Recently we had some high winds in our area of the country and those high winds turned into tornados in some areas. We drove all around our community to the sight of trees laid over and limbs broken and scattered all over the roads. It was a scary time for many in our area and we were very fortunate there weren’t more injuries, but thank God for His protection. Outside our picture window I noticed a tree in our yard that for a month has been showing signs of dying. You know the signs, leaves dying and falling off during the green season, and holes in the limbs where squirrels had played havoc on the weakened tree condition. The first thing I looked for after the storm was how many of those dead limbs, or the whole tree, would be able to weather the strong winds of the storm. To my amazement, the limbs were still intact and the tree had dodged being torn apart, even in it’s weakened state. It got me thinking about how that tree got into this weakened, dead condition. Here are some things to think about when analyzing a dead tree and also analyzing a dying or dead Christian Faith. First off, the tree dies from the inside out. I didn’t even know the tree was dying until I started seeing signs of it all over the yard around it. Signs like dead leaves falling off, and limbs breaking and falling off without me doing anything to help them. Those signs started to increase with one of the large limbs falling to the ground during one of the storms. When the limbs fell off I could see down into the tree and see it was hollow and eaten out, without much strength to support the limb that was attached to the tree. So the limb fell off and I was surprised it had held on as long as it had, after looking at the interior of the tree. If there were no winds or storms that limb might have held on for a much longer time before falling off the tree. But with the increased wind resistance, the limb went ahead and fell off into the yard.
That is how our spiritual death begins also, on the inside. What begins that death is varied and it may begin with a thought of doubt about our faith, brought on by a bad experience in a church or with another believer. Our Christian faith has been beat up by one storm after another, as even strong believers have had their faith attacked externally and, of course, internally. It’s hard to say when it begins and how fast the death march is, but you can be sure it affects the inside first. We put on a facade that is driven by pride to keep others from knowing how hurt and weakened we are, but you can be sure that something is wrong and satan is using it against you. Daily you start to feel like “what’s the use?” and the eating away at your faith has begun. In Psalm 51, King David laments over his life and the inside death that had haunted him for so long. In verse 12 he says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.” Of course, we know that salvation is the Lord’s and the joy of that salvation is what drives who we are and what we do. But before David ever got to the restoration statement he said something very important in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew…..” The word renew is very important in this whole process. For new testament believers we know that renewal comes from God through Jesus Christ and our whole life is built around the constant renewal that only God can give through Jesus. King David had failed miserably as a person and as a king and his sin was right before him. Spiritual death was eating away at his soul and what had once been a vibrant relationship between David, a man after God’s own heart, and the Lord was not so good anymore. His cry for restoration and renewal did not hit deaf ears and ours doesn’t either. David’s sin was right before him and he knew his only hope for renewal was found in coming clean before the Lord. Thus the words, “create in me a clean heart..” David’s lack of continuing to go to battle for God started this whole process and his wandering eye led to sin with Bathsheba. One thing led to another and a dead tree was on the horizon.
What causes us to start to die on the inside? It could be a sermon we didn’t like, or a song that convicted us. It could be the stark reality of a Christian leader falling that hurt our faith, but it could also be a lack of active faith. James writes in chapter 2 verse 14 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” In other words, is that a true, active faith that shows a true commitment that shows salvation is real and possible? It is a question we must all deal with, but I want to submit that inactivity for believers is just another way that satan starts to kill the inside of our faith, and like the tree, kills us from the inside out. What happens when a Christian gets a little tired or disillusioned? They stop serving. Why does that happen? It’s all part of the process to eat away at us from the inside out. When that spiritual death march begins, it is masked in a form that stops us from having an active faith that involves serving the Lord. Before long we are like David and we are distracted, and the end result is putting our eyes and our interests on other things that are not of God. A commitment to serve becomes a half-hearted interest. A life that is vibrant and growing in the Lord becomes a “daily quiet time” exercise in futility. We doubt and criticize everything and what once was a strong and growing, lively faith has started to die. Then when a storm comes in our life we see the truth. We are dead on the inside, and we are falling apart, and we are falling over during those storms. If you have seen this happen in your life, perhaps it is time to fall on your face before God, and like King David, ask God to restore the joy of your salvation, and experience renewal. Renewal will put the drive back in your Christian life and God will fill your tank with plenty of fuel for the journey ahead and you will experience vitality as never before. You will be RENEWED!! Praise God that He still renews. Your faith will come alive and the branches of your life (the effect you have on all around you) will start to strengthen and once again have a Godly impact. Your tree (life) will once again be healthy and ready to stand no matter how strong the wind flows. That is the kind of faith that causes revival in churches and restoration in homes. That is the kind of faith James told us we must have to make an impact. He wrote in James 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? I believe that is God’s question to each of us. He who has ears, let him hear. I know I’m listening. Are you? What do the storms of life do to your faith? If your walk is fresh and your inside life is renewed, the storms of life cannot deter you from God’s purpose in your life. Meet the storms head on and meet them with a renewed inside. No deadness. Only life!!
The Pilgrimage continues….