“Within you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be.” This is the continual refrain in Max Lucado’s book, The Oak Inside the Acorn, which tells the journey of Little Acorn, who happens to fall into the back of a farmer’s truck and then into the fertile soil of an orange orchard. When Little Acorn awakes as a small tree, he begins to grow and wonders why he has no oranges. He remembers Mother Oak’s last words to him, “Within you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be.” One day the young farmer comes and transplants Little Oak to his backyard. Every spring and summer, the growing sapling wonders when he will bloom with flowers like the petunias, roses and daisies around him. In his dreams he hears his mother’s words, “Within you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be.” Many, many years later, Little Oak becomes Big Oak, a strong tree with branches perfect for a swing and tree house built for the farmer’s daughter. And at last Big Oak knows he has become the tree God made him to be.
What I love about this story is how it shows us that sometimes we don’t know what God is doing with us—what He is making us into—and the purpose for which we were created. In these moments of uncertainty, we wonder what is the fruit of my life? When the temptation comes to compare our life to someone else’s, we must trust that God is still growing us, taking us from the ‘seed’ and making us into the ‘tree’ we were meant to be.
I was drawn to this story as I considered how many people may be re-thinking their life purpose and calling, given the current COVID19 pandemic. Businesses are closing, many jobs have been lost, families are experiencing a new dynamic with more time together at home, and church has become less of a physical gathering experience and more of a network of relationships.
Many of us are beginning to recognize the weight of the shift happening among us as life continues with the future remaining uncertain. Things will likely not “return to normal”, rather we are experiencing a new reality we have not yet known.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24 NIV)
What have you lost in this season? Might God use the discontinuation of this to initiate a new thing? What sprouts do you see? Where is the new life springing up?
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV)
Whatever the specifics, Scripture tells us God’s big picture intention is to transform us to look more and more like Jesus. This process, often called sanctification, is a life-long journey. It especially comes about when we focus our attention on Jesus. The more we look at Him, the more we look like Him.
The first Psalm paints a metaphor for a person who meditates on the law of the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3 NIV)
Notice, the tree yields fruit “in season” and its leaf “does not wither”. When we set our hearts to know God by meditating on scripture, we can be assured that our lives will be fruitful. Is it a season for fruit? If not, don’t despair, fix your eyes on Jesus and you will not wither.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV)
Perhaps it is a season of preparation and new growth. Whatever the season, God is our source of nourishment, to grow and sustain us. If we are feeling uncertain about what good our lives are producing and what God is doing, the best thing to do is to wait with our gaze fixed on Jesus.
Remember, Jesus was raised to be a carpenter—for 30 years he grew into this profession. But when God’s timing came, he stepped out of the old thing and into the new. If you are unsure of your specific purpose, you can always borrow Jesus’. On the day he began his ministry, he quoted these words from the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
(Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)
Song: “If it’s not beautiful, you’re not done with me” -Pat Barret
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.