This is an except take from my book From Root to Fruit. Some information has been altered to fit the blog format. Pictures were add. You can find a link to From Root to Fruit in the sidebar.
Growing up in northeast Ohio is something I frequently brag about. Although many people still confuse Ohio and Iowa, I know to which state I belong and I’m proud of that. There are so many things that I love about Ohio: the Midwestern people, the lake-effect snow, and, of course, the wonderful natural parks. Aside from their amazing beauty, the paths winding through the tree filled parks are wide and well-maintained. These ribboned paths made for easy play whenever my parents would take us hiking.
Of course, there were always a few roots jutting into the path causing me to have to pay attention. In childhood innocence, I wondered why the park maintenance didn’t cut them away. Obviously, the park workers knew more than I did.
Cutting through the root system is a quick way to damage a tree. Where root rot may take many months to develop, the roots can be cut away in a few days or hours. The tree will experience an initial shock and depending on the amount cut away and the maturity of the tree, the tree may survive. However, the fight to survive will be a long one and the tree will forever show signs of this damage.
In our lives, direct damage to our [spiritual] root system doesn’t happen with a chainsaw (although it can sometimes feel like it). This attack to our roots of faith can be brought about by someone else, by our own choices, or by circumstances outside our control. Let me explain what I mean —
Damage caused by someone else.
I will never forget the first time I felt attacked within the church walls. It was unexpected and humiliating. To make matters worse, the words came from someone who was supposed to be a church leader.
Have you ever had a moment like that? How did you feel? How did you react?
For months following the incident, I struggled to even attend church. Years have now passed but I still find myself hesitant in many situations because I’m afraid of something like that happening again.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone in experiences like this. Damage caused by someone within the church is not a small issue and it has led to many people walking away completely. Even if someone hasn’t left the church, they will forever be impacted by that occurrence. This direct damage may alter how they view other Christians, how they view themselves, and even how they view God.
And it doesn’t stop there. Our perceptions of others, self, and God can be altered not just by hurtful words but by pretty ones.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)
The King James Version translates “deceitful” as “seducing.” Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says this about the seducing spirits, [These are] “men [or women] who pretended to the Spirit, but were not really guided by the Spirit.”
In other words, there will be people who will pretend to be Christians. They will claim that they are moving according God’s leading but they are lying. These pretenders may look Godly and their words will be charming and will even sound like Scripture. However, their words are the “teaching of demons.”
If someone is young in their faith or is less-knowledgeable about what the Bible says, these pretty words can lead them down a path that God never intended. Before anyone knows it, they are looking around and wondering how they arrived in that strange place.
This type of damage is destructive because it appears healthy but it’s nothing more than poison.
So how do prevent this? You become like a Berean!
Check out what I mean in Acts 17:11.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)
What made the Jews in Berea “more noble” than others?
Scripture will not contradict itself. The words of God are the only Truth and, no matter how good something may sound, it’s imperative that we check it out for ourselves. We have to ensure that nothing has been added and that it’s being taught in the manner in which it was intended.
Consider, was there a teaching that made you question your faith?
If so, what was it and what does Scripture have to say about it?
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3: 16. (ESV)
Damage caused by your own choices.
The Greek word for lovers of self is philautos; and it’s only used once in the entire Bible. [You can] find and read it in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (ESV)
What other traits does Paul warn Timothy about in this passage?
Almost all the traits can be summed up with “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Things of this world can be very enticing. They look good, fun, and pleasurable. To be honest, they will be all of those things. But not for long.
Check out Hebrews 11: 24 – 26
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Pursuing the pleasures of this world is like cutting through the roots simply to make the path a little smoother. It looks good for a time but eventually you lose the beautiful tree that the path once enjoyed. Worldly pleasures want to entice us to think of the here and now and not about our eternal reward.
So, what are you pursuing?
Be honest with yourself, does this fulfill a love of pleasure or a love of God?
Damage caused by experiences beyond your control.
You may have lost someone before his or her time or maybe you’ve experienced loss in some other way such as divorce or miscarriages, or perhaps you’ve been a witness to an injustice. The list of experiences that chip away at faith could go on and on.
Can you think of one experience that chipped at your faith?
While I can’t address each issue individually, it is important to talk about these things. Every life is rudely decorated with experiences that no one wants. A series of life events can quickly have us questioning the goodness and sovereignty of God.
Thankfully, I had Godly parents who sacrificed a great deal so Scripture could be poured into me at a young age. When I reached the point that life circumstances had me questioning God, learned Scripture returned, strengthened me, and now I can share it with you today.
Write out [Investigate]what each of these verses tells us about hardship.
Matthew 11: 28-30
2 Corinthians 4: 7-10
Psalm 27: 13-14
Nowhere does God make a promise that things will make sense. On the contrary –
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55: 8-9 (ESV)
Direct damage may take more time to recover from but I stand as a testimony that it’s possible. There will certainly be scars but there can also be healing.
Today, if you’re still reeling from direct damage, ask God to restore your faith.