[It’s leaves are always green]
As I glance out our window, the same thing always catches my eye: a brown Evergreen tree. Obviously, this tree has no life left in it anymore, and if it were standing in our yard, it would have been chopped down long ago! However, there it stands on the other side of the fence–a constant vision of lifelessness.
Evergreens shouldn’t turn brown. The only reason an Evergreen changes colour is because something has gotten the best of it–be it lack of water, wind damage, insects or disease. It’s also said that Winter can be quite hard on recently transplanted Evergreens due to their reduced root system. This makes sense. Perhaps we should be more supportive and welcoming to newcomers and those in need. Everyone needs a strong root system.
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Remember to welcome strangers, because some who have done this have welcomed angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2 (NCV)
“Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person.” –1 John 3:17(NCV)
While brown Evergreens may appear lifeless, one columnist writes, “Don’t give up on brown evergreens just yet. They may look fatally dramatic; however, if the branch and growing bud is still alive they have a chance to grow.” [source: The Homeowners Column ] Thankfully, God does give all of us a chance to grow. While I’d have no problem throwing a brown tree into the chipper, God knows better. He’s very patient, unlike myself, who still has a thing or two to learn about patience.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” –2 Peter 3:9
Aren’t we glad that God doesn’t cut us down when we’re looking unsightly? Thankfully, even when we turn away from Him, He never turns away from us. Instead He kindly shelters us as He did when He caused a tree to grow up over Jonah, sheltering him from the sweltering heat of the Sun. In that same moment God was mercifully teaching Jonah right from wrong, kindly showing him that He can shelter anyone He so chooses. Even those who have gone astray. Even the wicked. Jonah was in that boat himself (or rather a large fish), but he wasn’t seeing that he was doing the very same thing that Nineveh had done.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” –Matthew 5:44-45
When God caused the tree to wither, Jonah became angry. God then questioned him about his anger, just as any good father would, reminding Jonah that Nineveh simply didn’t know right from wrong. It’s so easy for us to see things in the people around us, but for whatever reason we have a difficult time recognizing our own mistakes and wrong doing (More on this after Christmas.)
We should have mercy on those who are having a rough go of things because God shows us that same mercy. We too are just as guilty of doing things that God hates. We’re also susceptible to the storms of life. Therefore, we should also remember that the amount we give, will be given to us. (Matthew 7:2) If we give little, we will get little. (This does include our time, patience, mercy, forgiveness and our love.)
“But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.” –2 Corinthians 9:6
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” –Proverbs 17:17
Over the Winter months, Evergreens can lose more water than they can replace. However, as followers of Christ; we do have the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is our constant source of living water. When we need more life in us we can ask for God’s help, and tap into every source of encouragement that we’ve been provided. We should also accept and assist those who are weaker in the faith. ( Romans 14:1)
What strikes me the most about the brown tree in our neighbors yard is that it’s the only tree along the fence line that has turned brown. All of the other trees planted along side it are living up to their name. That’s just it, isn’t it? As followers of Christ we have a name to live up to. Are we representing Jesus well? Are we thriving? Do our roots go deep? When something difficult comes our way will we weather that storm, or will we quickly wither? Last, but not least, do we stand by our brothers and sisters, even when they’re a little worse for wear? (This one is definitely speaking to my heart.)
Trees that aren’t deeply rooted are easily bowled over by a strong gust of wind, or they simply don’t receive enough water to keep them strong and green. Trees like the one in our neighbors yard–that don’t have anyone caring for them–don’t thrive. One day, one way or another, that brown tree will either be blown down or chopped down. This not only speaks of how we must strive to thrive, but it also speaks to me of those in our own circle of influence. Are we willing to reach out and be that nourishment? Of course, those who need that nourishment must also be willing to take the help (Sometimes more patience, prayer, belief, and trust in God is needed on our part.)
If we don’t accept God’s care, or we don’t let our roots sink deep enough to receive that life giving water and stability, we too, will all too quickly succumb to whatever abrasive breeze blows our way. Thankfully, we can turn to God for everything we need.
“But the person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. The Lord will show him that He can be trusted. He will be strong, like a tree planted near water that sends its roots by a stream. It is not afraid when the days are hot; its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year when no rain comes; it always produces fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” –Psalm 1:1-3
Lord Jesus, thank you, for helping us see what we’ve been missing. Thank you for kind correction, direction and guidance. Please help us to sink our roots in deep so that we can help others to receive the same mercy and forgiveness that we ourselves have received.