Summary: If we are spiritually alive we will grow spiritually
“Four Areas for Spiritual Growth”
September 24, 2017
“Then he (Jesus) told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
“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, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Do you know what the oldest living thing on earth is? It is a Great Basin bristlecone pine. It was measured by ring count to be 5067 years old. This is the oldest known tree in North America, and the oldest known living individual nonclonal tree in the world, meaning that the trunk itself is the same age as the root system. I have had the privilege of seeing this tree, and I have seen many others like it that were near its age. They are located in the White Mountains overlooking Owen Valley near the town of Big Pine, California in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest at Schulman Grove.
Bristlecones are hardly worth a glance and you probably wouldn’t give them a thought if you came across one. They aren’t large and green and beautiful in the sense we normally think of trees. They are stunted and warped and gnarled and look half dead – and they are! They have their own unique kind of beauty – like a gnarled up old man or women. Their claim to fame is not size or how much fruit they produce or their magnificent beauty; it is longevity. They reach the age they do by clinging to life in drought or flood, fire or famine, in the harshest of conditions. They adapt by dying a little. As the tree ages, much of its bark may die. Very old specimens often leave only a narrow strip of living tissue to connect the roots to the handful of live branches. It prunes itself, so to speak, and rids itself of all unnecessary branches that would sap its strength and make it unfruitful.
It kind of reminds me of Jesus’ parable when He says “He cuts off every branch that is unfruitful.” The bristlecone pine continues to be fruitful and is able to reproduce itself even though it is gnarled and old. Being fruitful and growth is expected in a bristlecone pine - and in the Christian, as well. We are to keep growing; keep striving; keep living spiritually in spite of our external circumstances. The winds of life may be harsh; the soil may be lacking; our experiences may be devastating – but we are to endure anyway. Jesus said, “They that endure to the end will be saved.” We need to, not just hang on, but grow and thrive.
Last week I mentioned four things that help us grow spiritually. These four things help us to continue to keep spiritually alive. This morning I want to revisit those four important things and expound on them a little more. God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Whenever you learn or grow – attitude is key. I know that personally. When I was in high school I was a very poor student. My attitude and purpose was to go to school so I wouldn’t have to go work in the woods – like my Dad and big brother. I did just enough to get by. And I did graduate from Grand Rapids High, certainly not one of their best students.