Blueberry season is normally long over by August, but amazingly our bushes are still yielding a few small berries. I can only think that Atlanta’s excessive early summer rains are the reason for our extended fruiting season. But whatever the cause, I’m content to be relishing a last few sweet treats this late in the summer. However, when I comb through the bushes for these juicy jewels, I have to be fairly careful because they aren’t as easy to pick as they are when the bushes are in full production. That’s mainly because berries aren’t the only thing that flourish this time of the year. The thorny vines that once covered the area where we chose to plant most of our blueberries also benefited from the rains and have grown up among our bushes with a vengeance.
In the fall and winter, I can easily get in and among the blueberry branches to pull out the unwanted barbs, but in the summer, I have to leave them alone or risk disturbing the ripening berries or doing damage to the fruiting stems. My only recourse is to cut the thorns off at the ground and leave them in place until the blueberry bushes go dormant in the winter before pulling them out to be burned. Once my gardening shears have done their work, the thorn branches wither and die, but their spikes are just as sharp and (as I have experienced) will cut and puncture my hands.
You know, as I was working with my berries, I couldn’t help but think about how my thorn entangled bushes are much like the world today. Satan’s influence is profoundly intertwined through just about everything.. home, business, government, schools, even the church. His influence is so pervasive that often it’s hard to distinguish the good from the bad.
Scripture clearly teaches that through Christ’s death on the cross, the power of Satan was cut, and believers in Jesus are freed from the devil’s choke hold. (Heb. 2:14-15; Col. 1:13; John 12:31) However, that doesn’t mean his fierceness is gone. And just as with my thorns, the enemy’s hooks are just as present … and dangerous… as they have ever been. And if we’re not extra careful to pay attention, we’ll find ourselves quickly injured on his ‘briars’ that are so maliciously woven though the world system.
Of course, one day Jesus will come back and permanently remove all threats from our world, but until then, believers need to be alert and willing to identify the real threats that exist around us to avoid being wounded by carelessness.
Scripture warns us that evil days are coming (even present now), and lovingly counsels us to be prepared for them in advance. “In the world you have tribulation,” (John 16:33a) Jesus promised. But without taking a breath, He reminded us that the end is already determined and to “take courage;” (because) “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
So as you endeavor to navigate the excessive and dangerously sharp briers that remain around us, be vigilant and maintain your focus on the goal, always remembering that a commitment to godliness greatly increases our awareness of the opportunities that He sends, and gives us a single-mindedness that will open the way for us to enjoy the sweet fruit of righteousness.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best
and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God.