God seems to love finding those times when He can unexpectedly show up in our lives and deliver a message without requiring a single word to be uttered by anyone. He seemed to be on a roll with that sort of thing during our recent time in the Holy Land. One of those incidents took place as our group was preparing to visit a church that commemorates one of the most well known and significant experiences in Jesus’ life. The Church of All Nations was built on the site earlier scholars believed to be where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.
“Old” Was Getting Personal ~
Near the entrance to the church was a fence that surrounded a grove of olive trees. I stood there watching a worker cleaning some sticks and leaves from a pathway and was suddenly mesmerized by the trees. Several of them appeared to have been there for many hundreds of years, and a 2012 research report concluded that indeed they have been, and that they date back to the 12th Century AD.
As I looked at the massive, twisted trunk of what seemed to be the oldest of them, I couldn’t help thinking about the aging process that affects all living things, including me . . . The term “old” definitely got up close and personal for me in that moment – but I wasn’t quite ready to sit around popping anti-aging supplements while reading reviews on skin moisturizers and plastic surgery procedures. (Just sayin’ …)
My reflections on the aging process gave way to something else as I stood there at the fence looking at that ancient tree. There was an unusual sense that God was smiling at both of us. He and His gnarly, old olive tree had a message to deliver, and He was happy that I had come by to hear it. He was pleased with that old tree and wanted me to know why.
The thing He found so pleasing had nothing to do either with its age, where it happened to be located, or how much abuse it had endured through the years. What touched the heart of the God who created that tree was that regardless of its age, it was still bearing fruit. In spite of its very bent and twisted limbs, in total disregard of the scars left on its massive trunk, and with no concern for its loss of visual appeal, that old tree stood there in absolute defiance of it all and continued to produce olives. New limbs had the audacity to sprout and grow from its scarred up old trunk. Branches shot out new leaves impervious to how contradictory their presence seemed to be. Buds unapologetically lifted themselves toward the light and announced that new fruit was coming, whether anyone liked it or not.
Unexpected Encouragement ~
I began to feel an odd sense of kinship with that old tree. The olive tree wasn’t the only one whose trunk was scarred and worn, whose capacities had diminished, and whose most productive days were long since passed. I choked back the tears as I looked at that tree, saw myself, and suddenly felt much older. In the midst of my “sucks to be old” geriatric moment, God gently got my attention, saying, “Wait a minute, you’re missing the point.” Then this overwhelmingly encouraging passage came to mind:
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (Psalm 92:13–15 NKJV)
That old olive tree wasn’t planted to be an ornamental shrub. It was planted to bear fruit – and so are we. Like the olive tree, we were designed with the capacity to bear fruit, and we were both planted with the expectation that we would do exactly that. Unlike us, that old olive tree wasn’t making excuses. It didn’t say, I’m too old, too ugly, or too weak. Its crop was smaller, but it didn’t quit bearing all it could. Its appearance was less impressive, but the old tree just kept on soaking up as much nourishment as its roots could deliver and kept on standing as straight and tall as its old trunk would let it – and in the final analysis, that’s all God ever intended it to do.
A Vital Key ~
It’s amazing what a difference it makes when we realize who’s actually in charge of producing the fruit. Jesus made that clear in His parable of the vine and branches. The key to the branches bearing fruit was their connection with the vine, which is Him. He said:
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. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5 NKJV)
I used to think that bearing fruit amounted to personally leading a repentant sinner to faith in Jesus and praying “the sinner’s prayer” with him or her. As wonderful as an experience like that is, I don’t think that begins to encapsulate what God intended for us. When God brought us into His family, that new birth brought with it the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. Jesus became one with us, and imparted to us capacities that He chose for us. He is the One who works through us to bear fruit. Our work is to allow Him sovereign ownership and control of those capacities, and let Him do with them and through them whatever He chooses to do. Regarding His call to follow Him and the gifts He implanted in us, He declared something incredible:
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 NKJV)
God never changes His mind about having called us to Himself, and beyond that, He never regrets the gifts He imparted to us. Bearing fruit is all about Him, not us. That ancient olive tree owed its life to the God who created it, and it didn’t live to get that old because it tried really hard not to die. It didn’t continue to bear fruit because it exerted so much effort. It lived and bore fruit because its roots were planted where God intended and because the One who created it had sovereign control over the capacities He built into it.
A Liberating Concept ~
What a simple concept. How freeing it is when our fear of diminishing production is removed. What a refreshing disconnect it is when the burden of competitive thinking is gone. What an uplifting reminder that it’s not us, but the Holy Spirit who decides when and how to empower the gifts He gave us. God may adjust how He uses us as we get older, but He doesn’t set us aside like some kind of museum piece. He doesn’t love us less if our limbs are weaker and our trunk isn’t quite as straight as it used to be – and He isn’t less glorified if the face relating His promise of redemption is a little wrinkled.
