My Cactus Committed Suicide—a Story of Hope and Encouragement
One of my hobbies is taking care of plants. As a single guy, I live alone and it’s just nice to have another living thing in the apartment with me, and it’s even nicer if it’s something that thrives in dirt. (Not that I’m messy or anything.)
But, anyway, as I was saying, I like plants. It started with an ivy I was given in college, and I guess I just had a knack. Most my friends’ ivies died within a year, but mine is still going strong, and every year I take cuttings to give away as Christmas presents.
In fact, the only plants I’ve ever lost have been two cacti, one of which committed suicide a few weeks ago. I guess I could have seen it coming. About three months before, it had fallen over, and the only thing keeping it alive was one solid root that hung on as the cactus dangled out over the edge of my table, until one day it jumped.
But, that’s not to say the cactus was sickly and dying. No, it was thriving and growing even as it lay on its side. In fact, if it had been sickly, it would still be alive today. It didn’t die because it wasn’t growing. It died because it was growing so well that it got fat and snapped all of its roots right off. It died because I treated it well and cacti are designed to be abused and neglected.
The Spiritual Application, and the Hope it Brings
Recently, God showed me a good parallel between that cactus and churches. You see, just like cacti, God designed the Church to exist in hostile areas. The cactus lives on the edge of where life is possible; the church lives on the front lines of the Spiritual War. Both the cactus and the Church thrive in brain-frying heat, like the fires of persecution. Historically, the most efficient way to grow Christianity is to outlaw it.
Both flourish when things basic to life, such as water and hope, aren’t around, because both feed themselves from the treasures stored deep inside their heart.
This destiny to live in hostility doesn’t make it easier when times are tough, or when there’s persecution, but I hope it does help keep you going. After all, as much as it hurts, there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing your church was made for these tough times. It’s not like God forgot about you. God didn’t accidentally let you wind up here. He knew this would happen before the start of the world, and He custom built churches to handle the pressure. A church in troubled times is a cactus in the desert, a heavily armored tank pelted with rifle bullets, a turtle protected by it’s shell. Times are tough, but you were designed to overcome.
The other parallel between cacti and the Church is that both have to be strategic in their growth. The cactus lives in sandy soil, so it can easily get so heavy it tips over (as I found out). Similarly, Satan would love to infiltrate the church and make it so happy and content that it becomes a worthless blob of fat that tips over.
That’s why both must build strong roots. In fact, I would have much rather seen my cactus puny, healthy, and well rooted, as opposed to big, fat, and laying broken on my floor. God’s the same way. He cares more about the roots of your church than it’s size, because good roots cause a large size, but do it the other way and all you get is death.
As leaders in the church, we’re obsessed with growth. If we don’t get a salvation a week, we’re not satisfied. If we do, we want ten a week, then a hundred, then a thousand. This is good. As long as there are people who don’t know Jesus, any Christian who’s satisfied with the status-quo needs a serious talking to.
But, there is an investment that must be made before that growth can occur. Often, God slows visible growth, while he works below the soil.
So, if your church is small, or seems to be stuttering in its growth, or whatever has you down, remember that God is just working to prepare you. Focus on your roots. Pray harder. Disciple more leaders, so they can minister to new believers when they show up.
Use the time to build roots that go twenty feet underground, and before you know it, you’ll have a church that looks like a redwood.