When life gets harder, we should send our spiritual roots deeper.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who will prove fruitful.
This summary of John 15:5 has an Old Testament corollary in Jeremiah 17:7-8:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.”
The tree in these verses was faced with the adversities of intense heat and drought. Despite this, something extraordinary happened. The leaves never missed a fruit-bearing season. The tree had a secret: It spread out its roots by the river (continually received the life-giving water). The tree pictures the Christian, whose taproot is in constant contact with Jesus, allowing him to share his life and bear his fruit.
What is the fruit of this tree? Examine the rings on the stump of a felled tree. Narrow rings were formed in years of drought. Wider rings indicate years of plenty. The lesson: If only a small amount of water is available, it is to be used to sustain the life already in the tree. However, when more water is available than that necessary to sustain life, the tree grows in all directions. If there is an abundance of nourishment over and above that needed to sustain life and provide growth, it is transformed into fruit. The fruit, then, is the overflow, the surplus, the excess life of the nourishment taken into the tree over and beyond that needed for life and growth. Fruit is simply excess life.
AS I SEE IT
We all have been guilty of trying to bear fruit through self-effort as we work up the courage to witness to someone or resolve to be more consistent in prayer. If, however, we have drawn spiritual nourishment from the life of Christ in such abundance that our life sustaining needs have been met, and our growth needs are met, the overflow of the love of Christ turns into fruit. The witnessing will happen automatically and consistent prayer will be a natural result of a growing relationship.
Just as the tree in the verses from Jeremiah experienced intense heat and drought, adversity in our walk with God is a part of our maturing process. It is an opportunity for Christians to draw on God’s resources just as a tree draws additional nourishment in times of stress.
In the days of the “tall ships,” the safety and success of a ship’s crew depended in the strength of its foremast. This incredible strong piece of timber transferred all the stress from the wind in the sails to the ship. Any failure in the foremast would lead to disaster. To guard against every possible failure, shipbuilders used great care in selecting potential trees for the foremast. They selected a tree on a high hilltop and then cut away all the surrounding trees that would shield it from the force of the wind. As the years passed, the winds from all directions forced the tree to grow stronger as it resisted the wind’s forces.
Strength through Adversity
If we could monitor the tree’s moisture intake as it matured, we would detect an upsurge during each windstorm. The friction generated by the bending tree created heat, which caused the tree do draw more nourishment through its roots. The intense heat of the sun would have a similar effect. We would see that the greater the “adversity,” the more the tree would draw nourishment and strength. The greater the resistance, the stronger the tree would become. Eventually, the master shipbuilder would know that the time had come. The tree was finally ready to be put into action.
Returning to our verse from Jeremiah, let’s imagine that we could monitor the water intake of the fruit tree planted by the water. We would see that the greatest intake occurred as the fruit was being formed. Without a nearby water source, there will be no fruit. Likewise, if the tree failed to search out the water, there would be no fruit.
Today’s message isn’t just about fruit trees or tall ships. It’s about us and our ability to bear fruit. It’s also about abiding in Jesus, our source of spiritual nourishment and strength in times of adversity. The goal of the Christian is to be a fruit-bearing disciple of Jesus Christ because of, not in spite of, the adversities we face.
And like the tree on the hilltop, adversity should cause us to send our roots deeper as we seek additional nourishment and strength from Jesus Christ. Running from, complaining about, or praying against the adversities our Lord has sent our way will keep us from ever growing to maturity.
It May be from God
Yes, there are times when we should pray against things that are clearly from the enemy. But don’t rule out the possibility that God may have sent a strong wind our way to force us to draw our life and strength from Him. He is equipping us for something, either in this world, or the next. So when trials come, think about the tree on top of the hill or a fruit tree soaking up the moisture as it converts it into fruit.
Here’s the bottom line: When life gets harder, it’s time to send our roots deeper.
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