There are two aspects of our Christian life: the seen and the unseen. It’s often easy to focus on the things that are seen—our behavior, church activities, service to God, and care for people. But if we focus exclusively on what is seen, we may neglect the unseen: our hidden relationship with the Lord.
In Mark 4, the Lord Jesus spoke a parable about a sower who sowed seeds into four different types of earth. Some seeds fell by the road, where birds quickly devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky places and immediately sprang up, only to wither under the sun’s heat. Others fell into thorns and were choked. The rest fell into good earth, grew, and produced fruit.
In verses 16 and 17, the Lord explained to His disciples what the “rocky places” signify:
“And likewise, these are the ones being sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. Yet they have no root in themselves, but last only for a time; then when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they are stumbled.”
Sometimes when we read the Bible, we may receive the Lord’s words with joy. Perhaps we respond by immediately being motivated to do something for God outwardly, or by resolving to adjust our behavior according to what we’ve read.
But it’s possible that this could be a superficial response, without much taking place below the surface. For any plant to grow and thrive, it needs a healthy, extensive root system. In the same way, the most important thing for our growth as Christians is to develop a deep, hidden spiritual “root system” in the Lord.
Why a strong root system is important
Hidden beneath the surface, a plant’s roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil, anchor the plant in the ground to support its upward growth, store nutrients long-term, and aid in reproduction.
These four functions of a plant’s root system vividly correlate to the Christian life.
First and foremost, we need to feed on God in His Word. Without taking in the riches contained in the Bible as our nourishment, we simply cannot be healthy spiritually or live a proper Christian life. We need to absorb spiritual nutrients every day for our Christian growth.
Second, without being rooted in Christ, we won’t be able to bear the difficulties and trials we encounter. Our unseen roots in Christ are what anchor us, enabling us to stand firm and even grow as the winds of trouble blow all around us.
Third, the Lord Jesus told us plainly that we will be afflicted, that is, persecuted, because of the Word of God. But no matter how difficult our path may be, if we have deep roots, we are guaranteed access to the abundant supply and nutrients found in Christ, which will sustain us in the long term.
Fourth, when we care for the growth of our spiritual root system, we will spontaneously live the Christian life we desire. We’ll even be able to render spiritual help to other believers or preach the gospel to those who aren’t yet saved, thus bearing fruit for the Lord.
Three ways to develop a strong root system
Although we certainly need fellowship with other believers, there should be a private and personal side to our Christian life. Here are three things we can do every day to develop a healthy spiritual root system:
1. Pray—In Matthew 6:6 the Lord Jesus said, “But you, when you pray, enter into your private room, and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Developing a secret prayer life with our Father who is in secret strengthens our spiritual roots.
2. Read the Bible—In Matthew 4, the devil tested the Lord Jesus after He had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. Jesus responded, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” This shows us that we live by taking in the Word of God as our daily bread. As we enjoy God’s Word as our food, it enables us to withstand the devil’s temptations.
3. Spend time with the Lord in the morning—By combining these two—praying and reading the Bible—first thing in the morning, we can deepen our roots. Before we get too busy and the “heat” of the day begins to wear on us, we can absorb the Lord as our nourishment by praying over the Word every morning. This will sustain us for the rest of the day.
The Lord Jesus is our pattern
As believers, we must care for the church and minister Christ to the people around us. While it’s true that we should serve the Lord and do things for Him, these outward activities must be dependent on a deep, hidden root system.
The Lord Jesus is our pattern. He did many wonderful things in the Father’s name: He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and fed the hungry. But time and time again, He withdrew from the crowds and went away in private to pray to the Father. We can follow His pattern each day by spending personal, private time with our Lord to be supplied and nourished by Him.