Pointing Others to the Tree of Life

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”

Pr 11:30 (ESV)

We all know that our words matter. They really do. But how much do they matter? Solomon tells us in Pr 11:30 that our words can be like a tree of life.

We read about the tree of life image in Genesis, Proverbs, and Revelation. I think it’s interesting that this important image is found in the beginning, middle. and end of the Bible. So what exactly is the tree of life?

Originally mentioned in Gen 2:9, this tree, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is found in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve that eating from the tree of life would give them eternal life – it was the key to paradise (Gen 3:22). Because of Adam’s and Eve’s sin, a cherubim with a flaming sword was sent to keep them away from the tree of life, so that eternal life was not accessible to them (Gen 3:24). Some commentaries say this showed God’s mercy on humanity because he wouldn’t allow them to live eternally in a sin-ridden and destructive world.

Revelation further reveals that the tree of life symbolizes eternal life and it will be found in the New Jerusalem, the paradise of God (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). Putting the explanations in Genesis and Revelation together, we can conclude that the tree of life represents salvation.

So, if our words are like a tree of life, this means that they produce encouragement to others to seek salvation. We, ourselves, cannot be a tree of life; only Jesus can do that, but we can use our words to point others toward Christ.

People, in general, love stories, and telling your salvation story is a great way to point others to the tree of life. Sometimes it can be unnerving to share our personal stories, so remember that no one can refute your story — it is the unique story God gave you to share. We never know when our experiences will encourage someone going through a similar situation. God gave us different experiences to increase our faith, and when we share these experiences, others’ faith can be increased, too.

Before you share your story, it’s a good idea to write it down first. Writing your testimony is a good way to help you think it through, communicate your thoughts effectively, and avoid unnecessary details.

Your testimony should include three main parts:

  1. A description of what your life was like before you accepted Christ. What types of things did you struggle with? How did you meet your needs for acceptance, value, and purpose?
  2. A description of how you came to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. What were the circumstances of your life at that time: where were you and who helped you understand your need for Christ? This is a good place to include Scripture and the plan of salvation as it was presented to you.
  3. A description of what your life is like after you accepted Christ. What actions, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions have changed in your life since that time? A significant change to mention is the understanding that you now have forgiveness and eternal life and the gratefulness you feel because of that! End with details about your current situation.

As you write, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your spoken story to around three minutes.
  • Use your own words. Don’t use preachy language or Christian jargon (like “washed in the blood.”)
  • Be honest; don’t exaggerate.
  • Avoid unnecessary details and include only information that provides a clear picture of your faith and how you value it. For example, when mentioning people, only use a first name; the last name doesn’t add to the story.

Take some time this coming week to write your testimony. Practice reciting it so that you can share it easily, and pray for opportunities to tell it to others.  Remember: your story may be the one that leads them to the tree of life!

Finding Honor

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Pr 21:5 (ESV)

Last week, my family had the honor of seeing my brother, Ward, get promoted to Captain in the Navy. It was wonderful to see all of his hard work over the past two decades rewarded with this distinguished honor. With moving every three years, overseas deployments, and a variety of other challenges along the way, Ward has worked diligently to serve our country and take care of his family, and his work has been honored with abundance in the form of his promotion.

Distinguished honors don’t just come to those who receive them, but only after a great deal of work has been put forth. And long-range planning is usually a major part of reaching any honorable goal. Solomon, who became a wise king, understood this principle very well. Over the years, I am sure he saw many servants in his court work hard for a promotion while others tried to take shortcuts to get where they wanted to be. Proverbs 21:5 explains that hastiness and shortcuts lead only to poverty.

Have you ever tried to take a shortcut to get somewhere or something? I’m sure we all have a story about getting lost on the road when trying to take a shortcut. Thankfully, we have map programs on our phones to help give us the best route to help us get to our destination. If we take the time to study the route and plan well, we are able to get where we want to go without any problem. Sure, this planning takes time, but it gets us to where we want to go without needing to take a detour.

Most of us probably have a story of trying to reach a goal hastily. We are impatient people, and sometimes even lazy people, neither of which end with honor or abundance, according to Solomon. Several proverbs reference the value of patient planning and hard work, a few of which include:

Pr 10:4: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (NIV)

Pr 12:11: “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (NIV)

Pr 13:4: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”  (NLT)

Pr 24:27: “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (NIV)

Honorable goals and their rewards take planning, diligent work, and ultimately patience. Are you eager to pursue a particular goal? Are you struggling with the temptation to reach your goal hastily or without doing the necessary work? Remember that the Lord rewards diligence and hard work, and when you do this, you will appreciate your reward that much more! Continue working toward your goal, following all the necessary steps, so that your diligence will eventually be rewarded with abundance.

 

Heart of Joy

“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.”

Pr 22:11 (NIV)

What are you praying for today? For me, it’s joy. As I was sitting in my bed this morning after reading the book of Philippians, I looked down at our kitten, Daisy, who was resting at my feet, eyes closed and purring loudly. At that moment, she showed me the perfect image of contentment.

Lately, I’ve noticed that many of my words have been negative. Of course, I could excuse this negative speech by saying that I’m worn down, worried, or unsure of the future. But, really, my negativity is a heart issue. As I read Paul’s words in Philippians, to “rejoice in the Lord,” (Php 3:1), do everything  without complaining or arguing (Php 2:14), pray rather than be anxious (Php 4:6), dwell on positive things (Php 4:8), and consider everything else a loss compared to what I gain in Christ (Php 3:8), I began to understand that true joy is not a feeling based on our circumstances, but rather a peace that comes from within as we place our trust in the Lord. When we have this peace, our hearts are pure and our words will be gracious.

Proverbs 22:11 reminds us of the importance of having a pure heart and gracious words. In this verse, Solomon tells us that the person who possesses these attributes “will have the king for a friend.” In this sense, king could mean two different things: the first is an earthly king, a person of respect and great importance. When we speak words that encourage and nourish others (Pr 16:24 ), we become like a light in this world that draws others to us, even those of the highest ranking. On the other hand, the king could refer to God. Our Father in heaven is pleased when our hearts are pure. That is what allows us to be in his presence, and he honors our graciousness to others. After all, grace is the message of Christianity.

If joy is something you seek as well, join me in prayer as we strive to seek joy and contentment in our lives despite our circumstances. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:9-11 are a beautiful prayer we can pray for each other:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus  Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Amen!