much out of reach unless we intentionally work each day to cultivate it. 

today's message is meant to tie each stage together, and introduce another source of strength and nourishment that we as humans can use to grow our faith.  we have discussed that plants need water, sun, and time.  often times it also needs a bit of the "yucky stuff" better known as fertilizer.

our faith must also be fertilized

i imagine your first image of fertilizer was either a bag of miracle grow additives or a pile of mess that you usually see far behind the garden, warranted "off limits."  i apologize if you are repulsed by the comparison of faith and a manure pile.  i hope you'll stick with me and let me explain.

compost piles are never fun, but they are necessary for just about any growing system.  the organic matter in compost piles consists of anything from food scraps, to leaves and grass clippings, to animal waste.  it is prepared and used liberally in gardens because it fuels growth by creating a healthy and nutrient-rich ground for the roots.  the beauty we see growing on the surface is due in part to the mess living beneath it.

you see, we've all made mistakes and experienced failure in life.  we have let ourselves down, our family, our friends, and our spouses.  most important; we have let God down.  Still, He does not want our failure to be final.  He wanted us to have a way back to Him, and so He sent Jesus.  but even after we accept Him, we are still haunted by that which separated us to begin with.  this is where we must understand the benefit of composting our life's experiences and using them to fertilize our future.

in our growing period on this earth, we hold on to the mistakes we have made.  we beat ourselves down, sometimes to the rhythm of another's criticism, and we take the punishment for our sins over and over and over again.  God does not want us to live in shame, but He does delight in our humility.  sometimes it takes remembering where we have been to stay in correct line with God.  there are three great benefits of composting our past pains and failures.

1.  it reminds us of what God has brought us through
the pain or regret of a past experience can be just as motivating and inspiring as joyful bliss when you understand it has been left there by the Lord.  He has our very best in mind and would take anything away that would not serve the greatest purpose for His plan.  if your heart still aches, or your mind still spins, or your very spirit still wrestles with an outcome, it is because the Lord is still teaching you something, and showing you exactly what He freed you from.  

i often find myself reciting 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 in these moments.  in this piece of scripture, Paul explains a thorn that the Lord allowed to remain in him and taunt him, reminding him of his weakness, and so, his only strength being the Lord.

2.  it reminds us to respect others for what they have gone through
knowing our own struggles with our past, it is only right that we view others with compassion and forgiveness.  God has worked on all of us, in His own way designed for us.  we cannot lean on what we think we know about people but should instead have faith that we are all growing from our own shattered past.  

Matthew 7:3 gives a clear picture of the hypocrisy we exude when we choose not to consider the pains and trials of others.  

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
it is our human nature to be judgmental but the gift of God to possess compassion.

3.  it reminds us that God will use it all for His Kingdom
you've probably heard the many sayings that float around the Christian world, encouraging us all to embrace our pasts.  "your mess can be your ministry" and "your test will become your testimony" are two of the most popular.  while these are very true, the depth of what they carry is lost when we speak these phrases so casually.  it is imperative, to ourselves and the connection we hold with God, that we begin to speak these kinds of things deliberately and personally.  

we know that God has a plan and that He is at work in everything, but we often fail to embrace the lows we experience along the way.  while God can erase what has happened so we can live more comfortably, He doesn't.  instead He allows memories to remain, and compost, and become the rich soil we continue to grow from.  

we are the products of everything we have been through, whether we like to admit it or not.  some of us have not experienced hardly anything at all, and some feel like they could have been given a break, many times.  when we have hope in the Lord, however, we can know that He is sovereign, just, and will work our entire lives together for our good, until that work is complete.  

i hope you have found encouragement in this series, no matter where you are on your heart-planting journey.  cultivating faith takes work, and time, and even a bit of the very faith you are working to grow.  given the promises of God, and the stories of those who have come before us, this is not impossible. 

your job is difficult, sweet one, but it's worth getting your hands a bit dirty

how are you doing on your faith journey so far? 

have any of the past 5 weeks spoken to you in some way?

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