The West holds little appeal to me. To someone who is from a more verdant state, the land there seems barren and unappealing. Acres stretch without a tree in sight. Occasionally, sprigs of grass and low-lying shrubs dot the flat earth, but for the most part, the horizon consists of wavy heat lines above blistered, red soil. In the vastness, however, there are balls of constant motion. Looking much like weaving cartoon characters, tumbleweeds roll left, then right. They twirl backward, pause, then bounce forward again. They zig and zag with no rhyme or reason to their travel. This is the image I get when I read Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus. “Stop being tossed around and letting every kind of doctrinal wind direct your life,” he said (Quoted from the Rachel version of the Bible.) In essence, he was telling the Ephesians to cease being spiritual tumbleweeds.
These church people were supposed to have The Wind, the Holy Ghost, directing them; instead, they were all over the place, easily thrown off-course from truth. The cause of this chaos was the same problem that makes a tumbleweed, well, tumble. Rootlessness. A tumbleweed begins as a plant, but as it grows older, it becomes so dry and brittle that it breaks off of its stem. Without something to anchor it into the ground, it gets moved by any wind that blows.
Spiritually speaking, we need roots, or we are much the same. We must be anchored into the Word of God, thereby subject only to the Wind of the Spirit, or we will be misguided by the winds of circumstances, emotions, and opinions. See, tumbleweed-like saints can be blown by the Spirit of God from time to time. But the Holy Spirit is not the ONLY driving force in their lives. Therefore, one minute they can be operating in the Gifts of the Spirit and shortly thereafter entangled in some work of the flesh. They feel the Holy Ghost—they even obey Him some of the time—but they also heed other directives like the will of their natural man or the influence of other people. The result? Like a tumbleweed, there’s no evidence of growth, no depth or maturity, no consistent fruit indicative of their relationship with God. They’re up and down, rather than steadfast. Their convictions ebb and flow with their emotion-driven pendulum ride. While they may be blown on-course sometimes, they drift into error, too. Their influence is confusing and often a poor reflection on the Body of Christ and the work of Calvary. Without full attachment to the vine, they dehydrate, disengage and become subject to whims and notions that are not of God.
Staying saturated with the Living Water of the HOLY Spirit prevents us from becoming dry and brittle in the first place. Drawing from the Source of replenishment, we are pliable and able to grow into spiritually mature plantings of the Lord. Negativity, bitterness, unforgiveness, and other such scorching elements are not able to evaporate the deep flow of the Spirit or sever our taproot that draws from its well-spring.
Furthermore, we are provided with support to maintain the spiritual connection we need. Paul explains that God has given us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us discern the difference between Spirit winds and carnal winds. The ministry promotes spiritual growth and provides edification that leads to unity in the faith and personal Christlikeness. Their instruction in truth keeps us from being thrown off-course from our spiritual purpose, our fruitfulness, and our fellowship with God.
Finally, as Paul addressed the issue of being a spiritual tumbleweed, he explained that we can know if we are growing in the Spirit as well-rooted Christians. Giving a checklist of sorts, he wrote that throwing off the corrupt, sinful, and deceptive OLD man is the first sign of progress. Development continues with a renewed mind that submits itself to the lordship of the Word. Finally, as the inner man is changed, further evidence of maturity is demonstrated with an external “putting on” of Christ in the way we talk, the way we treat others, and the way we respond to the Holy Ghost.
With the gentle guidance of a father, Paul shows us how to live the kind of life God wants us to live, a life that isn’t rootless and tossed about by every wind that blows. Instead, as the Ephesian Christians learned, we can flourish in the Spirit— whether we are a cactus in the desert West or an oak in the rain-soaked South.
Tip/Tidbit: Use Paul’s checklist to examine your personal, spiritual growth. Is there an area in which you feel weak? Allow the ministry of God’s Word to guide you to a more steadfast place in God.