By Pr Ay Nee Ng
How can trees that have been ravaged by fire survive? By their roots that, protruding out of their trunks at the bottom, hold the trees to the ground. What roots do we need in our lives? Are they for good or for harm? If they are for good, why are we not building strong roots in our lives?
“Roots”, an old American miniseries, has been recently shown in TV. It tells the story of a young African man who is caught up in the slave trade and brought to America as a slave. In the end, Kunta Kinta receives his freedom and, over the years, raises a fine generation of hardworking African American. From humble beginnings to freedom and the great American dream!
In the same way, for some of us, our place of origin and our past background may have this driving force to succeed in life. What is the dream that you are chasing? If it is God given, there will be periods of restlessness as well as doors opening in a miraculous way. But remember not to chase the dream; as you serve God faithfully, it will come to pass, in God’s timing, not yours. To understand why we need roots, let us ask ourselves some questions.
Why Do Plants Have Roots?
Plants have roots for two main reasons.
1. To anchor the plant in the soil and to prevent it from being blown away by strong winds.
2. To take up water and minerals, such as nitrogen and sulphur, from the soil. Water is needed to replace that lost by transpiration; and minerals, to make substances essential for life.
If Plants Need Roots, So Do We. Why?
1. We need to be anchored in God’s Word. If we are not anchored in His Word, we will be tossed to and fro. But when we are anchored in Jesus, we can ask God for wisdom and stand our grounds in times of trials, temptations and testing. Read James 1:5-12.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
2. We need the continuous watering of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will comfort, lead and stoke us and guide our thoughts in all truth, so our conscience is clear of guilt and condemnation.
3. We need spiritual minerals to be healthy Christians. Where do we get them? From church gatherings, life groups, and corporate and personal times of prayer and praise. Our roots are very important to us because they shape how we think, act, grow and become who we are today! Without roots, we tend to falter, drift apart, and be led away. Beware, the sun, the elements of the weather and the pestilences that ravage plants represent the evil in this dark world—the devil and his evil spirits.
Why Are Good Roots So Important?
Let us read Romans 11:16-20.
16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. (NIV)
16-18 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
19-20 It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green. (MSG)
The Good Root produces good fruits and all that is good. Jesus is from the Root of Jesse, and we as Christians come from the Jesus, the good root. Although we may not have had good roots at the beginning, we have been grafted into Jesus, the Root of Jesse, who is our signal in our lives. “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10; ESV).
Why Do We Need Deep Roots?
If you live in the part of the world known as the Tornado Alley, you know what happens when a big storm hits. Winds whip through, and trees that have shallow roots are tossed about like toothpicks. But trees with deep roots that go far into the ground remain anchored in place. These deeply rooted trees continue to grow year after year and survive storm after storm. In the same way, God challenges us to have deep roots so we:
1. Produce fruits in season. “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” (Psa. 1:3; ESV).
2. Do not fear when we are under attack. “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:8).
Look at the picture we took on Aug 2nd, 2016 at the Blue Mountains. We saw the destruction that bushfires had caused with its scorching fire and heat, but we also saw trees that had survived and were sprouting again because of their deep roots like the one in the picture.
What Happens When We Have No Roots?
Jesus warns us of the danger of having shallow roots in the famous parable of the sower.
“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root” (Mark 4:5-6). In other words, “they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (v. 17).
“And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (Matt. 13:3-8; ESV). Church, deep roots take some effort to develop.
What Kind of Roots Are We Laying Down in Our Lives?
1. Trust in the Lord. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8; ESV).
2. Acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord, following Him in every footstep. “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6-7; NLT).
3. Not of bitterness. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15; ESV).
4. Good training. Grow through daily devotions, praise and prayer, the study of God’s Word, and regular attendance to bible studies, life groups (or cell groups), church, and conferences, where you have a steady intake of God’s view on how faith and relationships work.
5. Love, grace, mercy, kindness and goodness and the fruit of the Spirit. “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19; ESV).
The real, deep and rich work God does happens in those daily Bible studies alone with God and in your cell or life groups. Deep roots develop when you and God are alone dealing with your life, your relationship and your heart. If we only tap on the media, hearing CDs, watching DVDs or Christian programs, and reading sermons online, then that media-only diet will makes us like trees with shallow roots. One big wind storm will come and topple us. Or one hot, scorching summer will hit, and our shallow roots will dry up. The best fruit, the sweetest fruit, comes when the roots of the tree go deep down into the rich soil.
We join the Apostle Paul and pray for all of you, Church, “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).
On August, we saw the ravage the bush fires left in the Blue Mountains. We saw trees with deep roots and some with hardly any soil, simply hanging there by a thread of roots, old, dried up and weather beaten. It spoke to me that we needed to touch on the subject of roots, not just any roots, but our roots and their importance to us.
To sum up, plants need roots for stability and growth, and so we do. We need to be anchored in God’s Word, so we won’t be tossed to and from by any whims and fancy. We need the water of the Holy Spirit and the minerals from God’s Word and the fellowship with His people in cell or life groups, church gatherings, and prayer and praise. Without good roots, we cannot produce good fruits. Without the root of Jesse, we will live in fear and worries. Thus, as Christians grafted to the root of Jesse, Jesus Christ, we are to lay deep roots of trust in the Lord, love, grace, mercy, kindness, and goodness, accepting Him as our Lord, following Him, giving up every bitterness, and receiving Godly training.
Church, your roots are made up both of where you come from and what you are laying down in your lives now. I am concerned what type of roots we are building in our lives. What you were taught as a child at home, the schooling you have received, your friendships, your social habits, your self-esteem and the experiences you have had are part of the foundations in your life. They can help you build strong or weak roots.
In the end, when trials, temptations, and testing come, will the foundations you have layered in your life strengthen or weaken your roots? Will your roots keep you anchored in the ground, make you withstand the weather, and bring happiness and joy in your life? To stay healthy and happy, we need to know and love the God and His Word. Keep it away and more unrest will appear. So let us challenge each other to lay good foundations that will build strong roots in our lives. Let us pray.
Lord, help me build strong roots that are anchored in Your Word and watered through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Help me stay connected to the Church, Your people, Lord, that I may withstand trials, temptations, and testing. Help me understand that every layer of foundation goes into building roots that are anchored in You. Please help me to break free from those that compromise my faith in You. In You, Lord Jesus Christ, I am able to build good roots that will bear forth much fruit in season. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.