Back in the spring I was out walking along a nearby riverside track and noticed that some big old oak trees, still quite bare from winter, had thick vines wrapping themselves tightly round and round their trunks and even high up into the branches above, with no end of tiny roots clinging on to them. “What a shame!”, I thought, “the life is gradually being sucked out of those trees. They’re slowly, slowly being weakened and crushed to death”.
But now in summer, walking again along that same track, I see the trees are in full leaf, vibrant green with hundreds of little acorns already forming. They couldn’t look more healthy! I realised then that with their roots undoubtedly going down deep, so close to the river, they are constantly feeding on all the moisture and nutrients they need, a never-ending source of life and health, which has made them overcomers!
It was a living picture of Psalm 1: ‘Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.’
I love the way God’s creation so powerfully reflects His Word. In a sense we’re all like those oak trees, living in a fallen world where the vines of difficult life situations can come upon us and threaten to overwhelm us at any time, whether in the form of ill health, injury, disability, bereavement, relationship difficulties, divorce, losing a job, financial troubles or something else. Jesus warned us in advance when He said: ‘In this world you will have trouble’ (John 16:33).
There may be times when the ‘vine’ might feel like it’s consuming us, maybe even threatening to crush us almost to death. Yet in anticipation of such trouble and hardship, Jesus immediately encourages us in the second part of the verse: ‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
I have been especially inspired by three friends during the time of lockdown and social distancing – each one is individually facing hard things in their life. Yet because they are in the One who has overcome the world, and He is in them, they are focussed on Him and His Word to them. They are each actively trusting Him to bring them through, rather than allowing their difficulties to overwhelm them. They are not sinking, but instead shining with hope in Jesus, like diamonds in the darkness.
We can all be like those oak trees! We can all be overcomers in the midst of our circumstances. But in order to come into our God-given destiny, bearing fruit for His Kingdom and giving glory to Him as our Creator God, we have a part to play. Just as the trees seek out the water and sink their roots down into the moisture and good nutrients and drink them in, so we must take in the nourishment of God’s Word, as Psalm 1 reminds us.
Those tree roots must sometimes have to push through the hardest, driest ground to reach the water, but they don’t give up because their life and health depends on it. So it is for us. It takes effort and determination to press forward and take in the truth and promises of God’s Word, which is our never-ending source of life and health. But, praise God, it’s not all about summoning up our own strength. He has given us His Holy Spirit, and if we are willing He will enable us, and we will be like those trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for the reminders of Your Word that we find in creation. And thank You that Jesus has overcome the world, and I am in Him and He is in me. Please help me not to allow my circumstances to crush me, but to reach out and press into Jesus, to drink in Your Word and Your promises, so that I can stand tall like those oak trees, and be an overcomer in Jesus. In His precious Name, Amen.
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