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'Oaks of righteousness'

Through the storms of life, Christians become firmly rooted and grounded

Issue: "The brain trust," June 30, 2012

If you are planting a tree this spring, a word to the wise: You may have better results not staking it. Unless the top growth is massively heavier than the root ball, staking could do more harm than good.

I have sometimes walked past a sapling hemmed in on three sides by its flying buttress wires, immobilized so that it won't be buffeted by a storm. The problem is that the tree needs to be buffeted by the storm. That's how it will get stronger. Its roots and trunk become firmly established in response to wind, not in response to fair weather. It has to fight against the elements. Not allowing that process to happen makes the young tree a sitting duck for a good stiff gust.

How about Christians? We get established the same way. Like the earthly arborist, heaven's expert Arborist has an interest in seeing His children "rooted and grounded" (Ephesians 3:17), and "stable and steadfast" (Colossians 1:23). He intends the winds of life for our growth, and ultimate protection and glory.

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That doesn't happen automatically. It happens by grace but not automatically. The Christian, like the tree, is fully engaged and conscious throughout the operation.

First the Christian studies the Word and learns there is more to life than meets the eye-we are not alone, but are surrounded by a swirling host of "rulers," "authorities," "cosmic powers," and "spiritual forces of evil" (Ephesians 6:12) led by "the prince of the power of the air" (2:2), bent on our uprooting. But be of good cheer: The Christian has been given the adequate weaponry of prayer, truth, righteousness, and the Spirit. These are made expressly to go into action in inclement conditions.

A temptation hurls in, one of Satan's devices (see 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11). But the Christian knows there is a difference between a temptation and a sin. A thought dropped into your mind is not sin unless you entertain it. Martin Luther was right: It's OK if a bird lands on your head, but you shouldn't let it nest there. Jesus denounced immediately the bad thoughts suggested to his thinking (Luke 4), leaving us a model. By forcefully repelling the advance, He became firmly established and rooted before embarking on ministry. He would have been ineffectual otherwise.

Any unwholesome wind can be withstood because of the One in us who works "the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Ephesians 1:19). No more pessimism, no more talk of total inability to improve. We are now "the little tree that could." We are a new creation. "Nothing shall hurt you" (Luke 10:19).

Work with me, pleads the Husbandman. "[Do] not be sluggish" (Hebrews 6:12). "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 4:30). "You have need of endurance" (Hebrews 10:36). "Sin will have no dominion over you" (Romans 6:14). "Fight the good fight," little tree (1 Timothy 6:12).

I was walking through the cemetery and felt a depression coming on, like a pregnant woman feels a contraction about to hit. I thought I would have to let it roll over me and have its way with me until it passed; I never knew there was any other choice. Then out of the blue I thought, "No! I have weaponry! Words against it: 'I will put my trust in you, Lord! I renounce this demonic trap in the name of Jesus!'"

When you have wrestled demons and won, you are not the same person afterward. There is joy because now you know it can be done. Another thickening of cambium forms under your bark. (This layer increases the diameter of the tree and repairs injury by producing callus tissue.) Young trees that are not given a chance to fight for their lives turn out skinny and are easily blown over.

Reach up your branches and aspire, little trees, to "be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). Fend off the prince of the power of the air with the arsenal of God-fervent praying in the Spirit, demolishing every argument, and taking captive every thought. Make sure you have done all. "And having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13).

Email aseupeterson@worldmag.com

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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