JohnSWilson3 Blog


Change in Seasons – “Endure hardship as discipline.”
May 3, 2010, 1:52 am
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

Today at our camping trip with our brothers and sisters from our organic church family here in Sugar Land, Texas we were praising God, singing songs to Him, and sharing with one another. This was under a canopy set up between our camping shelters at Stephen Austin State Park. As we were singing I happened to notice the trees, the branches, and their leaves. How many times have I stared at the trees and looked at them and their beauty with amazement! The thought came to mind, from my science class that I remembered, which described why certain trees lose their leaves. (For more information about this annual natural event go to: http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htm).

Some trees lose their leaves prior to the winter season in order for the tree to conserve energy. To do so they must cut the sap to the leaves and the leaves die off and fall to the ground. They eventually decompose and become fertilizer for the tree. Amazing how in nature there is a recycling of everything!

Afterward a brother shared about his thought of being saved daily, as if it was something you could lose. I lovingly shared the thought that had come to mind about why trees sometimes lose their leaves. And as I shared what I had been thinking I realized that as I was saying it, that while the tree loses it leaves the branches REMAIN on the tree. My wife mentioned at this point that not only does the tree not lose it’s branches but losing the leaves can actually help to cause growth for the branch. We made no mention specifically to his statement. We decided to let God work that out with him by His Spirit instead of making an argument. My brother may disagree with my thoughts on the matter, but I will love him just the same!

I think in life, with its difficult circumstances and all, we can “lose heart” or doubt our salvation that Jesus Christ purchased for us by His very blood. Salvation provided to us freely by His grace that we might enjoy a life giving relationship with Him for all time! In the letter to the Hebrews the writer (whom I believe is Paul who wrote it sometime after his Roman imprisonment) says:

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

I believe Paul is trying to encourage the Jewish Christians. They were prone to fall back into the Jewish legalism that had entrapped them before. I think any believer unless they are in a close knit family of brothers and sisters in Christ who seek Christ as Head can have a tendency to do the same. Relationships take time to grow and mature, so to our relationship with the Lord. His ways are not our ways and as a result we can get frustrated, confused, perhaps fall back into the sins that had kept us bound and fall into guilt and depression and begin to doubt our relationship with Him. If there is a strong bond of love between brothers and sisters, in the power of the Holy Spirit, these difficult moments in time can be times of renewal and encouragement. We all have seasons when the leaves fall off and we think God has left us on our own. Perhaps we are too focused on the leaves, our good works, instead of the fact that we ARE the branches and ARE a part of the One Tree. Because we are part of the One Tree, Jesus Christ, we live by His life. We do not base our life on what we do, however good that may be, we base our life on Him! The Christian life is meant to be lived in the body of Christ. When the tree goes through autumn and winter, all the branches go through autumn and winter! Isn’t that why Paul encouraged the Christians in Corinth in his second letter: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” The Christian life in the body of Christ experiences seasons, one being a season of discipline from the Lord, times of suffering and pain. Do we focus on the suffering and the pain or do we realize that through it new growth will occur, growth in our life with Him and His Body? When the branches go through the winter season it will grow and naturally and organically produce leaves. We have each other! We are to help each other through the seasons.

Whenever the word “branches” is mentioned inevitably John 15 comes to mind, Jesus’ most well known discourse on our life in Him. Another brother in the sharing time mentioned this passage. I think it can also apply with the tree losing it’s leaves. While not an exact parallel it does have some similarities.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

There is a lot to this passage and it is only the first part of John chapter 15! With trees there is a natural pruning process that occurs, one is the breaking off of branches and the other is the stopping of the sap from the leaves to conserve energy for the winter season. Without either the tree will not grow to it’s full potential, it will not grow to display it’s wonderful canopy of leaves for all to see! I have to think that in the passage above from John that the description of the Father cutting off branches that bear no fruit is likening it to not being in Christ. If we are “in Christ” then we ARE a new creation, the old is gone the new has come. That is an undeniable fact. While I believe that “once saved always saved” I believe that it is not meant to be used so you can do whatever you like. I have to believe that someone who uses that statement as license to do all sorts of ungodliness is one who never received the grace of God in the first place. There is a new spirit in a man who has confessed “Jesus is Lord and believed in his heart that God raised him from the dead.” We have a new nature! We have His Spirit and His life, His nature. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”

In the family of God, in an organic body of Christ, living by the Spirit, with Christ as the only Head, the focus should be on living by the life of Christ. For a tree, the leaves or the fruit is a natural growth from that kind of life. But growth comes in seasons. Seasons of autumn and winter where the leaves fall away and struggles in life occur, but there are seasons of spring and summer that bring growth and wonderful richness in the Lord. No wonder the apostles in the New Testament constantly told the brothers and sisters to encourage one another daily, to live by the Spirit daily, to deny themselves daily, to pray continuously, etc. and to meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ every time they gathered. The importance of the body of Christ in the growth of every member by the life of Christ! The Christian life is a spiritual struggle; we need each other, we need Christ’s life! It is under His lordship and headship that we see our circumstances by His life and not by ours.

If you are in a season of autumn with the leaves dieing and falling or the season of winter where there are no more leaves and all that’s left is your life in Christ, then perhaps God is reminding you that your life really isn’t your own, it’s His. It is in those moments I believe that God gives a special revelation of Himself to us, that He is our life! He desires us to live by Him, and through those difficult circumstances He will get what He is after: the honor, the respect, and the glory He deserves. Everything else is meaningless without Him.

Like Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” And also: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” And many more places in the New Testament.

We must face crucifixion before we can have resurrection. And because this life is a journey, not a one time event, there will be an ever increasing progression of crucifixions and resurrections. What we are facing now is in preparation for what is ahead – a full knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

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