November 1, 2010
I noticed a few days ago that there was a huge hole in the backyard where a tree used to be, a sugar maple that we bought and planted this week. Then, on my way to work, I saw the tree in my neighbor’s yard! There it was, and you could see from the fresh dirt that it had just been planted. Or … transplanted. On my way home from work that night, I saw the tree again, on the side of the road, making its way slowly to another neighbor’s yard. It kind of threw a wooden look at me as I slowly drove past, like, “Yeah? Do you have a problem if I want to try a different place?” I just shook my head and drove on, watching this tree struggle to drag itself down the street, leaves falling off, roots dragging behind … it was a pitiful sight.
By now you know I am pulling your collective branches … er … legs, right? Of course the tree didn’t uproot itself and move to another place. Trees have this very consistent habit of staying where they are planted. That’s a constant in the universe: Where you plant a tree is where it will grow. In fact, the quickest way to kill a tree, or to at least hinder its growth and fruitfulness, is to transplant it. Trees grow best in their natural habitat.
Christians do, too, and a Christian’s natural habitat is the house of God. That’s where we grow the best; in fact, that is where we flourish. Psalm 92:13: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” But Christians are too often like that rogue tree I was telling you about. They move from place to place, never taking root downward to grow upward, never really getting established anywhere so they can truly be used by God to do what Christians are created by God to do.
Read Psalm 92 and see how the believer is compared to two specific kinds of trees, the palm tree and the cedar. Palms flourish and cedars grow.
Palms are extremely durable during storms because of their spongy wood; they will bend during a hurricane and not break. That’s a picture of the followers of Christ. They endure. They are still standing after the storm. Besides endurance, palms also represent refreshment and rest. People love to be near palm trees, don’t they? They travel miles to sit under them. Christians are like that, the Bible says. Refreshing. Drawing others to them. Inviting and gracious. Paul commended a man by the name of Onesiphorus for being a brother who refreshed him, for taking initiative to find ways to serve others.
Cedars grow in four ways, just like Christians. They grow downward, sending roots deep into the soil for nourishment and stability. They grow upward. Cedars in Lebanon can grow to more than 130 feet at elevations of more than 6,000 feet, literally piercing the clouds, reaching for heaven.
They grow outward, spreading their huge branches more than 30 feet from the trunk, providing shade and shelter. They grow onward, some cedars living hundreds of years. Here’s what we can take from Psalm 92, then: Settle in a good church and grow there. Send roots deep into Christ and into his word. Reach for things above, not the temporal stuff of life. Reach others with your life and message. Enjoy the assurance that your life will bear good fruit that remains long after you are gone. And if you see one of my trees on the road, send it home.