This past weekend we were on a church retreat. Twice a year our church rents out this little retreat center that sits on about 5 acres. Most of them are wooded and there is a trail that runs through the property. As the children’s pastor one of my absolutely favorite parts of the weekend is our bi-annual “Miss Betsy takes them on an adventure” off trail hike. The kids know that they must stay on the trail at all other times during the retreat, but on Sunday morning we will climb down ravine off the beaten path and explore. We have a wonderful time tracking through the mostly dried creek bed; looking under rocks, climbing over tree limbs, and just generally having an awesome time enjoying all that God created.
Our lesson varies each time we go depending on what the Lord puts on our hearts. Sometimes we just read psalms praising the awesome works of His hands. Sometimes we will find ants and consider their ways and learn to diligently work like they do storing up food for the winter. This time what really excited us were the tree roots.
As you are walking through the creek, there are places you can tell the water used to be 6 feet deep or more. It’s in these places you can see the root systems of these HUGE trees. You can see the tiny hair like feeder roots, their fibrous tendrils looking for water. You can see the enormous anchor roots; the thick, woody, branch like structures that hold the tree in place and keep it secure in the ground during a storm.
The kids were fascinated by the roots this year; we kept looking out for them as we walked along the creek bed. As we talked about what the roots did, I was reminded of something I heard once “the root system of a tree is as large underground, as the tree is above ground.” What we normally SEE of the tree; the branches, the leaves, the huge trunks, and what we could get from the tree; wood or fruit, or shade, is only possible because of what happens underground in secret.
We are like trees; in fact the Lord calls his people “Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of God’s splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3) As we look at ourselves and other Christians, and see the ministry, the testimony before others, the way they (or us) treat people, without realizing what is seen “above ground” is only possible because of what happens in secret; prayer time, bible study, their time spent in worship. Our ability to bear fruit for the Lord is only possible because of us feeding on his word. Our ability to help shelter others from the storms of life is only possible because we are anchored deep in our relationship with God. Our ability to do almost anything for God is because we have learned to stretch out our hearts and lives towards that source of living water.
Matthew 6:5-6. "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
What about you? Is your prayer life only at church or do you find that secret place you can go into and pour out your heart to God? Are you spending time in secret feeding on God’s word and seeking out a source of living water? Are you anchored deep so the winds of life won’t blow you down? For it’s in this secret place, those quiet times with God that He does His best growing in you. It’s in the secret place God’s people will grow into “oaks of righteousness for the displaying of God’s splendor” being able to spread their branches to reach out to a lost and dying world.