In the introduction of his autobiography, James Michener tells about a time when he watched a farmer provoke an old apple tree back into production. He said that he was no more than five at the time. The farmer that lived at the end of the road had an apple tree that used to drip with produce. Through the years, it grew tired and stagnant. Michener said he watched the farmer walk up to that tree and pull out eight long rusty nails. He drove four nails into the base of the trunk and four a little higher up, well-placed around the circumference.
That fall, the miracle happened. According to Michener, “The tired old tree, having been goaded back to life, produced a bumper crop of juicy red apples, bigger and better than we had seen before.”
Michener went on to say that as he approached eighty, he had some large rusty nails driven into his trunk: a quintuple bi-pass, a new left hip, a dental rebuilding, and an attack of permanent vertigo. He wrote, “Like a sensible apple tree, I resolved to resume bearing fruit.”
Between 1986 and 1991, James Michener wrote 11 books. Seven were published. Three others were in their third revision and awaiting publication.
He did all of that after his eightieth birthday!
Like that old apple tree, we can also grow complacent and fruitless. Every so often, the Farmer needs to step in with some well-place nails to stir us to fruitfulness again.
God often uses troubles to provoke his children back into productivity. But here’s what I want to learn: I want to learn to stay productive beforehand so he doesn’t have to poke me with a nail! Don’t you?
Take some time today and reflect on where you are spiritually and compare that to where you used to be. Are you still producing the fruit of the kingdom?
Timothy was pastoring the church at Ephesus and struggling with burn-out. Paul sensed the lethargy and wrote to encourage him to rekindle his fire. Those words are good for us to hear too:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:1-14)
Pray that God would “kindle afresh” that gift that is in you. Ask him to re-ignite that passion for His kingdom.