It didn't take long.
Boxes of unsold bows, ribbons, lights and ornaments were marked down 50%. And within hours of selling their remaining artificial Christmas trees and wreathes, the Lawn & Garden Department in Walmarts across the nation began filling their shelves with seed, fertilizer, tools and hoses.
Their timing was perfect. With blizzards wracking New England and frigid temperatures gripping most states, the warmth of springtime can't arrive soon enough. It's now when many survey their dreary backyards and dream about working in their gardens. And this time, they want their flowers and vegetables to do more than just grow. They want them to thrive.
Recorded during a time when the livelihoods of many were linked to agriculture, the Bible is full of references to planting, harvesting and storing crops. The crowds that followed Jesus from village to village were certainly familiar with the imagery in His parables about the Wheat and the Tares and The Sower. They knew a thing or two about cultivation. After all, their ability to grow a thriving crop each year could mean the difference between starvation and having plenty.
A related biblical theme is mankind's need for a thriving relationship with its Creator. Without Him, nothing--spiritual or physical--can grow.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener," Jesus tells us through John's Gospel. "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
Christ then added this thought-provoking admonition:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Springtime and warm weather are just weeks away, and folks will soon begin flocking to lawn and garden centers to buy the tools, fertilizers and other supplies for making their gardens thrive. They know that with enough time and effort, the results can be both satisfying and remarkable.
The same goes for cultivating our spiritual lives. It also takes time and effort. But unlike a plot of vegetables that eventually withers and dies with the first frosts of autumn, spirit-filled lives rooted in a solid relationship with God will thrive and produce much fruit--and all with eternal benefits to ourselves and others. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Are you cultivating a personal relationship with your Creator? He wants it to thrive.