The Tree of Faith

Patterns in Nature

Almost everything in nature follows a pattern. Most of these patterns are way too complicated for us to understand. However, some of the simpler ones, the ones that we can see for ourselves, can help us learn more about the world around us. God has left us these patterns to reveal to us his creative power and to help us understand more about our relationship with him.

THE TREE

Not all plants are the same, however, the biggest group of plants, flowering plants (scientific name angiosperms) have common traits that unite them all. Roots, stem, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds. These key traits have made flowering plants the biggest group of plants today.

The parts of the plant all have their own specific function that, in conjunction with the rest of the plant, help to grow the plant. The roots provide support, holding it in place when storms come, and winds push against the tree. They also absorb water; which the plant uses to make food, and take in the essential nutrients that the plant needs to survive. The stem, also gives the plant support, allowing the tree to grow tall with its branches reaching towards the sky. Inside the stem is the xylem; transporting the water from the roots to the leaves, and the phloem; transporting food and nutrients up and down the plant. The leaves, which absorb sunlight, use it to convert carbon dioxide and water into life-giving oxygen as well as food (sugars), which the plant uses to grow further outwards and upwards. The flowers often brightly coloured to attract pollinators, are the organs which enable the plant to reproduce. The flowers, once pollinated, develop into fruit which house the seeds and often contain sweet flesh to encourage animals to disperse the seeds far away from the parent tree. Finally, the seeds, which, if planted in good soil, at the right time, sprout, become saplings and then grow into a new tree.

THE MEANING

In Luke 17 Jesus compares faith to a seed…

…truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you.

– Luke 17:6 (ESV)

As Christians we are encouraged to ‘grow’ our faith, like that of a tree. o In james we are told that our faith, shown by our works, is how we are saved (James 2:14 – 16)

You see that faith was active along with works and faith was completed by works.

– James 2:22 (ESV)

In the bible, faith is often accompanied by the Holy Spirit. We often refer to the Holy Spirit as water. In John chapter 7, John quotes Jesus when he says:

Whoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

– John 7:39 (ESV)

In the next verse, John explains what Jesus is referring to:

Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…

– John 7:38 (ESV)

For a tree to grow it must have water, as faithful Christians we must have the Holy Spirit. Like the roots of a tree, continually taking up water we must continually be filled with the holy spirit in order to grow in our faith.

The leaves on a tree, convert sunlight to food using water. King David describes the word of God as a light:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

– Psalms 119:105 (ESV)

Without the leaves the plant could not continue to grow. We also often refer to the word of God as spiritual food, and if we aren’t continually reading the word, we also will not grow our faith.

Like the leaves on a tree, in order to take God’s word (the light) and turn it into spiritual food, we need the Holy Spirit (water). To receive the Holy Spirit, we must ask for it in prayer. Like the stem of a plant, transporting water to the leaves, before we study the word of God, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read and help us to understand so that we can receive spiritual food. Like the stem of a plant, providing support for the branches and the means for the tree to extend up towards the sky, through prayer we can ask for God’s support and through continual prayer, we continue to grow closer to God.

These three things, the Holy Spirit, prayer and the word of God are essential to growing our faith. Like the roots, stem and leaves of a plant, these three things are interconnected and work together to produce our faith.

Like flowers on a plant, the result of our faith is our works which, like an insect to a flower, draws people closer to us. This is the time where our true character is revealed. Like James says, you can have works without faith, but you cannot have faith without works. Similar to flowers, our good works may draw people in, but as flowers develop into fruits, our faith must also produce and be recognised by the fruits of the spirit. As Jesus says:

…by their fruits you will know them.

– Matthew 7:20 (NKJV)

…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

– Matthew 7:17 (NKJV)

The NIV version of this verse replaces the word good for the word healthy. If we do not have a healthy faith, we cannot bear healthy fruit. Our fruit, produces seeds which becomes the faith of new believers. If we are not strong in our own faith, we cannot bring others into faith. Apply that thought to these examples, like at creation, and in Jesus’ own parable, we see that a careless Christian cannot raise up strong believers;

…plants yield seed according to their own kinds, and trees bear fruit in which is their seed, according to its kind…

– Genesis 1:12 (ESV)

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

– Matthew 7:18 (NKJV)

No one can bring a new believer any closer to Christ than where they themselves are at. A bean plant cannot reproduce to seed an oak tree, neither can a strangler fig reproduce to seed a eucalyptus. If you are lacking in the Holy Spirit, or in prayer, or in the word of God, any person you bring up to be a believer will likely be lacking in these too.

THE MESSAGE

Imagine yourself as a plant.

Are you a blade of grass, with small shallow roots, a small, flexible stem and only a few small leaf-like structures? In other words, are you lacking in the Holy Spirit, only pray in very troubled times and only know bits of God’s word from hearing it from someone else?

Or are you like a berry bush, with lots of leaves and branching stems and a cluster of roots? Do you know many bible stories and pray often, but your prayers are sporadic, and you’re not strong in the Holy Spirit, thus you cannot grow any closer to God?

Are you like a palm tree, with a clump of roots and big trunk which ends with a spiral of a few broad leaves? Do you pray long and often, but your bible knowledge is limited to a few broad topics?

Could you be like a vine, which doesn’t support itself, but grows on the trunks and branches of other plants? Do you rely on the prayers of others to bring you into God’s presence?

If none of these examples apply to you (and trust me, I know they’re not perfect), I’m sure you can come up with your own example.

I hope through comparing yourself to a plant, you can better understand your faith in God. If this has convicted you, remember, unlike a plant, you can change:

If you make sure that prayer, the word of God and the holy spirit are present in your life, you can become a towering tree, with many branches, laden with leaves, reaching up towards the sky, towards God.

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