At the beginning of each year, I choose a word that encompasses all of the things I want to work on for that twelve month period. A couple years ago, the word that I chose was rooted. I had completed college and was planning on putting down roots in Columbia with Kevin, my then soon to be husband, and I thought it would be the perfect reminder that this was where God wanted me to be. As I expected, I did grow in that area and it really did serve in the way I had hoped but God also taught me more about a different aspect of my faith that I had never intended to focus on and that was my spiritual journey.
A verse I meditated on daily during that year was Colossians 2:7, “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” It wasn’t until a year later when we purchased our first home in Columbia that I really understood the implications of what this verse means. As I stood under our 60+ year old tree, I realized the power and the strength and the depth below my feet that this tree is rooted and couldn’t help but pray that my faith look the same.
But it’s not as though this tree had gotten this way on its own.
First, a seed must be sown in fertile soil. Whether it was cast out intentionally or by the wind, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that God had a plan through it. For me personally, that looked like a lot of PSR (also commonly called Sunday School) classes that met on Monday nights and Sunday morning masses. Even though I hated them at the time, I am so thankful that my parents thought they were important because through these, God was able to set a foundation of faith in my heart.
Next, the seed was watered. Someone else came along and shared the gospel. There were three particular people in my life who made a huge impact in my faith and encouraged me to ask questions. Opening a bible I was given, helped me form my own truths about who God is and the purpose for which he created me. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 says, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”
As God continued to pursue my heart, I was nurtured. In the same way that God uses the sun as the determining factor for growth of the tree, His son, the light of the world, does the same thing for us. He came to earth to save us and to ensure eternal life for us by dying on the cross for our sins. Because of this, we grow and mess up but we are continually forgiven by God’s unrelenting mercy.
The seed begins to sprout. I like to think of this as the beginning of college. I had so many opportunities to have things just completely uproot me or shake me; God continued to place people in my path that helped me mature. I think this is why I just love studying the book of Acts which was the first written history of the Christian church: In community, which God has provided, we learn to see Christ in others and we get the chance to see the world the way that God intended for it to be. We build each other up, challenge each other, and basically just do life together.
As we grow and develop we learn that without Jesus, we can do nothing. The tree becomes larger and more established, therefore bearing fruit. Jesus said in John 15:5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” This fruit determines whether or not the tree is good or bad. “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:17-19).
God intends for us to continually be making disciples, therefore the fruit of a believer should be a new believer. We do this by being watering new seeds – inviting friends to dinner, walking through life with someone who has questions about Jesus and by being an example of love. Proverbs 11:30 says it well, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise win souls”. I believe that Jesus’ purpose for sharing the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32 was to represent kingdom growth in this way. In the Old Testament, a tree represented a mighty kingdom which sheltered the nations so this tiny mustard seed, growing into a tree symbolized Jesus’ offer of refuge and life in God’s Kingdom.
Even though we start out as a tiny seed, our mighty God is in pursuit of our hearts and encourages our growth, particularly through those around us. We need to remember that apart from Him, we can do nothing but with Him we can exemplify his love and grace in order to produce good fruit and advance the kingdom for His glory.