God uses tree illustrations quite often in his Word; in fact the Bible begins with two trees and ends with two trees. God speaks to us in various ways through all the seasons.
Many of us have experienced some really hard times but the different seasons of our lives shape us for good, even though it might seem the opposite sometimes. If we are to bear good fruit, then we need all the seasons.
In Central Otago New Zealand there are huge extremes in temperature. In the winter time it often freezes well below freezing point Celsius and in the summer time it is very, very hot. The trees grow best on the hard rocky desert-like soil. This rocky soil as well as the extreme weather conditions produces the best fruit.
Twice a year Central Otago puts on a spectacular show for us all. In the autumn the blazing oranges and yellows and browns stand out from the barren landscape. Then again in spring the blossoms burst into a profusion of colour. Even in summer time there is a beauty too, as the fruit of the trees shines out from beneath the leaves, all ready to be plucked and eaten.
Without the winter, trees do not produce good fruit! In winter when the branches are bare, it seems like there is no life left at all in the trees; Our lives can be like that too, we can feel bare and without any comfort, but this is the best time for God to prune off the dead wood in us and shape us into the beautiful tree he desires us to be, so that we will produce more fruit for Him. These are the hard times when we think that we have been forsaken! Sometimes even for many years…….. We can feel the bitter cold winds blowing against us and the cold bites into our very core; but it is in these frosts and cold winds of life that our fruit is made sweet! Sometimes we feel like the hard things in life will destroy us, but actually if we hang in there holding our branches high and keeping our root system in the waters of God then we will bare good fruit and our fruit will be very sweet indeed.
Trees of the wind
Some trees suffer some extreme adversities and this affects the way they grow. Sometimes it is hard for them to stretch up tall and straight because the winds have been so fierce and have altered their appearance. They have had to learn to bend with the wind in order to survive, but they have a beauty all of their own, these are the trees that offer shelter to others from the cold winds of life because they know only too well how brutal life can be sometimes. All trees have a very special purpose no matter what their appearance!
After the long hard winter the rain begins to fall and the trees burst into life. Trees need the rain in season. We need the rain too!
In Deuteronomy 32:2 The Lord says this,
Let my teaching fall like rain, and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.
And in Ephesians 5:26 it tells us we are made holy and are cleansed by the washing of the word. It is the rain of the Word of God that brings new life and makes us clean.
After the rain; first the bud appears bringing the promise of the bloom ahead and the fruit to follow. Spring always brings a delight to the eyes as we watch seemingly dead trees burst into life and their soft tender new leaves unfold and then the delicate blooms emerge.
It is always a wonder to behold a new person in Christ; watching as God begins to cause them to blossom and grow!
Thinning the crops
In spring time, once the blossoms have disappeared and the fruit on the trees begins to bud and grow, some of the immature weaker fruit lets go and falls to the ground, this in turn allows the remaining fruit to grow larger and healthier. During late spring the workers in the orchards come along and thin the fruiting tree down even further, leaving just the choicest fruit to develop and grow to their fullest potential.
God wants us to seek after His will and let Him remove the excess fruit that we try to bare on our own. So often we fill up our lives up with unnecessary chores that don’t profit us anything. God wants us to be in tune with His will. It is better to have just a few things that the Lord has put on our hearts, rather than trying to do too much and spread ourselves too thinly, with the end result being that we burn ourselves out and the things that we thought were important were actually fruitless ! “We can become resentful and bitter rather than delighting in the Lords work”. Remember Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 His burden is light!! When we are close to God and dwell in him and his word, he brings life into us and cleanses us and makes us new again, so that we can continue to blossom for him and in turn produce more good fruit in the days ahead. Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
This is the time when the leaves have grown to maturity on the trees and the plump fruit ripens ready to be plucked and enjoyed by all.
As Christians it is wonderful to behold the fruit of Christ in others’ lives, to enjoy that sweetness and be blessed by it; then in turn go and share that fruit. This is the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ! As we grow we begin to bless others. It is a time when we can encourage one another with the lessons and blessings we have received from Him in the seasons of our lives.
Here is a special lesson from the trees of Anakiwa in the Marlbourgh Sounds New Zealand. A few years back I went on a course at Outward Bound in Anakiwa and part of the activities involved a confidence course where we had to climb obstacles a way up high in the large Kahikatea Trees. While we were there, the instructor told us a story about these trees which I have never forgotten. Kahikatea trees when growing on their own, only reach a height of around 5 – 6 feet, but when these trees grow together they reach heights of over 30 feet! How do they do this you may ask? In order to grow to such heights they do a very special thing. As they grow, they drop their branches in order for the trees beside them to grow up with them to reach the light, and in doing so they grow larger and taller together! Isn’t that a magnificent example for us; so that we would be willing to give way to one another so that others can have the room to grow too, reaching up high to the full light of God. Not lording it over others but giving them the opportunities to grow up with us too, so that we can all grow strong and tall together to our fullest potential in the Lord.
Here is another lesson to be learned from trees. In the Australian outback, fires are often caused by lightning strikes, these lightning strikes often set the whole landscape ablaze and the trees are left charred and naked. Even the scorching fires have a purpose as they cleanse the trees of harmful bugs and bacteria. This cleansing process very quickly causes the black charred remains of the tree to sprout new life again producing tender new fresh green leaves and delicious sweet nectar and fruit which provides food for the insects and animals. Spiritually the scorching cleansing fires in our lives brings newness and sweetness for us too and can be appreciated by others we interact with. Bob and Debbie Gas have this to say about the purifying fires. “It takes fire to purify gold and when God gets ready to refine us he uses fiery trials! Nothing brings more lustre to your character, and commitment to your heart like opposition. Whenever you see someone whose life reflects the character of Christ, you’re looking at someone who has been through the fire”.
The autumn season of our lives
There is a beauty at this time as well which is hidden somewhat…. As the copper and gold leaves fall from the trees in the autumn, they nourish the seedlings and soil immediately around them. The gentleness of the falling leaves can be reflected in the gentleness of age. Age brings wisdom and peace, which a younger person has not yet learned or understood. Just like the gentle falling of the leaves onto the soil below, an older person sheds the gentle blessings they have learned imparting acceptance and love on to the younger generation of their family in order to nourish them and help them to grow. It is the gentle, calm, caring, understanding, spirit of a grandparent who can offer peace to a heart of turmoil. We have such an important part to play no matter what season of our life that we find ourselves in and there are always lessons to be learned. © D A Cleland
(Four Seasons image – by Emerald Depths)