Monday, August 25, 2008

Like a Tree

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

                        1 Corinthians 15.58

Phrased Out

In today’s world of mass communication, it’s impossible for words to retain their original power. The minute a writer finds the perfect phrase and publishes it, it’s out there for anyone to pick up and use as he/she will. The words lose something with each new application, and soon they’re phrased out. What once packed quite a wallop quickly becomes a threadbare cliché.

Attempting to summarize Paul’s words of encouragement to the Corinthians, one reaches for concise, potent descriptions only to retrieve shopworn sayings like “total commitment” and “grit and determination” and “take a stand.” Yet if we can rearm these phrases with their initial impact, we get a clearer idea of the urgent nature of Paul’s message. He tells us we must never lose our resolve and refuse to waver in our knowledge and intentions.

The Psalmist’s Metaphor

Following Paul’s advice comes less in the doing and more in the being. It speaks to our character. Are we defined by situations or do we define them? Do we go with the flow or does the courage of our convictions (more overworked phrases—sorry!) compel us to allow unprofitable opportunities to pass without regret? The Book of Psalms opens with a vivid picture of the kind of person Paul urges us to be:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD…. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1)

Standing Firm

My mother stressed the importance of standing firm, saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!” It’s another cliché, but it gets to the nub of what these passages say. Standing firm requires deep roots in a solid foundation of faith and experience. The deeper our roots, the more confidently we withstand any threat to our wellbeing. Winds of adversity may bend us, but they can never break or move us. Cold snaps and heat waves can’t destroy our vitality. Our labor in the Lord always bears fruit. And, in the end, we prosper. Ephesians 6.13-14 tells us, “After you have done everything… stand firm.” It helps if we pair this with Psalm 1: “Stand like a tree.” 

Deep roots permit us to stand firm. We bend but never break. We stay healthy. Our work bears fruit. And we prosper.

(Tomorrow: Standing in Freedom)

No comments: