He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. —Psalm 1:3
Last night I watched (via computer live feed) Adrian Despres, (a disciple who I first met over 27 years ago as a freshman recruit who joined our Furman football team) speak to a packed crowd at Clemson's FCA where 100's came to Christ, many dismissed sin in their life that was weighing them down while others were encouraged to build solid foundations on every act of a normal day. I was encouraged in so many ways. Not only was I encouraged to continue using the bricks of a strong foundation in my life, but also that so long ago, after his freshman roommate led him to Christ, I had a part in discipling him, laying those first foundational bricks, in those early days as Furman's FCA president and Senior Football player/mentor for Adrian and others.
Helping to plant in someones life a direction of faith in Christ appears to be so insignificant when I see a young sapling begin to grow by God's hand. I don't know, and most of the time never know, if someone ever will grow into that strong towering tree that brings honor to Christ.
So it is with all my spiritual endeavors: I may have planted, watered, and fussed over my “saplings” (those I've mentored/discipled) for a time, but only God can make a “tree.”
Occasionally, I hear from those I ministered to years ago, and discover to my delight that they have grown to maturity and have been greatly used of God—with no help from me. It’s a gentle reminder that I plant and water for a while, and help others “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15). But only God “gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
German theologian Helmut Thielicke writes, “The man who doesn’t know how to let go, and does not have confident joy in Him who carries out His purposes without us (or also through us or in spite of us), . . . that man will become nothing but a miserable creature in his old age.”
I still may yet tend a sapling or two, but mostly I will let go and watch them grow. I have been in Ministry for over 25 years and seen more people than I can remember who God has planted in their heart a love for Him and a life devoted to service. I think too that God is still at work in my heart as well. Many have watered, fertilized and encouraged my growth over the years and I still have so much farther to go.
A number of months ago I began ministering as a speaker, mentor, consultant to people and churches. This assignment, has been a time where I am growing too. I saw this as a time of transitioning into another forest where I can continue to serve Him by planting more. However, the planting opportunities have multiplied in this season. I substitute teach in a different school class room just about every day, I help coach two middle school basketball teams, I work at a local Ski Resort on weekend and some weekday nights, I officiate school and recreation basketball games, counsel folks in marriage, speak and consult chuches in many ways.... Time with my children and wife have been incredibly precious. I have been more busy planting in different ways than ever before.
It is so incredible that while I have been planting, feeding, watering and fertilizing others, God is tending to my sometimes limp and broken branches as well with total attention. My roots are being strengthened as my faith in Him continues to grow.
My Prayer: Thank you Lord for gardening in my life. I want to continue to be used by You in others’ lives. Teach me from Your Word so that I can help others follow You too. And enable me to let go and trust You to work in them. In the mean time, teach me and enable me to walk with You and not be satisfied with simply following You. Amen.
Those who follow Christ leave a path for others to follow, but why not encourage others to walk WITH you along the path as you too walk WITH Christ.