After going to the Maricopa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, I have a tremendous amount of respect for these gentle giants of the forest. Their size can only be described as gargantuan and their age makes Methuselah sound like a teenager!
But one of the characteristics I note with particular interest is what I would call “perseverance”. Now, I know that the trees have no awareness or sense that they have persevered through difficult times. But, the fact remains, that there is evidence on many of these old creatures of significant trial, especially by fire.
These are two of the Giant Sequoia Trees which show the fire scars as evidence of the trees’ perseverance through ferocious wildfires through the centuries they have lived.
God, in His ultimate wisdom, created these trees knowing that they would be around for a long time and that, in the natural order of things, fire would destroy some of the forest ground cover as is necessary for a healthy forest environment. So, God gave the Giant Sequoias the ability to survive severe fire damage, this being, according to the National Park Service, “a remarkable characteristic of the Sequoia.” I spoke of this characteristic in a prior post, “Difficulties Can Produce Beautiful Fruit” posted August 19, 2015.
The focus here, is not so much the physical fact of their survival, but the concept of perseverance … or, as is applicable to Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, perseverance of the saints.
I realize that the trees can’t just pick up and move when the going gets hot. They are “stuck” there, so to speak. Notwithstanding this truth, consider what is visible from the trees pictured below — above the top of the fire scar there is green growth and abundant branches. The trees are not just alive; they are healthy, surviving and flourishing. They endure the flames and then survive and keep on prospering, right where they are.
God knows me, too. He knows that trials will come and the heat may be intense. He also knows that I cannot face it alone. In His grace He has not left me alone – He has provided a way for me to survive, not through a layer of cambium but through Jesus Christ as my Savior, the Holy Spirit as my Companion, and the Body of Christ, the Church.
Whether grandiose and ancient as seen in the 1,400 year old Canterbury Cathedral, or small and rustic such as the historic Cades Cove Church in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the church building is the meeting place for the Body of Christ.
Believers, themselves, are the Body of Christ when they work together for the spreading of the Gospel of Christ and in support of each other as the family of Christ and children of the Living God.
When Daniel’s three friends, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar and refused to bow down to him, they told the king that they would only worship their God. In rage, the king threw the three men into the fiery furnace, but when king looked into the furnace, he saw four men in the fire. Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were retrieved from the furnace and they were not burned or singed and they did not even smell of fire. See Daniel 6:23-27. God walked with them in the fire, and they were unharmed because they persevered in their faith and in reliance upon God.
I have the same God who went into the fire with His children as recounted in Daniel chapter 6. He is the Great Healer, my Companion and my Guide. He has given me His Word (the Holy Bible) and He has ordained that the Body of Christ, the visible church on earth, be available to me as a believer in Christ for support, prayer, strength, encouragement, and help in time of need. This does not mean that struggles will not come, or even that I am guaranteed that the struggle will not be stronger than I am — but it does mean that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the love of God that I have through Christ Jesus. Read Romans 8:35-39.
In short, He has provided the way and the strength to persevere through the trial so that, at the last day, I will be able to stand before Him, clothed in the righteousness of His Son and be accepted by Him as His child. My obligation is to joyfully take advantage of the strength He has provided when difficult times come.
James writes in his letter that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.
I don’t know about you, but I normally do not consider it “pure joy” when a trial comes my way. No one wants hard times – but hard times do not play favorites. Jesus promised that there would be hard times for the Christian … it is not a matter of IF there is a trial; it is simply a matter of WHEN the trial will arrive. Perseverance in our Christian walk comes as a result of enduring the testing of our faith, and the result of perseverance is maturity in Christ.
The Giant Sequoia tree reminds me that perseverance is possible. The Lord has provided these trees with protection and healing after a fire. He has provided me with the Comforter who is with me not only for healing after the fire has passed but the Comforter is with me even during the trial, giving strength, encouragement and, yes, comfort. And He has provided the Body of Christ, the Church, for my support, encouragement and aid.
Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus Christ into this world as the atonement for my sin. Thank you also for providing means of grace so that I can persevere when difficult times assail, thank you for the Holy Spirit present within and the Church present without for strength and encouragement, prayer and praise, help and aid during times of testing. Help me to be of encouragement to your children through your Spirit and the Word. Rather than fighting the test, Father, help me to embrace it and persevere through it so that I will be mature in my faith. Thank you for being with me, even in the furnace of testing. I praise your name and glorify you in all things.