In the Kingdom of Bahrain stands a 400-year-old Mesquite-like tree that is nothing short of amazing.
Its branches reach about 32 feet tall and 60 feet wide. Pretty small for a 400-year-old tree? Not much growth for 400 years? Maybe so.
But before you pass judgment on this tree, consider this. It lives and thrives miles away from any water source and without any other tree in sight. It stands alone in one of the most barren and inhospitable places on the planet. It has no other trees to shelter it from the fierce winds and blasts of sand so common in the Arabian Desert. The sky is equally merciless. It offers no clouds to shield it from the oppressive sun and 120-degree heat. Nor does the sky give forth its rain – except on the rarest occasions.
So, although it’s true that it doesn’t appear to have shown much growth in 400 years, just the fact that it’s still alive after so long a period of time is a wonder. This is why the tree – located in the middle of nowhere – draws more than 50,000 visitors every year from around the world. They call it “The Tree of Life.”
How then, has this tree managed to survive? Well, it survives because of the way the tree has grown. True, above ground it’s only 32 feet high and 60 feet wide. But below the surface this tree is many times that big. In fact, its root system extends 10 times deeper than its branches are high and 10 times wider than its branches are broad. This Tree of Life survives and thrives in such a barren place because it is many times bigger below the surface than it is above the surface.
Over those 400 years its growth has actually been quite stupendous. Its roots have sunk incredibly deep and stretched amazingly wide to draw life-giving moisture. So, no matter how hot and dry it is above ground, the Tree of Life can connect to underground rivers far below which keep the tree fresh and green. This Tree of life grew where it really counted.
You know, it’s the same with us. We must grow where it really counts. There will always be institutional and cultural pressure to grow professionally – to give ourselves the competitive edge over others. But if we are going to survive the tragedies and adversities of life, we’ve got to grow spiritually. We’ve got to learn to sink our roots deeply in God.
There will be those times when we, like the Tree of Life, are forced to stand alone – without anyone else around to comfort us or shelter us. Others may abandon or even turn against us. In those moments of intense isolation our souls will be tested as never before. But for those who have grown spiritually – in their personal relationship with God (i.e. the “below the surface” growth), those times of painful isolation are survivable.
Consider the biblical example of King David in 1 Samuel 16-30. The book of 1 Samuel tells the story of David’s struggles before he became King of Israel. Actually, David’s journey to the throne began rather sweet and smooth. The prophet Samuel anointed David as King of Israel and immediately after the Spirit of God descended upon David, empowering him to fulfill this calling. Then David soon found employment in King Saul’s court (1 Samuel 16). Things got even brighter when David slew the Philistine champion, Goliath.
He became an instant celebrity and people even wrote songs about him. King Saul’s own son befriended David and Saul’s daughter fell in love with him (1 Samuel 17). Everything seemed to be going David’s way.
Then all hell broke loose. David’s notoriety and popularity made King Saul jealous and afraid of David. He tried to kill David and hunted him down, forcing David to flee to the lands of his enemies. In the remaining chapters of 1 Samuel David would be betrayed, pursued, and abandoned. What in the world had gone wrong?
Nothing went wrong. God was using adversity to drive David into God’s arms for help, deliverance, and guidance. The heat of affliction was forcing David to sink his roots deeply into God. Though nothing seemed to be going right for David’s career, yet spiritually he was growing by leaps and bounds.
Finally, circumstances disintegrated to their very worst. 1 Samuel 30 records how David and his warriors suffered the calamitous destruction of their home base and the kidnapping of their families. David’s own men vented their grief on David and wanted to kill him. At that lowest point David stood all alone, with no one to comfort or encourage him.
Yet David survived because his roots were already in God. He had learned the skill of finding God in a crisis. He turned aside to call upon the LORD for grace, strength, and guidance. And God helped him and turned his night into day.
It therefore behooves us to grow where it really counts – in our faith and relationship with God. Like the Tree of Life and like King David, we need to sink our roots deeply in God, so that we can survive and thrive in those terrible days of adversity.
Psalm 92:12-15 states, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree. He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Dear Father in heaven, please teach me to seek You in prayer and meditation. Teach me to feed upon Your holy word and to drink of Your Holy Spirit. Teach me to sink my roots deeply into You, to draw life and strength from You in times of trouble. Amen.
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