For some people, getting selected to play the role of a tree in the school play is a dreaded outcome. Many young actors and actresses do their very best in whatever role they are cast, and up to a certain age, it’s adorable. Still, when we want to be the lead, but end up in the background with no lines, it can be disappointing.
The Bible talks a lot about trees and plants, though. Consider the creation account in Genesis 1-3, where God made trees, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil proved the shortcomings of human beings. Jesus used trees in His teaching (see Matthew 7:15-20), cursed a fig tree (see Mark 11:12-14, 20-21), and called Zaccheus down from a tree (see Luke 19:1-10). The Tree of Life appears in Revelation 22:1-2, after showing up in Genesis 2:9.
While the following passage has more of a marine metaphor (as if we are boats caught in a storm), and the idea of a body (connected to Jesus as the head of the church), I wanted to think about the principles contained here with another illustration:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:14-16 NASB
Have you ever seen a tree that was blown over, whether surveying the neighborhood after a storm, or maybe when going for a hike in the woods? As a mechanical engineer by education, I generally see one of two main “failure modes” when a tree has succumbed to a storm:
In one case, a tree has been uprooted entirely. Maybe the roots were too shallow, or had rotted. Sometimes, floodwaters have weakened the soil, or nearby construction had to cut off the roots underground. Whatever the cause, we see a big pyramid of roots now sitting above ground, revealing what had been buried.
When similar outcomes occur in our spiritual lives, we’re kind of like those storm-tossed boats (or, in my metaphor, storm-uprooted trees). When we don’t have good roots, we shouldn’t expect to last (like the seed sown on the rocky soil in Matthew 13:20-21) in our faith. When we don’t have any roots in Jesus Christ at all, our spiritual life doesn’t even get off the ground (like the seed sown on the path in Matthew 13:19).
Do you know (or have you been) someone in this situation, believing that they have a Christian faith or “religion”, but never really getting to know and follow Jesus? When someone’s spiritual “grounding” lies only in external practices, or in any teaching that doesn’t center on Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t expect anything truly Christ-like to grow from that. I’m not qualified to judge those who seem to sprout up with some faith and then give up on it later, because there is a lot that happens in a human heart. However, I can say with certainty that if we expect to have a faith that grows into the life-changing transformation that God offers us, it must be deeply rooted in Jesus. Read again what the passage above describes as the alternative: “every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”. These foundations will not hold us up as we try to grow in faith.
We are called to be rooted in Jesus Christ, as described in Colossians 2:6-7 (and the following verses). When our roots are solid, and placed in a firm foundation, we can stand strong.
That’s enough metaphors for today, though. Let’s take a look tomorrow at how else the storm can take its toll.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.