(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
Usually, when we look at plants we focus on what’s visible above ground. We admire a beautiful rose on a rose bush, the majesty of a redwood tree, or the fruitfulness of an apple tree.
But for any plant to grow and even thrive, it needs a healthy, extensive root system below ground. In the same way, developing a deep, spiritual “root system” in the Lord is critical for our growth as Christians.
In our Christian life, it’s easy to focus on the visible things: our behaviour, church activities, and service to the Lord. But while it’s true that we should serve the Lord, these visible activities must issue from our hidden life with Him.
We’ve been rooted in Christ
Concerning the believers in Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2:7:
“Having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being established in the faith even as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Paul didn’t simply say, “We’re being built up in Christ.” He was very particular to say “having been rooted” in Christ first. Why?
Well, without a root system hidden in the soil, a plant simply can’t grow. In the same way, our spiritual growth—or being built up in the Lord—is dependent on and issues from our hidden “root system” in the Lord.
Let’s read note 1 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version:
“Like plants, we are living organisms. As such, we have been rooted in Christ, our soil, our earth, that we may absorb all His riches as nourishment. These riches become the element and substance with which we grow and are built up. To be rooted is for the growth in life. This rooting has been completed already. To be built up is for the building of the Body of Christ. This is still going on. Both these matters are in Christ.”
Christ is the nutrient-rich soil we’ve been rooted in. Now, in order to grow in the Lord, we need to nurture our hidden root system so we can absorb the riches of Christ as our nourishment.
The benefits of having a hidden life with the Lord
We certainly need to fellowship with other believers. But if we’re nourished only by what we get from others in the public realm, such as at church meetings, our growth will be limited. Having a private, hidden life with the Lord causes our roots in Him to develop and allows Him to nourish us personally.
A healthy spiritual root system also anchors us in the Lord. Trees with deep roots are not easily blown over when a strong wind comes. In the same way, if our roots in the Lord are deep, we can stand firm despite the winds of trouble blowing around us. Then we can draw on Him as our rich supply in every situation, no matter how difficult.
And by maintaining our private fellowship with the Lord, we’ll spontaneously live a life that pleases Him. If we spend time absorbing His riches, we’ll be able to help other believers by sharing with them the Christ we’ve enjoyed and personally experienced.
In chapter 3 of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, vol. 2, Watchman Nee points out our need for a hidden, secret life with the Lord, quoting Psalms 42:7: “Deep calls unto deep.” He then speaks of the effect this kind of life has on others:
“As we extend ourselves deeper and take root downward, we will discover that ‘deep calls unto deep.’ When we can bring forth riches from the depths of our inner life, we will find that other lives will be deeply affected. The minute our inner being is touched, others will receive help and be enlightened. They will know that there is something beyond their knowledge. When deep touches deep, deep will respond to deep. If our life has no depth, our superficial work will only affect other life superficially. We repeat yet again—only ‘deep calls unto deep.’”
The Lord Jesus is our pattern
When the Lord Jesus lived on the earth, He had a hidden life with God. The four Gospels tell us about the many wonderful things Jesus did in the Father’s name. He proclaimed the gospel, taught the truth, healed the sick, cleansed lepers, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, and much more.
All of His marvelous deeds certainly attract our attention. But the Gospels also tell us that again and again, Jesus withdrew from the crowds and went away to pray to the Father in private. Luke 5:16 even says:
“But He Himself often withdrew in the wilderness and prayed.”
To ensure that He could pray privately, Jesus would go to the wilderness or some other deserted place. Mark 1:35 says:
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still night, He went out and went away to a deserted place, and there He prayed.”
Why did Jesus do this? Note 1 on this verse in the Recovery Version explains:
“To fellowship with God, seeking God’s will and pleasure for His gospel service. The Slave-Savior performed the evangelistic service not by Himself, independent of God and according to His own will, but according to God’s will and pleasure by being one with God to fulfill His purpose.”
The Lord didn’t assume He knew what to do. In private prayer, He deliberately sought God’s will so that in His service He would be one with God.
We may not live near a desert, but we can follow the Lord’s example by spending personal, private time with Him away from others. During that time, He can supply and nourish us and make His will known to us.
Three ways to develop a strong root system
So how can we develop and nurture a healthy spiritual root system, that is, a hidden life, with the Lord? We can start with these three things:
In Matthew 6:6 the Lord Jesus said, “But you, when you pray, enter into your private room, and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Developing a secret prayer life with our Father who is in secret strengthens our spiritual roots. During these private times of prayer, we can pour our hearts out to our Father. We can confess our sins, invite Him into our situations, pray for people we know, and talk to Him about anything.
2. Reading the Bible
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” This shows us that we live by taking in the Word of God as our daily bread. Enjoying God’s Word daily strengthens us to withstand the devil’s temptations and to live by the life of God to express Him.
3. Spending time with the Lord in the morning
Before we get too busy with our day, we can absorb the Lord as our nourishment by praying with His Word each morning. Combining these two—praying and reading the Bible—supplies us to face whatever the rest of the day will bring.