The Righteous Flourish

When I was in college, I had a rather unique summer job as a tree planter. Tree planting (at least my version of it) has been called one of the hardest jobs out there. It can be lucrative and rewarding, but there is a price to pay as you work your tail off and are exposed to the weather elements day after day. 

I tree planted in Alberta and British Columbia in western Canada. Each planter was paid around 10 cents a tree and a good day would be planting 2500–3000 trees. If you do the math, that is $250-$300 a day, and this was 20 years ago. Though I got off to a rough start and wanted to quit, I kept at it and eventually planted over half a million trees over the course of four summers. I was able to make my way through college debt free and looking back I am grateful to the Lord for providing this job. 

Psalm 92 has become one of my favorites. Here’s how it ends: 

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

It is hard for me to read this and not think of my days in “the bush.” Though I wasn’t planting “palm trees,” the principle remains. The Psalmist wants to remind us that the blessing of God is upon those who are righteous in Christ. They “flourish” and prosper and even “bear fruit in old age.” They recognize that their purpose in life is to give glory to God and “to declare that the Lord is upright.” 

One of the things that I learned in my first year of planting is that not every tree we planted survives – far from it! We were told that only about of quarter of the little saplings would survive and grow to maturity. That is why our company stressed “quality” even more than they stressed “quantity.” We as planters were always pushing to plant more trees so we could make more money, but our foremen and supervisors were always stressing quality, because they knew that if the tree wasn’t planted right, it would almost certainly die. 

When you plant your life on the strong foundation of Jesus and His gospel, not only do you have the hope of eternal life, but you are bound to prosper and flourish in this earthly life. That is not to say that you won’t suffer and be persecuted for your faith (Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:12), but it is to say that God will give you the grace to endure (James 4:6) as well as joy for the journey (John 15:11). 

Often times, it appears as though only evildoers flourish and succeed in life. As we survey the landscape, there is no shortage of rich and powerful people, and yet they do evil and wicked deeds. But Scripture promises us that “they are doomed to destruction forever” (Psalm 92:7). Believers in Christ need to keep things in perspective. The last thing we want to do is “gain the whole world and forfeit our souls” (Matthew 16:26). 

Several years ago, my good friend, Josh, took me to visit the famed “California Redwoods.” These giants are among the largest living things on the planet. A few of the trees we saw stretched over 300 feet into the sky and their trunks were absolutely enormous. Just think how far the root system of a tree like that would stretch! 

The people of God are kind of like that. Though they are just ordinary people (not bigger or smarter than anyone else), they have deep gospel roots. Through the finished work of Christ, they have been forgiven of all their sin and they have the hope of heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4). 

But that’s not all. Christ gives us a present hope. The Bible says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Wow! 

I don’t know where you are at spiritually, but if you have been born again and are a new creation in Christ, then God is not finished with you yet. You can “still bear fruit in old age.” You can still point others to the hope of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). You can still serve those around you with the love of Christ. Your godly life can be a testimony to many. And lastly, your life can and should serve as a means of declaring that the Lord is righteous (Psalm 92:15) and “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17). 

So just remember, God’s not finished with you yet! Strive to be a fruitful Christian and to let your life shine for Jesus (Matthew 5:16).     

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