We all want to feel alive and growing in our faith, knowing and understanding God in a deeper way, secure enough in Him to weather the many storms of life, and still see evidence of this health in our relationship with God and others. But how does that happen? How do we consider these aspects of our journey of faith? Well, I believe it can best be assessed if we each saw ourselves as being “planted.”
Our faith and our relationship with Christ, is the result of someone sowing a seed or many seeds into our lives. And truth, the gospel message, even our faith, are referred to as seeds in the Bible. These seeds and the plants they grow are a powerful metaphor for our spiritual lives.
Jeremiah compares and contrasts the lives and futures of those with and those without faith in the Lord…and the imagery is vivid!
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT)
At first glance, most of us would think, “I couldn’t be the stunted bush described in the first section.” We may automatically see ourselves as those who place their hope and trust in the Lord, and presume by virtue of the initial qualification, that we must be the picture of spiritual health and vitality.
But, as we read through the descriptions of the tall trees planted along the riverbanks, and see the health and strength described in the passage, we may feel less and less convinced of that belief.
Maybe we are not as strongly rooted as we know we should be. Maybe the sweltering heat and changing seasons of life bring us to the brink of spiritual death. Maybe we aren’t as lush, green, and fearless of the future that this mighty timber connotes. Maybe our spiritual fruit is sporadic and tends to come only during the “good” seasons of life, rather than every season.
Perhaps we don’t actually look or feel like this healthy, strong, towering tree.
And that is why I want to take the time to look at this. At the Gathering at Journey Church, a ladies group that I and a small group of women lead, we are taking this entire year to look at the various aspects of healthy plants and healthy spiritual lives so that if we don’t exactly look like those trees planted along the riverbanks, we can assess why that is and discover how to correct it.
This is how we met “Sugartina Christalina.” That is actual name of this plant that we rescued from the plant death row at our local Lowes Home Improvement store. She was weak, dry, and most of her leaves had curled up and fallen off. She had very few green leaves left as the life was slowly being drained of her.
We can all probably identify with this plant. I know I have! There were times in our early years of ministry where I was discouraged and disappointed that God had brought us to a place that looked and felt like a dead end. We were depleted, discouraged, and disconnected- and I felt like I was dying a long, slow spiritual death.
But that wasn’t God’s plan or intent. In fact, as I look back at that time, I see more clearly that His work was orchestrating something bigger than we had thought. And we recognize that not only had He been there sustaining us all along, but that He had in a spiritual sense, re-planted us in this new community for a new purpose!
We have all probably had times in our lives where we look like the stunted shrub described in Jeremiah. We struggle to fully place our trust in Christ over our own abilities and limited strength. We often have hearts that have been hardened and are resistant to the work and growth that God desires for our lives. And often that results in despair, fear of what the future may bring, feelings of disconnect with God and even God’s people. And finally our faith becomes weak and powerless, no longer producing any fruit at all in our lives.
In essence, if we are not thriving, we are dying. There is no neutrality.
But that is not what God wants for us! Isaiah 61:3 gives us a beautiful description of God’s desire and purpose for His people:
“They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
[Tweet “God’s desire & purpose for His people- “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is 61:3]
We can be trees planted by the water’s edge, drinking from the unending source of living water, able to endure the heat and seasons of drought, (which are those times of great pressure and difficulty.) We can remain healthy when we tend to and cultivate hearts that are soft and fertile soil, allowing us to bear fruit through any and all seasons!
Periodically, we are going to consider what it means to be “Planted.”
My deep desire is to see each of us firmly and healthily planted– able to produce good fruit, in any and every season of life!