Monday, August 4, 2008

A Prosperous Life

If you were to render a sketch of your spiritual life--right now, today--what would it look like? A solitary island sporting an asymmetrical palm tree? A series of rivers and tributaries converging in one fluid, rolling force? Perhaps a blown and tumbled corn stalk struggling to regain its strength?

After weeks, months, even years of service within the local church, many of us resemble the solitary island or tumbled corn stalk more than we'd like to admit. There seems a sort of disillusionment that takes place, a realization that others will take more than they give, that appreciation is never equal to the task, that sacrificing family, marriage, even basic needs is never enough. There comes a point of evaluation that reveals the emptiness and vanity of all we have to give and we wonder at the driving force. Why did we feel compelled to push so hard? Was it really worth it? Where do we go from here?

How then, can we reconcile this with the psalmist's words, "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" (Psalm 92:12-15).

Little by little I am learning the beauty of dependence. The righteous flourish because they are tended by the Master Gardener. They are planted in His courtyard, not their own. The fruit, the greenery, and the health of the tree is a product of God's work, God's care, not the tree's. The tree is an ornament of the Maker. It does nothing of its own, nor does it suffer self-inflicted thirst or harsh treatment. How like that tree I long to be! Not the beaten, bitter tree that stands alone; not the short-lived flowering bush that quickly perishes; not the petrified pine that withstood wind and time but bore no fruit. I long to be lush and full, prosperous and strong--to love life and laugh at worry.

And this will only happen in my Father's house, under His care, directed and pruned by His hands. So I asked myself this morning, "What directs the my life flow?" Am I learning to know Him daily and responding to His prompting or seeking to meet the needs of others based on my perception? Am I more motivated by pride or humility? Am I just as content waiting as I am working? Finally, who does this tree honor? The tree that is fed and prospers at the hand of God honors and glorifies Him alone. The glory of the tree is in the proclamation, the message; its health, beauty, prosperity, and usefulness is a work of the Master.

How would you envision your spiritual life? It is the hand of Master, and dependence on Him, that will make all the difference.

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