Let us pray: Dear Savior, You know that we all desire happiness, contentment, and satisfaction in our lives. You know that we want both to give and to receive joy and blessing. You know that because You created us that way. Today inspire us to do both and reap a reward of fulfillment as we strive to scatter, nurture, and even consume Your seed of eternal truth, forgiveness, and love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS!
TEXT: Isaiah 55: 10,11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When I was about 8 years old my grandfather decided to plant about 200 pine trees on his land. He had gotten the little seedlings for free from a neighbor and decided they would make a nice windbreak. So, for two days that summer I helped him. He dug each hole with his trusty post-hole digger and I carried pails of water to “mud them in.” He told me: “Tommy, you come back in 20 years and these trees will be way over your head.” Well, I did return about 20 years later. And yes, there they were! Straight, tall (about 40 feet high) and I felt a tremendous surge of pride!—For I had made their existence possible.
Someday, God willing, I will own a chunk of land, as well. And I plan on planting all kinds of unique trees on it. O, I know that trees are dime a dozen in New England. I know that most people often view them as a nuisance. And yet, when you see a giant beech, or an ancient catalpa in bloom, or a row of old weeping willows forming a green waterfall to the eye, well, somehow the long-dead, long-forgotten person planting them lives on, don’t they?
As Christians you and I are here to make our mark on this earth. We’re here to make our mark on eternity. To really make a difference with our lives. With that thought in mind, I ask:
HAVE YOU PLANTED YOUR LIFE TREE TODAY?
What’s the most famous tree in the Bible? Well, the first that comes to my mind is the tree of life planted by God in the garden of Eden. We don’t know exactly what it was or how it looked. We never will this side of heaven, because there was only one tree of life and it was destroyed by the great flood of Noah. And yet, we’re told that eating its fruit bestowed eternal life. How glorious it must have been!
Of course, there is another tree which also bestows life. In more than one place the Bible speaks of the cross as a tree. Such passages as: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” come to mind. Christ, God’s Son, was cursed in place of us on a tree. God’s Son died on a tree and with His death came the death of all of our sins. Peter speaks of this in his first epistle when he writes: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” So, I suppose you could say that the cross also was a tree of life, wasn’t it?
Our lesson is an amazing one. In it, God uses the image of common seed to help us understand a tremendous spiritual truth. His Word of truth, His message of forgiveness and love is likened onto a seed. A seed which God Himself waters, nourishes, and tends. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Did you catch the double purpose of God’s seed? One, in planting it the sower is given a sense of accomplishment and purpose, and two, in reaping its fruit, humans are kept alive. In both instances we humans are the beneficiaries of God’s grace. For the Seed of God’s love for us in Christ gives us focus and also sustains us. Also, in both instances all glory goes back to God. Yes, everyone benefits when we plant His life tree!
Someone, sometime in the past planted God’s tree of life within each of you. Over the years that seed of faith has grown and from it you’ve reaped the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Where would you be without such blessings? You know the answer. You’d be confused, frightened, aimless in your appreciation of life, and fearful of death. When evil intrudes, when terrorists strike, your face would reflect the same kind of hopelessness and helplessness that we’ve all witnessed on the TV the past few days. But, the tree of life breeds hope. It provides help. It reminds us that in Christ the best is yet to come and the surety of heaven never, ever, disappoints. Yes, it is the comfort of the Gospel that sustains us. Christ, the tree of life, keeps us going in confidence.
So, where do you want to plant your tree? Obviously your first thought is: your kids. You want the satisfaction of seeing them grow in God’s grace, too. Then there are your relatives who are scrambling through life looking for fulfillment and never seeming to find it in the latest diet, hobby, or the toy they bought at the mall. (I actually heard someone in the airport in Minneapolis say to another: “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” To which I muttered: “But what do they win?”) My point is: the ground it fertile. All around us people need to know that there is something more than 9 to 5, 24/7, buy, buy, get older and die. They need a sense of eternal accomplishment. They need the joy of knowing that God loves them more than life itself—and proved it by dying their death on a tree and then rising to life again for them. Just like you are given joy from the planting such a tree within you and also reaping its fruit, so your joy can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled when you sow God’s Seed of eternal life in Christ to other hurting souls.
43 years ago when I planted those pine trees with my grandfather, I worried a bit over their fate. Who would water them during a drought? Who would protect them from storms and insects? Well, God took pretty good care of them in my absence. And our lesson reminds us that God always takes care of His Life Tree, too. Our job is merely to plant it. His job is to water, fertilize, and make it grow. And right in this little text God promises that that will occur! My friends, when I look at my own faith I take tremendous comfort in those words. For they mean that my salvation isn’t dependent upon me, but upon the Lord Almighty Who never sleeps nor slumbers. And as you actively work to plant life trees among your loved ones, those exact same words apply. So, rejoice! Plant your life tree(s)! And know that someday in heaven all of you will eat your fill from the Ultimate Tree of Life: Jesus Christ. Yes, as we’re told in the book of Revelation: “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Amen