Feature Article

Through the Lens: Sonoma County, California

This week’s reflection on the photos of Charles F. Stanley

Jamie A. Hughes April 9, 2022

Photograph by Charles F. Stanley

The Golden State—including the famed North Coast (where this picture was taken)—is covered with stunning vineyards like the one Dr. Stanley has captured here. Majestic mountain ranges create an impressive backdrop for endless acres of manicured rows, each filled with grapes destined to be made into some of the finest wines in the world. In the face of such natural beauty, the rosebushes in the foreground almost feel like overkill—like installing a fountain at the base of Niagara Falls.

But those roses play an important role in keeping the vineyard healthy. They serve as a sort of canary in the coal mine, because they attract aphids and catch fungal infections and mildew well before the vines do. So if they start to wither or weaken, vignerons—experts tasked with the cultivation of wine fields—will know where to look and what to treat in order to prevent any losses to the harvest.

Like those fields, Christians, too, have a kind of “early warning system.” As we mature spiritually, our sense of discernment sharpens, allowing us to better understand and follow the will of God. For instance, Proverbs 15:31-33 says, “One whose ear listens to a life-giving rebuke will stay among the wise. One who neglects discipline rejects himself, but one who listens to a rebuke acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

As we mature spiritually, our sense of discernment sharpens, allowing us to better understand and follow the will of God.

Think about a time when you flirted with temptation or allowed yourself to experiment with something that wasn’t in your best interest. Likely, a nudge within your spirit sounded the alarm, keeping you safe from whatever negative repercussions could have come your way. Or perhaps you didn’t respond in time and faced some measure of the Lord’s discipline as a result. Either way, you acquired a greater understanding of the Lord’s wisdom and grace through the experience—and probably learned a little something about yourself as well. 

Our heavenly Father trains us throughout our life and gifts us with the ability to “examine everything” and “hold firmly to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). And if we are ever uncertain or confused about which choice is right in His eyes, He promises to help us navigate the difficulty. As the apostle James writes, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). And like those superb grapes, we too grow rich and resplendent when we are under the care of our loving Vinedresser. 

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