A tree planted by streams of water
Recently I have been considering the words of Psalm 1, a comparison between the way of the righteous and the wicked. In it, the author writes concerning the righteous: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers”
The imagery employed here is quite powerful and pictures in a very simple way the secret to lasting blessing, fruitfulness and well-being that every believer is called to enjoy in their relationship with God, something that I have come to not only learn very early in my walk with God but also experience on a daily basis.
In this Psalm, the author places us before this luxurious tree, one that would be constantly green, constantly full of life, never failing to bear fruit in its season; not even one of its leaves is withered, pointing out that the reason for its health and fruitfulness is quite simply its location: it is planted by running, ever-fresh, streams of water. Its sustenance does not rely on the rain, which may fall at very irregular intervals, but on a constant source of water.
The point that the Psalmist is trying to make is quite simple: if believers want to experience a continuous degree of blessings, fruitfulness and all rounded well-being, they must put themselves in a position where they have constant access to the living-water of God’s presence and Word. It is only by developing a habit of continuous drinking from Him that we can expect our “leaves” to be ever-green and our “branches” to produce fruit – both fruit of character and of service.
Yet how often do we fail to put this lesson into practice, how often do we fail to nurture our personal relationship and experience of God on a daily basis, how often our “drinking” from God’s Word and his sheer presence is simply sporadic and occasional – with obvious consequences. As the Psalmist points out, we are like plants. We need to drink in order to grow, develop and bear fruit. Depriving a plant from its water will not kill it instantly, but over time the effects of drought begin to appear. Fruitfulness is almost immediately affected. In order for the plant to survive, “production” is cut down. Flowers begin to loose their strength. Their colours begin to fade and their petals begin to fall. Leaves follow suit. This progressive withering will eventually become irreversible, unless the plant is watered again.
When it comes to us, the effects of an irregular exposure to the living-waters of God’s presence and Word are exactly the same. Spiritual death does not come all of a sudden, but we do begin to wither straight away. Our first love begins to grow increasingly lukewarm. Our fruitfulness is immediately affected. We find our commitment to the Lord becoming more of a burden than a pleasure. Coming together for worship becomes tedious rather than exciting. Our service feels like a drag rather than a privilege. In the meantime our “colours” begin to fade. Our eyes fail to show the radiance of being exposed to the refreshing glory of his presence while our minds begin to spawn all sorts of doubts, insecurities, anxieties and negative thoughts. Our old-self begins to awake and suppress all Christ-likeness. Because we are not running on his living-water, we end up increasingly relying on our own fallible strength. Victory is replaced by defeat, while “survival” becomes our greatest hope. Emotional, spiritual and physical exhaustion are at the order of the day.
Maybe some of us will recognise themselves in this description. If that is you, know that there is only one way out of all this – namely, to be refreshed in the presence and Word of your God. Drink once more from him through the love-relationship he died to restore you to. But most importantly, stay in that place. The greatest challenge of the Christian life isn’t lighting a flame, but keep it burning. It isn’t getting to the promise land, but staying there. It isn’t accessing water, but finding it every day.
Only then, only when our relationship with God is experienced on a daily basis, only when we develop the habit of refreshing ourselves both in His presence and Word, will we become like that tree planted by the streams of water “that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers”.