It seems that every year our weed problem in the pastures gets worse and worse. Pigweed, ironweed, dog fennels, thistle, horsenettle, blackberry briars, you name it, if it plagues a pasture, we can grow it! Not only do they look bad, they absorb the nutrients and the water we need to grow grass for our cattle. Every good Cattleman knows that to be a good cattle producer, you have to be a good grass farmer.
Some years we just bush hog a couple of times when the weeds get too big and interfere with the cattle grazing or when they just become too unsightly. It will take Jack several days to mow and it does not kill anything, it just keeps them knocked down and without question, scatters seed that makes the problem worse. The next cutting and in every succeeding year, there will just be more weeds because we did not kill them--we just helped them to multiply by our efforts. The pastures look better to the eye after the mowing, but the problem is actually worse than before, though it is not immediately visible. The weeds we cut are coming back and all the seed we scattered will germinate at some point, it is just a matter of time!
Other years, like this one, we spray the pastures with herbicide to try to kill as many of the weeds as we can. We have found that the problem with this, besides being time consuming and cost prohibitive for our ministry, is that the various weeds sprout, mature and seed out at different times of the year. Because of the costs, we try to insure that all of the weeds we are trying to eliminate have sprouted and large enough to absorb the herbicide. In doing so, when we do spray, some of the weeds are yet to appear while others have already seeded out and become so large that they not only look terrible, but have already robbed the grass of the much needed nutrients.
Bush hogging makes things 'look' better for a period of time. Spraying with expensive herbicide helps, but still does not fix the problem in and of itself. I am not an agronomist by any means, but I do know that if the grass is adequately fertilized, if the soil is rich and nutrients are plentiful, the grass will take care of most of the weeds by choking them out. Weeds just cannot compete when conditions are right for the grass to really grow. You may have to spray weeds for a season or two just to help begin the depopulation process, but it will not be something that has to be done every year.
My guess is if you have read this far, you must be asking yourself the question: "Well if you know this, why have you not just put out the fertilizer to build up the soil so that the grass will grow and the weeds will be controlled?" That is a good question and I reckon the only answer I have is because of the costs involved. It will initially cost us more than we are willing to pay, even though in the long run, it would be our cheapest and most productive option. It would be less labor intensive, would decrease equipment maintenance and fuel costs, would increase cattle reproduction and performance, the cows would stay in better condition and produce more milk, the calves would put on more weight, and the place would look so much more pleasing to the eye. If we were willing to invest in and focus on doing what we need to do to build up the soil, we could grow more grass and more pounds of beef, and our weed problems would be either irrelevant or eliminated!
This principle is true with pasture land, true with a home garden or even a large field of crops. It is also true with matters of the heart! Left unattended, our lives become full of weeds. We can call them worldliness, misplaced priorities, corruption, busyness, laziness, lust, greed, an angry spirit, idolatry, selfishness, addiction, deceitfulness, murder, slander, ungodliness, etc... or we can just call the weeds what they are: SIN in our lives!
If we are not careful to take care of the condition of our hearts, it becomes a breeding ground for weeds, (sin) in our lives to flourish. The more weeds there are and the longer they grow and mature, the more they reproduce to our detriment and the more they drain us of our time and energy. What may be just a seemingly little or insignificant sin here and there, will soon spread and become overwhelming and unmanageable. The more the condition of our heart deteriorates, the more conducive it is to the growth of sin in our lives. One sin seems to open the door for others. It seems that sin in our lives is like the gnats I am swatting just now as I write this--you never seem to be fighting just one!
Like the fertilizer and soil relationship, we are more susceptible to weeds in our lives when we neglect to regularly put into our hearts what is needed to keep it healthy and able to produce good fruits. The more we replenish our hearts and minds by feeding on God's Word, and spending time alone with God, the stronger we become and the more we are able to identify and choke out the sin that is trying to take root in our lives.
The Word of God and the power and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives is like fertilizer to the soul--without both we are anemic, weak and unproductive. If we neglect the study and application of God's Word in our lives, we limit or quench what the Holy Spirit will do. Not only do we need daily doses of God's Word and the filling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the replenishment of our souls, we also need one another to bring encouragement and accountability in our lives.
So why are we still struggling with and being held captive by known sin in our lives? Why do we so often feel weak, tired, discouraged, defeated and powerless to change our situation and our bondage to sin? The answer is probably the same as our excuse for not fertilizing our pastures--we are just not willing to pay the price. Spending time alone with God, studying His Word, and growing in our faith and knowledge of God will take time, energy, humility and surrender. If we are not willing to pay the price, we cannot reap the benefits.
The truth is, God has greater plans for our lives that we are realizing and living out. He wants to do in us what we cannot do for ourselves, but we have to invite Him and allow Him to do it. We can try to beat sin down or cover it up, much like mowing weeds in the pasture. We can also try to 'reform' our lives by just dealing with the outward issues of our sin, much like spraying with herbicide--we will defeat some, but others will escape. Or we can resolve the issue by allowing God to 'transform' our hearts from the inside so that sin can be defeated and choked out by His indwelling presence and power. Reformation is when we are able to make some changes or improvements in our lives. Transformation is God's work that changes us thoroughly and completely from the inside out.
Really, what acceptable choices do we have? In the long run, if we do not make a choice to live in peace with God, we will never be able to live in peace with ourselves!