Cultivation is key to success

Published 8:23 pm Friday, February 17, 2006

By Staff
True success is not accomplished in one bold stroke. It is a result of diligent attention to the little things. There are catastrophic failures, but many more things lie in ruin because of negligence.
Solomon said in Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verse 15, that it's “the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Cultivation is the slow, steady, timely process of giving proper care.
The most important thing we have to cultivate is our spiritual life. If we are in right relationship to God, everything (of eternal significance) falls into place.
The writer of the Old Testament Proverbs uses agricultural illustrations to give insight into the care of our spirit. In Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 30-34, he speaks of the field of the lazy man. (Let the field represent our heart or our spiritual vitality.) The field was overgrown with thorns, the surface was covered with nettles, and the stone wall was broken down. The field was worse than worthless. It would take much effort and time to reclaim it to usefulness. Everything wrong with the field was a result of neglect.
The conclusion as to how the field of the lazy man came to such a condition is in verse 33: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” Verse 34 declares that poverty or disrepair comes like a prowler; it sneaks up unaware. But need comes like an armed man. In other words, we typically do not realize how serious a condition a little neglect can bring.
The contrast of the lazy man is the ant. God calls our attention to the diligent action of the ant in Proverbs, chapter 6, verses 7-8: “Having no captain, overseer or ruler, [she] provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.” The rest of the passage about the ant is exactly the same words used in Proverbs 24 describing the result of neglect.
The actions of the ant in diligent and timely care is echoed in Proverbs, chapter 4, verses 23-27, where we are instructed how to care for or keep our heart. Our heart is like a field, a vineyard, or a garden. Good care will cause it to flourish; neglect will lead to ruin.
We are told in Proverbs, chapter 4, beginning in verse 23, to “keep your heart with all diligence.” Keep the walls in good condition; keep the gate strong and tightly closed when necessary. Verse 23 continues, “for out of it [the heart] spring the issues of life.”
Then, in the next verses, the writer of Proverbs gives us specific admonitions on how to care for our heart or our spiritual life. Verse 24 tells us to “put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.” In other words, the things we say can infect the heart. Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 15, verse 11, that it's “not what goes into the mouth [that] defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a man.”
Next, regarding the eyes, verse 25, of Proverbs 4, says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.” Sometimes we cannot control what we see, but we can control how long we look at what we see. We need to keep our eyes focused on the right things. Do not give evil a closer look or a second look.
Finally, regarding our feet in verse 26, we are to “ponder the path of [our] feet, and let all [our] ways be established.” Verse 27 warns, “Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.”
Strangely, this Proverbs 4 passage never mentions our hands. If our mouth is under control, our eyes are looking at the right things, and our feet are taking us to the right places, our hands will not have opportunity for evil.
If we were to take a trip, we would get a road map, an exit guide, and a motel registry to carefully plan every detail of our trip. So it should be for every detail of our daily schedule. We should have a “pothole guide” for our life and avoid all the wrong places and people who could potentially defile us or cause us to fall.
Remember, it is the little things that cause the biggest problems. We do not intend to fail, but if we do not apply diligent care to cultivate our spiritual life according to God's Word, we will find ourselves overgrown with all the wrong things and in great need.