If you’re ever in the Sonoran Desert and you see this tree, you might think your vision is failing. It’s a tree that looks like a blur—no matter how hard you try to focus on it. So it’s no surprise that it bears the name Desert Smoketree (Psorothamnus spinosus). The Smoketree often looks like puffs of smoke. It gets this appearance from its silvery branches and twigs—which are exposed most of the year since it rarely bears leaves.
You see, one of the strange characteristics about the Smoketree is that it only has leaves for about three weeks out of the year. These leaves appear in early April and are gone by May. These short-lived leaves are a gray-green color and covered with hair.
But how can a tree survive so much of the year without leaves to perform photosynthesis? The Smoketree also contains chlorophyll in its branches and stems so that, with or without leaves, it conducts photosynthesis, using the sun’s rays to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy.
Now, the Smoketree certainly looks more dead than alive. But it is very much alive and performing precisely the way God designed it to. In fact, it is so well-designed for desert life that it can withstand long periods of drought and temperatures that range from 15 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Smoketree is not the only tree that is out of synch with the rest of the plants in the Northern Hemisphere. Along the Southern California Coast grows a small tree called the Boxthorn. This shrub has the distinction bearing leaves in the winter and shedding them in the spring and summer. In the summer months, the Boxthorn may also appear to be dead to the untrained eye. But it’s very much alive and behaving exactly as God designed it.
God Created Varieties
You know, just as God created variety among His plants, so He creates variety among His children. And they do not all follow the same pattern. I have sat through many sermons in which preachers have presented a picture of the ideal Christian. Usually, the ideal Christian wakes up early each day and begins the day with prayer. The ideal Christian is the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, and the perfect employee. He or she shares their faith regularly with others, teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir, leads their family in Bible reading and prayer, and is praised by employers and fellow workers alike. Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m mocking the ideal Christian. It would be great if all believers could match this description.
There are some Christians who seem to bear “fruit and leaves” year-round, but most believers go through different seasons.
But, just in case, you don’t even come close to that image, please don’t despair. Not all believers are morning people. Not all believers are outgoing or find it easy to share their faith. Nor do all feel comfortable teaching a class. And certainly, not all have the perfect marriage or have believing children.
But every single one of these believers has a personal relationship with God. And every one of these believers has different marching orders from their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There are some Christians who seem to bear “fruit and leaves” year-round. But most believers go through different seasons—and not all of them are fruitful. In fact, many—like the Smoketree—go through long periods without any apparent fruitfulness. In fact, other believers may consider them as spiritually dead. But the signs of life are present, just hidden. Just as the Smoketree performs photosynthesis without leaves—having chlorophyll in its branches and twigs, so some believers exhibit their spiritual life differently. And they are different by God’s design, not their own.
Look at two amazing prophets of God – Elijah and John the Baptist. In some ways these two prophets appear so much alike. They both lived extremely austere lifestyles. They both dressed the same. In fact, it was prophesied that John the Baptist would come “in the Spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Yet the Spirit of God expressed Himself in strikingly different ways through each prophet. Elijah demonstrated the Spirit’s power in miracles. He multiplied oil and flour to sustain a widow and her son for three and a half years. He raised a boy from the dead. Elijah called down fire from heaven on numerous occasions. He even controlled the weather through his prayers.
John the Baptist, however, didn’t perform a single miracle (John 10:41). He demonstrated the Spirit’s power through his preaching—bringing most of Judea and Galilee to its knees in faith and repentance.
Paul, the apostle, reminds us, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). And I’m convinced there are different types of personalities—but it is God who designed them all. He did so because He’s got differ places to plant us and different types of people for us to reach.
God does not mass-produce His children from the same mold. He fashions each one uniquely.
Therefore, let’s refrain from judging our fellow believers. God does not mass-produce His children from the same mold. He fashions each one uniquely. If your brother or sister doesn’t fit your concept of the ideal Christian, leave the matter with Jesus. He is both your Master and your brother’s. Paul cautioned us, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).
Dear Father in heaven, I don’t want to feel guilty for failing to measure up to “the ideal Christian.” Nor do I want to condemn others who do not fit the mold. Please help me, Lord, to focus on pleasing You. If I must look for faults, grant that I will use a mirror rather than a magnifying glass. And if what I see disturbs me, please help me to entrust myself to You and trust You to cleanse me, transform me, and glorify me. Amen.
Information from: https://www.livescience.com/63888-desert-smoketree-photos.html