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Minding Our Roots

The disciples listened intently as Jesus spoke to a fig tree that gave every appearance of producing a crop. The tree, born with an innate purpose of sating hunger, produced only leaves. Jesus used the tree as an object lesson to teach the seriousness of pretending to be a God-follower without yielding fruit.

That day the disciples watched as Jesus exploded with righteous indignation over the state of the temple. The place of prayer had degraded into a profit center. Buying and selling, taking advantage of others, and exploiting the poor had replaced true worship. The heart condition of those running the temple bazaar had rendered their lives fruitless just like the fig tree.

The lesson on fruitlessness hit home in the morning light. The fig tree no longer sported lush vegetation. Peter was first to speak about the change.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
 Mark 1:20-21 NIV

Mark explains that the fig tree withered from the roots up. As a gardener I’ve encountered my share of plant problems where disappointment replaces much-anticipated blooms and fruit. Wilted, shriveled, sickly-looking plants detract from a garden. My experience shows that unless there are visible bugs such as Japanese beetles munching on the leaves, the problem is likely root-centered.

Too much water. Too little water. Over-crowding. Lack of nutrients. Poor soil. The plant will struggle and most likely expire unless conditions change. Fruit or spectacular blooms will remain elusive.

Sprouting roots is a natural action for a plant, but the soil makes all the difference in the effectiveness of those roots. Review Mark 4:1-20 where Jesus shared the parable of the soils for a reminder on the importance of the soil.

The Israelites in and about the temple on that memorable day didn’t wake up that morning and decide, “I think I’ll become fruitless in my relationship with God.” Their spiritual lives dried up in a gradual process. Their roots left the healthy soil of their relationship with God and moved into areas like greed which leads to the idolatry of materialism.

That is a malady that can overtake any of us if our life focus shifts. A vibrant fruit-producing believer will shrivel if his roots are ignored. Read these words from Jeremiah as he described someone whose roots thrived in the right type of soil.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

Our roots must be embedded deeply in God’s Word, our trust in Him, and certainly our relationship with Him. Only there will we find the nutrients and the spiritual water we need for survival. In the opening to the book of Psalms we find the characteristics that must mark our lives.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. 
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

A new national leader wrestled with his responsibilities as he prepared to lead untrained and poorly armed soldiers against the insurmountable odds of a powerful and well-prepared enemy. God understood the struggle, and His desire was that Joshua succeed. What instructions best applied to the situation? God’s words may surprise us.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 
Joshua 1:8 NIV

“Tend to your roots, Joshua. Immerse yourself, your thoughts, and your life in My Word. I’ll handle the rest.”

Our spiritual roots are of utmost importance in maintaining a thriving relationship with God. How’s your garden growing?

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