In mid-November, when we returned from our whirlwind month of travels to Germany and the USA, we found our garden transformed. The bounty of Autumn rains and the somewhat cooler temperatures had caused crunchy, brown grass to give way to gently rolling hills of bright green clover. Our thirty plus citrus trees were heavily laden with wonderfully scented fruit, their branches bowing to the earth under the weight of such a profuse harvest. It was a sight to behold.
What a pleasure it was to come home from weeks of stimulating meetings, wild celebrations with family and friends, intense speaking engagements and visiting, to the quiet of our yard. I could almost hear the Father calling my name: to come and walk with Him, to disconnect from that frenetic pace, and pause to breathe in life, to reflect.
As I strolled around, moving from tree to tree to relish each one’s beauty and inspect its produce, I came upon something quite unexpected. A tree whose branches were so incredibly full, just brimming with tangerines that glistened in the sunlight… and sadly, beneath its outstretched arms, lay an almost equal quantity of fallen fruit. Fading, decaying, teeming with insects.
My first instinct was to save the fallen fruit. I began to pick up tangerines one at a time, inspecting them to see if any were still good, collecting those we might still eat. As I did this, my mind drifted to Luke chapter 10, verse two – one that’s so often associated with harvesting:
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Continuing my gathering, I began to pray: to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers. Not to the fields of our orchard but to those here in Portugal, in Faro. We have been praying for this for so long now, Denny and I. Pleading and waiting for others to come join us in reaching out to this city, beloved of God. I believe the harvest is plentiful in this place. And I won’t stop crying out for workmen and women to come bring it in.
My musings drifted to the possible reason for so much fruit to have fallen to the ground this early in the season. I’ve discovered that the same natural laws and principles that govern our practical life, having themselves been established by God, often mirror significant spiritual principles.
We’d had an extremely hot summer this past year, with temperatures hovering in the mid to upper nineties most days, and generally always above the average highs for this season. And, as always, it had been dry. Looking back further still, our winter had been very mild, even warm at times, and precipitation had been minimal. Season upon season of harsh and unusual conditions… and here was the result in front of me, rotting on the ground.
I felt like God was speaking to me about perseverance… a recurring theme in my meditations these days. Hmmm. Do you ever experience what feels like scorching heat because of circumstances in your life? Day in and day out, the temperature doesn’t seem to let up. The ground beneath your feet feels incredibly dry and hard. And there’s no refreshment to be found, no soothing. Just rock hard reality.
I have experienced this quite often. Yet what is the wisdom that my God has to share about these times in my life, in your life?
Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass;
its flower falls, and its beauty perishes.
So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1: 11-12
When it comes right down to it – to that place where the rubber meets the road – I’m not interested in an earthly crown, nor of the riches this world has to offer. When Jesus bids me to follow him through trials and suffering, I want my eyes to remain on Him alone, and on that crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him. He is my treasure.
So, as I set my gaze on the Father, I will not allow the blistering heat that I feel on my back nor the ardent thirst from my parched throat to cause me to lose heart. I can trust in Him… and as I do, He will not allow the precious fruit that adorns my life to fall to the ground and perish. His promise to me in Jeremiah 17:7-8 is this:
But blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree
planted by the water
that sends out its roots
by the stream.
It does not fear
when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries
in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
May my confidence always be in you, my God! I have no need to fear when the heat comes, nor to worry in years of drought. By your Spirit, you will keep the leaves of my life green and I will never cease to bear fruit! So be it.