The old English idiom states “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So take a look.
Now not a thousand but a few words. A hollow tree will eventually fall. With no inner strength there is no outer strength. Storms and winds will ultimately prevail.
What’s true for trees is true for people as well. If we are hollow on the inside, we will eventually succumb to the storms and winds. That’s why the Psalmist declared “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3). Since character is not made but rather displayed in crisis, God is less concerned with how high we climb than He is with how deeply we’ve dug our roots. As Charles Spurgeon once said, we must penetrate below the soil and reach the secret fountains of grace. Since Satan’s ploy is to keep us shallow we must take the time and faithfully attend to the discipline of planting roots. The real question is, what would be left if you were cut off from everyone and everything? Would your roots run deep enough into Christ that you could withstand? Whether you survive tough times depends on the state of your discipline.
In the movie Karate Kid, young Daniel asks Mister Miagi to teach him karate. He agrees with one condition—Daniel must submit totally to his instruction and never question his methods. Daniel agrees and shows up eager to learn. But Miagi has him paint a fence, demonstrating the precise motion to use; it takes Daniel days to finish the job. Then Mr. Miagi tells him to scrub the deck using a prescribed stroke; again, it takes days to finish the job. Daniel wonders what this has to do with karate but keeps quiet. Next, Mr. Miagi instructs him to wash and wax three weather-beaten cars, again with a prescribed motion. With that, Daniel reaches his limit: “I thought you were going to teach me karate, but all you have done is have me do your unwanted chores!” He’s now broken the one condition, and Miagi’s face pulses with anger: “I’ve been teaching you karate! Defend yourself!” He thrusts his arm at Daniel, who instinctively defends himself with an arm motion exactly like that used in one of his chores. Miagi kicks, and same thing happens. Several more times, the same thing happens. Miagi simply walks away, leaving Daniel to discover that skill comes from repeating seemingly mundane but correct actions.
Spiritual disciplines develop in us the strength and skill to survive the tough times. I encourage you to evaluate your daily schedule and activities. How much time do you spend in intentional contact with God through prayer, Bible reading, fasting, or serving? Are your roots deep enough that you are strong on the inside? Is what’s on the inside strong enough that you are able to withstand the storms and winds?
Jesus painted a similar picture. “To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears” (Matthew 12:33 GNT). Do you want to be known for good fruit, no matter the circumstances? Develop your roots.
NOTE: My book, “When the Going Get Tough…” has a chapter on how Joseph developed the spiritual disciplines that made his life “a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” For more information visit www.revcpikk.com.