“My grace is sufficient for you...” 2 Corinthians 12:9b
Yesterday I found myself in my garden picking up tomato plants that has blown over in the storm which swept through our area Friday night. The job was even more difficult that I had originally thought it would be because with all of our moist and warm weather this year the plants had gotten really bushy and were difficult to hold up with the small wire cages I had put around them. As I labored on, going from one plant to the next I found myself getting more and more discouraged with the lack of progress I was making. Finally, when I had been able to fairly adequately stand all 56 plants back up I realized that standing them upright was only the beginning of the job that really needed to be done in preparing these plants to produce to their fullest – I needed to prune them.
In the midst of standing among all these plants and finally coming to the realization of the task before me I just wanted to go inside the house and forget about it. I was ready for my sabbath rest (although it had not come yet) and not even think about the monumental task that pruning 56 tomato plants would entail. So, after standing them all up, I went inside to take care of other things and forget about the tomato plants entirely. But today this task would not leave me alone so I went out to the garden to survey my chore.
As I looked at all of these plants and all the work that needed to be done on each one, I started feeling more and more weighted down by the work that I knew was ahead of me. But, I pushed that feeling aside and made my way to one particular plant and started cutting away at it. Within about 10 minutes the entire plant was pruned and I still had time for another, so I continued on. Three plants later I stopped because I needed to take a break and it was then that it hit me: “I don't have to do this entire task all at one time. I can break this task into small pieces and it will get done in an adequate amount of time if I just keep at it.”
I think in our spiritual lives we tend to look at spiritual disciplines in this same manner. We desire to read the bible in a year, have dedicated daily prayer sessions with the Lord, and work in ways which show the world that the Lord is alive and working within us, but each of these tasks alone seem like monumental accomplishments, let alone doing all three of them at the same time. But, what is needed here is to look at these tasks in the same manner as how I needed to look at the process of pruning my tomato plants – in the view of a long range plan that is broken down into workable small pieces.
God does not expect us to be perfected over night, nor even for any of us to get a few spiritual disciplines in place without a fight against our sinful nature. That is why God covers us in His grace and says that “it is sufficient for you”. He knows full well that we will struggle, backslide, and even want to walk away and give up when what we are up against seems insurmountable. But, that does not keep Him from asking us to continue down the path of perfection in Him nor from being covered in His grace that makes every try we take a step in the right direction.
As I was thinking about all of these things and realizing how they related to the sabbath, I realized that our sabbath days are those days that give us time to take a step back and survey our lives in and the work that is being done in them and through them. When we just look at the work we are doing from our small and short-sided perspective, it is bound to be discouraging. But when we allow God's grace to cover all we do as we take our survey from His point of view, it is then we then realize how much greater our tasks are adding up for His glory and how much is really being accomplished as we take each small and purposeful step within His greater plan for our lives.
I want to leave you with a wonderful poem that I feel encapsulates this idea of grace filling in our weaknesses and I hope as you seek to be perfected in your walk with the Lord this week you will try to see how His mercy is perfecting you in your weaknesses. I know it will be on my thoughts a lot this week as I am pruning each of my tomato plants. Until tomorrow.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercies,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary know unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again. Annie Johnson Flint