No matter what our age, none of us knows how long we’ll get to be here or how much fruit God will bear through us. At every stage of life, our job is the same. We are to abide in Him, send our roots deep, soak up all the nourishment we can handle, and let Him do with it what He pleases.
It might have been an illusion, but I think I saw what looked like a smile in the old tree’s twisted bark. And it may have been the wind, but it seemed as though I could hear a voice saying, “No need to worry, young fella… God’s still doing His thing with you, and remember – It ain’t over til it’s over.”
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The Holy Spirit is the One who works through us to bear fruit. Our work is to allow Him sovereign ownership and control of those capacities, and let Him do with them and through them whatever He chooses to do.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Regarding God’s call to follow Him and the gifts He implanted in us, He declared something incredible: ‘For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29 NKJV).” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God never changes His mind about having called us to Himself, and beyond that, He never regrets the gifts He imparted to us. Bearing fruit is all about Him, not us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “That ancient olive tree owed its life to the God who created it, and it didn’t live to get that old because it tried really hard not to die. It didn’t continue to bear fruit because it exerted so much effort. It lived and bore fruit because its roots were planted where God intended and because the One who created it had sovereign control over the capacities He built into it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God doesn’t love us less if our limbs are weaker and our trunk isn’t quite as straight as it used to be – and He isn’t less glorified if the face relating His promise of redemption is a little wrinkled.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “No matter what our age, at every stage of life, our job is the same. We’re to abide in Him, send our roots deep, soak up all the nourishment we can handle, and let God do with it what He pleases.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
The Kindle e-version is just $1.99. No Kindle device is needed. E-book readers are included on most computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you don’t have one, the free Kindle app can be easily downloaded directly from the Amazon site on almost any device.
Click here for a “Look Inside” preview at Amazon.
© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Such an uplifting reminder, Ron, especially for those of us who mistakenly believe that getting older somehow makes us less effective and fruitful, that we matter to God in every season of our lives. May we constantly and consistently remember that He will give us the ability to carry on His work here on earth if our roots are firmly grounded in Him.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much, Martha, and I love the comment about getting older not making us less effective. The glaring lack of wisdom demonstrated by so many younger people coming along behind us makes me glad for every “seasoned” follower of Jesus who hasn’t given up and retired from everything. Whether they realize it or not, younger generations always need to hear the lessons learned from those who have trod the path ahead of them. God bless you for being one of those that I believe will not quit until the entrance to Heaven is in view.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Bless you for these insights!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much for your encouraging response. God bless you for not only reading our post, but for taking the additional time to send a response–really hope to get to see you again and to get to know you better.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Oh man, I think I shouted “Amen” at every sentence Mr. Ron. I agree, and can relate, with everything you said sir. Thank you for sharing this “God moment” with us. I sometimes feel that I’m all used up, past my prime, have little left in the tank to offer someone else. Then God brings someone or something into my life that causes me to draw on the lifetime of lessons and experience to deal with. Whether mentoring a new Christian, helping a young person figure out their life, or merely helping other deal with aging, loss, or any myriad of other challenges we’ve faced and overcome. Perhaps the great thing about us old, scarred, trunks is that we’ve weathered the storms of life and have grown stronger as a result. I wanted to share another analogy with you; one that perhaps you haven’t considered my friend. I trust you know what a burl is on a tree. It’s a scar where a limb was removed or other damage was suffered. They grow to become hard knots, but in reality, they’re scar tissue that has formed about the site of an injury. As a woodturner, there’s two things about burls I want to share with you. One, the wood is more dense and hard than the rest of the wood from the same tree; and two, a wood burl is the most beautiful wood from the tree. It has unique twists and swirls (no two burls are the same) that form an amazingly beautiful piece of wood. I like to think that in the same way, our scars and burls reflect beauty in God’s eyes also my friend. God’s blessings sir. Absolutely loved this post.
LikeLiked by 1 person
As always, you don’t just comment–you add and improve. And I do know what a burl is. I had a friend in Alaska who had a piece of wood made into a small coffee table. In the center of it there was the most beautiful, swirling pattern I think I had ever seen. It was exactly what you described, and had it been just like the other grain, no one would have noticed. Your comment added another God moment for me, since I’ve got a few of those scarred places where the wounds felt like they’d never heal. Now many of them are the most powerful indicators of God’s astounding grace and His capacity to heal and restore. Once again, you have brightened my day and my outlook for tomorrow. God bless you for the way you hand yourself over to Him for whatever He decides to do with you. Pass our love and gratitude to everyone around the Cross-Dubya and give Bubba a pat on the head for Diane and me.
LikeLiked by 1 person