Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it flows the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Any gardener knows the diligence required in protecting crops from all manner of visible and invisible forces: dominating weeds, pesky insects, fungus and disease, and in our case, wildlife with an appetite for vegetable delicacies. This is both a benefit and drawback of living in the country. The benefit is that you get much closer to surrounding wildlife. The drawback? That same wildlife will at times get close to you and all you hold dear, especially any landscaping and gardening plots. Due to the fallen nature of man, they don't like to share.
Being awestruck at the beauty of a wild rabbit approaching our yard was quickly overtaken by the disappearance of a bean row the next day. I soon learned through this experience that an enemy can come in as a wolf in cute, fuzzy bunny clothing. Jake the dog was obsessed with chasing and tormenting our cats, but lazily ignored the rabbits engaged in nightly feedings of snap beans, sweet potatoes, and peas. After giving Jake a quick pep talk, I pleaded with my husband for an all night stake out. He quickly dismissed the idea. I don't know if Jake got the message or the rabbits got full and moved on, but I learned my lesson. We finally invested in an electric fence and attained peace of mind.
Guarding a garden takes vigilance and hard work, but how does one guard the heart? The Bible says our heart holds the key to the issues of life: our daily struggles, emotions, and reactions to everything happening around us. Those in military training learn the first step in any successful battle is to know the enemy. Too often we mistakenly identify people as enemies while the Bible clearly states "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, against wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12 KJV. In other words, there are evil forces of jealousy, hatred, pride, and bitterness that can affect not only ourselves but those around us. Peter advises in 1 Peter 5:8 to "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." As with my rabbit experience, not identifying the enemy can be a costly mistake, with priceless relationships at stake, both our relationship with others and our relationship with God.
As a gardener must be well versed in tools of fighting garden pests, Christ's followers must be equally diligent in spiritual matters. Our first priority is daily spending time with God through reading His Word and prayer. As with the military, the weakest member is most susceptible to attack. This is also true in the garden. A neglected plant will easily succumb to insects and disease, thwarting any possible growth. Jesus said,"Apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 NIV. By staying close to God, we can avoid traps baited with worldly pleasures and fruitless pursuits.