Earlier this Spring, I was visiting with a gentleman on his rural farm, and he was pointing out different trees and shrubs he had planted. He had meticulously planned and planted different species at different locations based on their projected size and requirements for optimal growth. He was an arborist, an individual specially trained in the cultivation and care of trees and shrubs. By contrast, I have sometimes planted things in a haphazard way, and this probably contributes to my lack of successful growing.
One tree caught my eye because I could never remember seeing one like it previously. Hickory, all varieties of oak, chestnut, walnut, tulip poplar, maple, beech, and most other native varieties I encountered as I roamed the hillsides around my childhood home, but this tree was unique. Sensing my inquisitiveness, the man informed me of the type of tree it was and how it was native to North Africa and not to the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee, a fact I had preliminarily deduced. I remarked about the uniqueness of its leaves and the beauty of its branches and other characteristics that caught my eye. Then, he said something surprising: “Give it 50 years, and it will be amazing!”
To my untrained eye, it was already magnificent, but the expert knew what it had the potential to become. He went on to sadly comment he would never see the full grandeur of this tree since he is already north of 70 years of age. If the Lord is merciful, I will be knocking on my ninth decade of life before his prognosis is realized, and I hope if I am still around I can go back and see the tree.
Those words: “Give it 50 years” stuck in my mind and caused me to think about my future and that of others I know and love. I thought of my sons, and when I am tempted to lose my patience with them I recall they are still growing and are not yet mature. When my oldest, at the age of 12, attempted to deliver his first sermon one Sunday evening, an older Christian couple exiting the building informed me: “You better watch him. If he keeps that up, he is going to take your place!” They were taken aback when I gladly countered: “That’s exactly what I am planning on!”
This is what Paul had in mind when he encouraged Timothy: “the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” in II Timothy 2:2. Paul taught Timothy and Timothy was to teach others who were then to teach others who were to teach others and continue to pass the faith on to subsequent generations.
Think about those who invested in your life when you were young and taught you the way of God. Perhaps, there are some reading who through their own personal investigation of the Scriptures came to understand and obey the truth, but most of us recall with gratitude the influence that godly parents, grandparents, or others had on us as we grew and matured.
Maturing and growing in our faith and learning to walk closer with the Lord is a task never fully completed on this side of eternity, but we should advance beyond milk and get into the meat of the Word of God so we can teach others according to Hebrews 5:12-14. When we deal with young people or with those young in the faith, let us remember they are still learning and growing. Exhibit patience and kindness. Encourage faithfulness and model dedication to the Lord and urge them to let God work in their lives and see what He will do in their lives!
I may never see what that tree looks like in 50 years, and I may never see what my sons or other young people I am trying to positively influence in 50 years will ultimately turn out to be, but I know if they remain faithful to God it will turn out well for them! I appreciate those who saw what I could become and helped me. I hope others will be able to look back and say the same about my efforts in their lives.
What will you be in 50 years? Where will you be in 50 years?