I have always loved Psalm One. Like a promise for good and not evil, it has wooed me to righteousness:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Trouble is, sometimes I forget the over-arching reality of a sin-stressed world, and feel sucker-punched and surprised when difficulties come:
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b, NLT)
Trials and sorrows. Other translations promise troubles and tribulation, distress and disease, and suffering, but through it all… He offers us peace.
Peace is not what I imagine when I think of prospering. The prosperity Gospel I’ve heard preached, promises wealth and health. But what if our prosperity is Peace? Peace with God eternally and His Peace here and now, though the storms rage. Peace, because of the nourishing streams that our roots drink up as we abide in Him. Peace, rather than blown chaff. Peace. So we take heart, time and again, each hard day, driving roots of faith down deep into streams of living water, believing that God overcomes it all.
And all that’s good and true, though still, as a Christian, I find myself blindsided each time pain and loss come close to my skin. Oh, how very sly the prosperity Gospel can be, sneaking into our lives, whispering again, health and wealth. Telling us that we deserve joy and ease and every good fruit because we’ve believed – and to top it off we’ve not sinned too terribly bad, compared to some others. “Suffering should be reserved for those who make us look good, the true sinners.” But suffering shows no partiality. No, that’s not true, Christians are promised a greater degree of suffering this side of glory, for we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ.
In light of that, though it just doesn’t seem right or fair to my ease-loving sensibilities, I am intensely grateful for deep roots, living water and peace.
Job: A man God Himself described as righteous in all accounts, and still the sorrowing, suffering shame of tribulation buffeted him terribly, as He cried: “I always expected to live a long time and die at home in comfort. I was like a tree whose roots always have water and whose branches are wet with dew.” (Job 29:18-19) Shaking his fists toward heaven, Job sought the water that would revive, and survived the pruning that brought life again to his bones. “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.” (Job 14:7-9, NKJV)
As a child I believed God’s Word, and all the sweet Sunday School teachers, and the simple promise: Abide, and you will bear fruit. But at 41 I’m seeing now that fruit doesn’t simply grow like a trophy on a tree.
Today I am taking a moment to rest under the shady boughs of peace, believing, standing firm like a tree firmly planted by streams of water; drinking deeply regularly, day and nighttime too.
No matter the sincerity of your heart, the tenacity to which you cling to our Savior, nor the way you share your faith with others, we still live in a battle-field wrought with trouble, loss and disease, and an unrelentless enemy.
But do not loose heart, dear friend, though your back is wracked with pain, your child is struggling with emotional instability, your husband’s test results have come back positive, and money can’t stretch near enough. Shake your first at heaven if you must, but in the end let us each one choose to take heart and believe that God is good and will indeed overcome this world’s sin-stained sorrows, and bring water to the sun-scorched places.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
If you are currently reading God’s Word, please share in the comments below where you are and what His active Spirit is revealing to your listening heart. I love to learn from you all as well.