The Way of the Oak

Do you choose a long-term reward over a short-term moment of happiness? Years ago, researchers selected a group of children who were presented with a single treat. They were told if they waited for 15 minutes to eat the treat, they would receive an additional reward. Then, the child was left alone for 15 minutes. Some put their hands over their eyes. Others rested their head on the table. Some just ate the marshmallow after a moment or two.  Those children were tracked in life and it was found that the ones who chose delayed gratification generally did better in just about every area of life – achieving higher grades, enjoying better overall health.

So, child of God, you know where I am going with this, don’t you?
Faith invites us to ‘see’ a reward that is not immediate. Paul saw it and shaped his life around the promise of “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV) Winning athletes received a ‘crown,’ a laurel wreath that signified honor. He also observes that “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV)  The reward given to the Olympic champion would eventually crumble to dust. God’s reward for the faithful is eternal!

Do you have God’s promises in sight, guiding today’s decisions? 
Are you patient, waiting for the reward He promises to those who are faithful?

The Scripture offers us another metaphor to shape our focus. The Word of God is a seed, we learn. It takes time from the moment of planting to see a harvest. Who doesn’t love dramatic change, overnight transformation?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience instant godly character and Christ-likeness in all we say and do? 

But, that’s not generally God’s way.  The seed is planted, germinates, with the early development hidden away in the soil. It takes time before the green shoot even appears and more time for it to grow to maturity. God will work in us, the changes He makes sometimes invisible, certainly taking time. Oh yes, know this!  God’s grace which allows us to know complete salvation in Christ Jesus grants us our place in His family in a moment of faith. We respond to the Spirit in faith and we are saved. However, becoming “holy,” filled with Christ-likeness, is an ongoing process called ‘sanctification.’

Mature faith, knowing God, is a daily decision, that anticipates eternity.  Think of the life of a Christian like this.  Would you like to resemble a dandelion weed or an oak tree?  A dandelion will grow and flower in a few days. An oak tree grows into a thing of beauty over decades.

Isaiah says that God is growing oak trees, not dandelions.  He told God’s people He was sent “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2-3, NIV)   Jesus used those words on the day that He announced His mission at a synagogue in Capernaum.

I want to grow as a towering oak; strong, enduring, that shows off the splendor of my God. How about you?  Will you make the choice to wait, to trust, to let God grow you? Or will you choose the way of the dandelion or the way of the oak tree? 

Here’s a word from the Word.  Lord, use it to encourage us to wait for Your purpose. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8, NIV)   “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”  (Psalm 37:7)

Be Still My Soul
(Take 5 minutes and be inspired by the a cappella rendition of this great hymn)

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
With patience bear the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In ev’ry change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Be still my soul thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past
Thy hope thy confidence let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last
Be still my soul the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below

Be still my soul the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment grief and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot love’s purest joys restored
Be still my soul when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last

Jane Laurie Borthwick | Jean Sibelius | Kathrina Amalia von Schlegel © Words: Public Domain

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