Church family near and far,
Last week, I walked past some thick tall trees. They had lush green leaves (it’s been a wet summer), and thick bark around their stocky trunks. These trees have a lesson about their growth: their bark.
The Bible often uses the image of trees: to speak about the fruitfulness God’s word produces in a person (Psalm 1:3), the growth of the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:31-32), and also individual stature of holiness (“oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord” Isaiah 61:3). So, let’s consider a tree.
To grow fruitful and tall, trees need a number of things. They need sun, and water. They need deep roots. But what else do they need? Many trees need protective bark, too. So it is with human beings. If we wish to grow tall and fruitful, we will need some protective bark. Without it, we will be constantly whittled apart by the smallest attacks from others, and the changes in the day’s (religious) climate. But bark is not steel. If we have steel around us, we’ll be encased in immaturity. Bark is protective but still vulnerable to the blow of an axe.
So what gives us a good protective bark? First, suffering well helps us grow it – untested, untried persons or people who’ve refused to learn from their sufferings develop no protective bark because they frankly do not find they need to. Education in the word gives you the substance to build strong bark, not the thin flakes of the birch but the thicker shield of the mighty oak. Reading the word and attending to biblical teaching and preaching help give you great substance of understanding to withstand. Conviction – believing God’s word – makes the bark your own. But one more element may surprise you.
The Bible tells us that one protective layer for us is love. If you don’t love others, you will take all their thoughtless attacks personally. But the Bible says, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love “is patient,” and love “bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13).
The greatest protection of all is the love Jesus showed you. The funny looks and sinful words of others hurt, but they will always greatly damage someone whose security is in their self. But Jesus loved you more than you even love yourself. He willingly died to take your punishment. By believing in him, you have a shield around you in the love of Jesus. With the shield of faith in Jesus, we can withstand the blows of enemies and the whimsies of our times, and become ‘oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord’ (Isaiah 61:3).
May God make you strong in Him. In the lamb,