I grew up in Southeast Texas, where azaleas bloom in abundance. My husband has enjoyed only limited success with them here in North Texas because of harsher winters. The record snow and ice and consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures in 2011 resulted in near death to those in our yard. With sadness we replaced them with other plants that thrive here.
If you find yourself struggling as a believer, consider whether you are in the right climate to bloom. Look at these factors for your present community (not just your church but your go-to friends):
- Do you feel free to share your sins and failures because you are given grace?
- Are you encouraged to obey and follow God even when it’s hard, rather than take sin lightly?
- Are you strengthened by God’s Word?
- Are you sharpened by those who will speak the truth in love?
- Are you uplifted by supportive prayer?
- Are there others whose walk with God is a constant encouragement and challenge to you?
Unhealthy environments can result in spiritual decline and near death. If we are to be salt and light in the world, ingrown Christian fellowship isn’t the answer and can even be part of the problem. We may blame the culture when the real problem is under our own control. We must seek out communities of openness, confession, support, and love if we want to produce beautiful flowers.
I have been blessed to enjoy healthy climates where other believers accept and support me despite my failures and sins. But there was a time when I disassociated myself from such communities and thought I could go it alone. In time my faith was more dead than alive. But God in his grace reawakened the spark of real life, and the Christian atmosphere that I began to breathe encouraged me to bloom.
To bloom so that our world sees Christ in us requires us to escape unwholesome Christian climates. That doesn’t mean that we disassociate ourselves from those who need our positive influence. Instead of abandoning them, we must intentionally offset the negative with places of affirmation, encouragement, unconditional love, fervent faith, and right priorities.
Courageously seek out the right climate to produce lovely flowers, and encourage others there to bloom as well. How have you found a healthy climate?
This article was originally posted on Kay's late blog Beyond on 4/21/11.