What does it take to grow? What does it take to grow well?
I saw a TV special about the Methuselah Tree in a National Forest in California. Scientists estimate the tree to be almost 5,000 years old. The tree is one of the most incredible creations on earth because it has aged under very challenging conditions.
First, it exists at 10,000 feet of elevation, where there is very little moisture. Second is the soil, which is a limestone substance that has very few nutrients. A third challenge are the high winds that tear at the bark of the ancient tree. In spite of those adversities, the Methuselah Tree continues to survive and grow while surrounded by other species that have not been as fortunate.
Read Hebrews 10:19-25.
The first Christians experienced tremendous opposition and outright persecution for identifying as followers of Jesus and daring to speak His Name in public. They were chased, hunted, falsely accused, arrested, and killed for their faith and hope in their Messiah and King. The lifespan of someone in the first century was not long by modern standards, yet the lifespan of believers was shortened even more due to the suffering they were recipients of. The intimidation, beatings, and extermination of followers of Jesus has only intensified in the past two centuries. Scholars have noted that more Christians have been martyred for their obedience to Jesus in the 20thcentury than in the previous nineteen combined. The situation of suffering has not improved in the 21st.
How have Christians dealt with such opposition, maltreatment, and suffering?
Part of the answer is found in the Book of Hebrews. Followers of Jesus found Him to be a Rock, Fortress, and Anchor (Hebrews 6:19) for their souls, who comforted them in their suffering and provided hope for an eternal reward. Their heavenly perspective rooted them in a “now, but not yet” mindset that helped them stay sane as they trusted their Savior in the present, but lived and leaned forward towards an eventual home He had purchased and provided for them.
Their confidence sprang the reality of what Jesus did on the cross at Calvary. His death, burial, and resurrection purchased our reconciliation with the Father. Hebrews 4:14-16 emphasizes the work of Jesus as the Great High Priest who ultimately provided atonement for the sins of all. Readers were reminded to “hold firmly to the faith they profess” (verse 14), even as they “boldly approached Jesus to receive immediate and sympathetic help when they are tempted” (verse 16).
Readers were also given five exhortations in 10:22-25 that emanate from what Jesus did in winning us back to God: First, “Let us draw near to God…;” Second, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…;” Third, “Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds…;” Fourth, “Let us not give up meeting together…;” and Fifth, “Let us encourage one another.” The Hebrew readers paid attention and grew slowly and steadily.
As you face the harsh winds and difficult events of life, be like the early Christians and the Methuselah Tree – learn to thrive. As you persevere through the tough times by trusting in God, your faith will deepen and your life will be enriched. It is possible to grow in the midst of life’s most demanding conditions. Walk wisely. It takes rain and struggle to help us grow.
Love is a verb,
©2018 by Mike Olejarz