The garden outside my back veranda looks dry, and although the weather has been scorching, I think that’s it more the fact that I’ve forgotten to water it most days and also to fertilise. The two strawberry plants have probably produced only 2 strawberries each, and a rat ate one. Only the sweet potato thrives, vine tangling and the chives grassy and green; I even managed to kill the rosemary and mint.
So although we had bought the best soil to transplant our little seedlings into; two essential elements were neglected; elements that are not a one off but require consistency . . . water and fertiliser. Like all things in life, the garden required me to be disciplined in remembering and diligent in doing.
Proverbs is full of reminders about these two qualities, and like a two pronged fork, I think these two qualities have the ability to thrust us far in life, and yet in many areas we’ve forgotten them.
I think this can be summed up in two words; Christian stewardship.
We have a relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit but all relationships take work, they take consistency and time to listen, and although much of this is ‘on the go’ as it is in marriage, to keep the relationship strong there must be regular times to pull aside and just be me and God. This is the intimacy from which dreams are conceived, and lead to destiny, basically just God’s plan for our lives.
I was reading Derek Prince’s biography, and a couple of lines in there have been playing over in my head for weeks. It’s where he talks about how it’s not necessary to go off searching for our destiny, it wasn’t even a word when he was a young Christian, but it’s just necessary to be diligent in spending time with God, praying, reading the Word, fasting; these things we call Christian disciplines, and for a reason. Our flesh would probably rather not be doing any of the above.
Derek Prince’s desert experience was very literal. He became a Christian during his medic army training just prior to being sent off to the battlefields of Africa during World War 2. His fellowship with God was often the difference between life and death. He regularly read his Bible, fasted, prayed and prayed in tongues for many hours as they were trudging through the hot sands and God would warn him of where a land mine might be, or to check his water supply for a leak, or if they got lost in a windstorm to lead him home.
As he simply pursued God and was faithful with his time, this man grew to become a father figure in the church and he pioneered missions in Israel, Africa, England and US. He kept going with what was in front of him even when it was hard until God gave him a new direction, instead of trying to escape cause he didn’t feel ‘called’ to what he was doing.
So in light of this thought, I want to dig into a few areas where we are called to be good Christian Stewards, and I haven’t even mentioned money, so if you want to read about that, I have a whole post over here!
Christian Stewardship and Renewing our Minds
We need to be renewing our minds with the Word of God and the first step to that is consistently and regularly reading it, and even studying it. Pre-packaged Bible studies are great; I’ve compared them in the past to pre-cooked meals, but it’s important for us to know how to cook from scratch ourselves too, eg study the Bible for ourselves. (Arabah Joy has some fantastic resources for different methods of study. Mine is simply to pick a theme, eg diligence, joy, the tongue and research Scriptures on that verse and study out the root words in a concordance.)
If you’re struggling in this area, we’ve found recently that accountability to someone outside your immediate family can be so helpful and grow a great friendship. In our age of modern convenience we can simply text our friend what we’ve read and how God spoke to us through it, it only has to be a few lines, and they can text back.
The Bible says as a man thinks in His heart so is He. Science is proving this to be true and that our words matter as Proverbs 15:1 says. The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat it’s fruit.
As Christians we cannot afford to be slack in what we are thinking and speaking.
We cannot afford to think as the world thinks, expecting ourselves to be sick, allowing ourselves to be worried over finances, speaking out of fear towards ourselves or our families and even just whining about our workplace instead of praying for those there to be filled with love towards each other and work productively.
We need to be disciplined in what we say, we need to choose to align our words with God’s Words. The word discipline is used in the book of Proverbs in the NIV and NLT translations, however prior to that, these words were used almost interchangeably with the words correction and instruction, and in a sense we must allow the Word of God to correct what we are thinking and saying.
Margaret Court says in her book Train Your Brain, “God tells us to get our minds in line: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ Romans 12:2a.
The wonderful thing is that we can! If our minds can be strongholds of ungodly thoughts and attitudes, they can also be strongholds of Kingdom righteousness. It is in our minds that we keep God’s oracles and stand on His Word, His love, His forgiveness, His healing power.”
