I was in church a few weeks ago when the Lord whispered to my soul words I never thought I’d hear from God. “I don’t want to bless you.”
I immediately tuned out the pastor. “What was that, Lord?” Surely I’d heard him wrong.
Another minute or two passed while I waited. Finally, probably when God had my full attention, he continued: “I don’t want to bless you . . . for your sake alone.”
Then he brought to my mind a passage of scripture I’d memorized many years before. Psalm 1:1-3:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
I’d first memorized those words when I was a young Christian. One of the reasons I loved it was that last line—“In all that he does, he prospers.” I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I thought of that in financial terms. Oh, I knew the verse didn’t necessarily promise me riches, but I figured my chances were much better to get rich if I followed God, and with all our financial woes at the time, prosperity sounded pretty good.
Through the years, I came to understand that the tree flourished because of its deep roots—a strong connection to God. It flourished because the river flowed near it—like the living waters of Christ that fill us and bless us. So the prosperity spoken of in verse 3 has everything to do with the blessings of being connected to Christ.
That Sunday in church, the Lord spoke again to my heart. “What does the tree do?” he asked.
I closed my eyes and imagined a tree like the Psalmist might’ve been looking at, one standing in the arid Israeli soil, maybe even a tree in an oasis in the desert. I had to dig pretty deep to some old science lessons, but I came up with a list.
Acts as a wind barrier
Provides shelter in a storm
Absorbs rain that would otherwise runoff or evaporate
Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen
Becomes a home for birds, animals, and insects
Provides fruit, which becomes food, then seeds to reproduce itself
There was more, though. Picture that tree in the midst of a desert, standing high above the sand. It shows people where the water is. A tree would be a welcome sight to a weary, thirsty traveler.
So if I live my life the way I should (see verse 1) and delight myself in God’s word (verse 2) he will make me like this tree. And what does this flourishing tree do?
It provides shade from the world—protection from penetrating rays of judgment.
It acts as a barrier as the enemy hurls his accusations like a strong wind.
It provides shelter from the many storms of life.
It absorbs nourishment, so others can grow nearby.
It illustrates how God can convert the ugly output of our lives into blessing.
It offers a shelter to anyone who seeks it.
It feeds the hungry and, through its work, reproduces itself.
It acts as a beacon, drawing weary travelers to the life-giving water of Jesus Christ.
And think about this: which of those blessings benefit the tree? None of them. God makes that tree flourish to provide his living creatures with what they need. In the same way, God blesses us so that we can love the souls he puts in our lives. He makes us to stand tall, so more of his weary children will find their way home.
God doesn’t want to bless you for your sake alone. He wants to bless the world through you. Soak in God’s truth, my friends. There are travelers seeking the living water, and you may be the only tree in their desert.