Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. Psalms 1:1 - 3 (NRSV)
If you want to know what’s wrong (or right) with a tree, you’ve got to look on the inside. You look at its rings to see the years of good growth and the years of struggle.
People aren’t so different; you’ve got to look inside too. In John’s Gospel Jesus said that we are like branches of a vine. And just like a vine’s branches, we can be healthy or unhealthy; it all depends on what’s going on inside.
Today we will look at this metaphor of a healthy tree to help us understand discipleship, what it means to be a healthy follower of Jesus Christ.
Here are three statements that unlock some pretty basic keys to healthy Christian living: 1. Healthy trees need water, 2. Healthy trees yield fruit and, 3. Healthy trees grow!
Just about everything I’ve ever read or been told by somebody who knows stuff about plants, trees and other living things, begins with the necessity of water. I’ve got a hill over in Thomasville that proves it to me every day! There were so many trees I couldn’t grow grass. Every last drop of water that fell from the sky (and a zillion dollars of city water each month) couldn’t keep grass alive on that hill – the trees wanted it all. Trees need water!
The Psalmist said those who follow after God are like trees planted by water. Jesus unpacked that analogy in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He said if she listened to what Jesus told her she could have (spiritual) living water like a spring bubbling-up in her.
We all have “life-water” needs. In a spiritual sense that is a daily filling of God’s Spirit. A man who was prominent in a church always prayed whenever the church met, O, God fill me again with your spirit. Another member who knew the man a little too well, responded, Don’t do it, Lord; he leaks!
But the reality is we constantly need “re-filling”. Just like trees aren’t interested in yesterday’s water, we cannot be sustained on yesterday’s filling of God’s Spirit, or last month’s, or forty years ago; we must, as Paul said, be continually-filled with the Spirit.
Are you planted by His water? That means you don’t plant yourself near the world’s cesspool.
Just like only healthy trees bears fruit, so only healthy Christian believers, filled with God’s Spirit, will bear spiritual fruit: that fruit, according to Paul, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Consider why only healthy trees bear fruit. It’s all according to the Laws of the Harvest:
· A Healthy Tree Bears whatever is planted
You don’t get persimmons from an apple tree. A Christian will produce Christian fruit, and you can always tell what kind of tree it is by what fruit is produced…good or bad! Remember, cancer grows fast…be careful what you plant!
· A Healthy Tree Bears more than what is planted
In Matthew 13 Jesus told parable after parable about planting, cultivating and harvesting; he taught fruitfulness. One of those parables was about how some plants/trees will bear 30-fold what you plant; others will bear 60 or 100-fold. The difference is in the quality of soil and diligence of the sower.
· A Healthy Tree Bears later than planted
Nothing blooms overnight. Bamboo can take 5 years with next to nothing to show for growth…but, watch-out for that 5th year! Bamboo that is maturing will grow 3 feet a day and more! You can have a 4-foot high 5 year old bamboo shoot in mid-June, and by the end of July it will be 125’ tall (a twelve-story building)!
But if you plant nothing today – you’ll have nothing whenever you get around to measuring.
· A Healthy Tree Bears in relation to care received
Trees need water, sunlight and nutrients. Withhold any of that and you’ll have a dead tree. A Christian needs prayer, the Word of God, fellowship with other believers, and a chance to serve others. Take away any of that and you’ll have a pitiful crop where spiritual fruit is concerned.
Discover your gifts, plan for a harvest, plant and care for all of what you plant. God will take care of whether your crop will be 30, 60 or 100-fold.
Like the laws of the harvest, the Law of Life teaches us just one simple principle:
All living things are either growing or dying.
In one sense you could say that growing is what prevents dying. Do you think this is what Jesus was pointing towards when he told the disciples about his purpose for coming to us in the first place?
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NLT)
God wants you to be alive, really living in a way that the fruit your life bears will be so full and prosperous you’ll be one of those limbs on the vine that have to be propped up with a stick because it’s so heavy with blessings.
And if that’s true – it’s something worthwhile spending time and energy on every single day!
Start now – write down some things you’re doing to care for what God has planted in you so you will stay healthy and produce fruit.
Then look at that list every morning for the next thirty days and add to it as you pray and God reveals more and more about your fruitfulness in His kingdom.
As you put God’s “orchard principles” into practice in your life, Jesus will put his life into your days.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Amen!