In 1998 we moved to Orlando, Florida in order for me to serve as a Canon to the Cathedral Church of St. Luke. One of the things I fell in love with after arriving in Central Florida was fresh squeezed orange juice and so I made it as often as I could. When we bought a home, I decided that I wanted to have an orange tree of my own. I was greatly blessed that we were given an orange tree as a house warming gift! Wow! I thought, “The future is mine now! I know it will take a few years before the tree will give me oranges to use, but it will be worth the wait.”
Now, how hard is it to grow a tree? All I have to do is follow the directions, right? I planted my tree and I followed the directions to the letter and I watched as my tree began to die. I read the directions again. I followed them again, but still no sign of it getting better. “There goes my orange juice,” I moaned. On top of that, I did not want to lose this particular tree because it was a gift from a great family.
I finally went down to a nursery to get help. The nursery man said, “It sounds as if it is not getting enough water.” “Hey, but I water it just as the instructions said, once or twice a week.” “Oh, no,” was the reply, “it needs to be watered daily.” FeelingI a bit humbled, I bought some root stimulator and I went home to begin the process of daily watering and giving it some tender care. In a few days the leaves begin to grow, but still it was not doing all that well. Okay, I still was not all that consistent in watering it.
Then one weekend, we left town. For several days the tree went without water. We returned home to discover the tree had only three leaves left. Exasperation!!! There is nothing like a near-death experience to motivate someone to action. Taking desperate measures, I grabbed the hose and soaked the ground well. Then I arranged for the tree to have a constant stream of water for several days. To my pleasant surprise and great relief, my orange tree started popping out leaves left and right. I could almost see the tree smiling and giving a sigh of relief. If joy can be seen in a tree then my orange tree was very joyful, because the orange blossoms came out and a sweet smell wafted from its branches. I have to tell you this was one happy Canon.
My orange tree might be a living parable about our lives in Christ. All of us have a desire to grow and be strong in our relationship with the Lord. We all want to produce the sweet smelling fruit which pleases God. Yet we may often find ourselves limping and struggling along. Sometimes we look dead in faith. Life hangs on, though the future might look rather doubtful. Sometimes we manage to get a few leaves to grow. The signs of life are evident, but will we produce fruit? Sometimes we are fully alive and well. The key to our life in Christ? It is to stay near the running water, the Living Water.
King David in Psalm 1 gave us his observations on to how we may become fruit-bearing people of God.
1. Do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Do not order life around those who live lives hostile and rebellious to God. For instance, do not seek advice from astrologers, tarot cards or other occult religions. Do not pattern your life after Hollywood magazines or tabloids. Rather seek advice from those who have lived a long and fruitful life following Jesus Christ.
2. Do not stand in the way of sinners. David means, do not maintain lives where sin is habitual. Rather seek to order life around the commands and desires of God.
3. Do not sit in the seat of mockers. Do not ridicule God, his people and his holy laws. Instead keep God as the number one priority in life. Encourage and build up those who love God.
4. Last of all, delight in the Law of the Lord. Simply put, delight in the Holy Scripture, in the Word of God, in the Bible. One who delights in God’s word loves to read it, mark it, learn it, inwardly digest it, chew on it, ponder it. When we delight in the Scripture, we let it soak into the ground of our lives, letting it influence and change every aspect of who we are and what we do.
Which picture of my orange tree might portray you best? Whatever it may be, we are promised that if follow these instructions we will be well-watered by all that God pours out on us. We will be alive, nourished, full of growth and able to bear much good fruit. We will be pleasing to God!