Green and Growing

The tree planted by water, fearless and fruit bearing

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7–8, ESV) 

While my wife is beyond wonderful as a mother and grandmother, her track record with plants has not been the greatest. While some have a green thumb, hers is decidedly red. If only all plants were air ferns. 

God, on the other hand, excels as a gardener. Jesus calls Him a “vinedresser” in John 15, attentive and skilled in His tending. His desire is for growth and fruitfulness. 

What does that look like? If we are the objects of God’s horticultural attention, what do we look like when we are thriving in the Lord? The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah gives a picture. 

In language reminiscent of Psalm 1, he describes us as a tree planted by streams of water. If we might put ourselves in the shoots of those neglected plants I mentioned above, what would it be like to be deprived of water? Our leaves would wither and brown. Any fruit would be meager and immature. 

Our Christian lives can look like that. Our growth is stunted. We become unsteady, perhaps in danger of toppling under the strong winds of adversity. Fruits of faith, hope, and love are underdeveloped. Those who know us don’t see vibrancy. They don’t see Christ. 

But Jeremiah describes a planted tree, unaffected by adverse environmental circumstances like heat and drought. Even in times of trial we bear fruit, the fruit of God’s workmanship of grace. 

How do we find such health and hardiness, especially when the sufferings of life press upon us? The answer Jeremiah gives is being planted by water and sending out our roots to draw from the life-giving stream to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. 

That stream is Christ. That root-sending is abiding in Christ. Jesus put it this way: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4, NKJV). 

Only by continually abiding in Christ for sustenance, protection, and fruitfulness in whatever circumstances we find ourselves – pleasant or painful – will we know the blessing of those who trust in the Lord. That trust, Jeremiah says, is not only in the Lord; it is the Lord Himself

Digging Deeper

  1. If you take up the metaphor of a fruit tree for yourself, how would you evaluate the health of your leaves for receiving God’s light and life and the quality of the fruit of Christlikeness God wants?

  2. What vinedresser counsel does God give you through Jeremiah for greater spiritual health, growth, vitality, and fruitfulness? 

Heavenly Father, help me to trust in you. Make me to know You as my trust. May I reside in Christ wholly in times of drought and deluge, in times of upheaval and calm. Through Christ my salvation, my strength, my solace, my security I pray. Amen. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.

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