Of Plants and Men

Jesus would often use the physical world to explain spiritual realities. Mustard seeds illustrate faith. Fruitless fig trees illustrate pointless living. A farmer sowing seed illustrates evangelism. The Gospels are chock full of Jesus’ stories and their effectiveness is undeniable.

As a preacher, I am always looking for ways to emulate the Master Teacher. As fall approaches and the time for planting bulbs and certain other plants draws nigh, my wife is excited. After four years of living in an apartment with no yard, she is itching to plant a spring flower garden. This means that trips to plant nurseries, reading of countless internet articles on botany and visiting landscaping websites has occupied much of her time. This also means that I, the loving and understanding husband, have spent more than a few minutes listening to plans, ideas, and interesting tidbits about various plants. As she was doing this one day she reminded me of two phenomena that I remember learning in High School Biology class (I typically try to repress all memories from High School. Highwater jeans, thick glasses and a body type that resembled an anemic giraffe made me the recipient of much unwanted attention).

The first of these phenomena is phototropism. Have you ever put a potted plant in a window and after a few days it leans toward the window? What it is leaning toward is the light. The plant is actually stretching itself, and growing toward the light. God has equipped these plants with photo-receptive cells that can sense where the most light is and sends messages of, ‘Hey, we need to go this direction if we want more sunshine!’

The second phenomenon is thigmotropism. Watch a vine grow up a trellis or see a venus flytrap close when a fly lands in its open maw and you are witnessing thigmotropism. The plant can actually ‘feel’ touch and will react to it. While most thigmotropic plants are harmless, some are parasitic and will wrap around another living plant, like a tree, and literally sap the life from them.

So what type of plant are you? Are you phototropic or thigmotropic? Do you want to grow in the light of a living God, thriving in your relationship with Him, or do you simply go with what ‘feels’ right at the time. The problem with being a thigmotropic Christian is that often what ‘feels’ right isn’t. Solomon knew this when he penned, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). As a minister I have seen this first hand when lifestyle choices that are contrary to God’s plan are justified by saying, “In my heart I know this is right.” God’s Word begs to differ: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9a).

What hope is there? I mean, if we can’t trust our gut feelings and heart what can we trust? Simply put, we trust God’s Word. In Psalm 119 David composed a love poem to God’s word. In it he proclaims God’s word as a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (v. 105) If we are phototropic we live in God’s Word, and if we stay phototropic, eventually we can trust the heart again. How? By hiding God’s Word in our heart (Ps. 119:11) In fact the true ‘Word’ of God is Jesus (John 1:1) and when He takes residence in our heart, He doesn’t merely dwell there, He renews the heart! This is what God promised through Ezekiel when He said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from you and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:26)

“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” I John 1:5-6

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