A practical example of this is last year when I caught myself so often thinking I feel STUCK; stuck in my house, with my health, my blog, ministry, relationships and even as a missionary to my own neighbourhood. God really challenged me to STOP thinking that and brought this Scripture to mind, that I had to go find a reference for: (2 Peter 1:3) His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
So every time the thought would come to my mind about being stuck I would refute it and challenge it with the above Scripture, and soon although my circumstances hadn’t overly changed, I began to see breakthroughs in how I thought and even in stepping out and being able to have Divine conversations with people on the street in everyday life.
Stewardship of our Words
Another area we can so actively partner with God is in what we are saying over our children. God is clear in His Word about the need to discipline or as the NKJV says, chastise, our children, but we also need to discipline ourselves to be praying the fruit of the Spirit and other Scripture over their lives instead of constantly reiterating their disobedience and bad attitude.
Our children are like ballerinas, in order for that ballerina to be great, he/she must accept constant correction, and practice the same step over and over or it will be sloppy. No one wants to watch a sloppy ballerina. We must discipline our children so that their steps forward in life are sure and correct, yet no one loves a harsh teacher, there is a balance and so we look to God, and imagine ourselves as ballerinas too.
Artwork by my sister Anna Gardner
Who knows that when other people compliment us for what is good, that we are encouraged more and more to step into that? I have to seriously remind myself that if someone spoke to me the way I often speak to my children all day, I probably would tune out too.
The gift of prophecy is like this. God so often uses a word of prophecy to call out the good in us and confirm dreams in our hearts, but a prophecy does not necessarily dictate what is going to happen. When it’s possible (and sometimes it’s not) we choose to take practical steps towards it; discipline and diligence.
(And if we haven’t heard from God in a while, I know in my own life it’s sometimes because I’ve been lazy or procrastinated and haven’t done the last thing He’s told me to do. Just ask, if this is the problem you’ll have an idea come to mind of something you’ve neglected, and if not then don’t worry.)
Christian Stewardship of our Talents
We’ve talked about how a huge area of stewardship is our minds and our mouths, but now we are going to look at how to practically use the gifts God has given us.
For example, God told my husband that if he practiced the piano everyday he would be able to play like his favourite worship leader. So we bought a keyboard, but life and other distractions got in the way and he was only practicing once a week and could play a few songs, but wasn’t really improving. He had to choose to make it a priority, and as he practiced God could begin to anoint the sound.
In the natural I’ve heard that the difference between 5 year olds who started playing the piano and where they were at by the time they were 12 usually wasn’t directly related to their talent, but to the amount of time they spent practicing.
Similarly with a business idea for camping stoves we’ve had. So many of the ideas my husband has had, have come after or during a time of prayer, like a snap shot in his mind, and then he’s had to go the computer and start drawing and researching and down to the shed and start grinding and welding.
It’s taken time, effort, constant research and experimenting but God is now able to anoint the work of our hands and has accelerated it in areas we didn’t expect, and not because we know a lot about business or have a great marketing strategy, because the accountant rolls her eyes when she sees us coming, but because we keep putting one foot in front of the other. There have been times when we’ve wanted to throw the towel in both with this business and his normal day job, but often when we look at what we are saying with our mouth over the situation we have to repent and realign with what God says.
This can all sound a bit overwhelming but I want to bring it back to a little conversation my husband was having with our five year old the other day.
“Minor adjustments, minor adjustments,” my husband says as he tries to teach Miss 5 to fly the drone they found for $5 in the op shop. And it echoes the phrase that a man said to us when he was praying for us a few weeks ago, even though sometimes a major overhaul, a new job, a new neighbourhood, sounds much more exciting, when where we are planted feels dry, and honestly that’s what we were hoping for.
But sometimes we don’t need a huge overhaul of our lives, (though there is a place for that) sometimes we need minor adjustments, in what we are eating, in our budget, even in what we are saying to reach the end goal. If a ship corrects its course even minorly, it can end up in a different direction to where it was otherwise headed.
Maybe you need to save $5 more, or change one thing you are saying about yourself. Maybe reading a book for five minutes instead of social media is a minor adjustment that would make a big difference.
Ask God to show you and He will, He is so very practical and wants to be involved in our everyday life. It may not be a voice, it may be just an idea like an accountability partner, or highlighting a little snippet of time to you that could be used better, or a substitute to use for a certain food that’s healthier.
To help us keep in mind how important discipline and diligence are, I’ve put together a few Scriptures from the NKJV using a garden theme, on how faith works together with our obedience and diligence. PDF HERE.