Two weeks of ministry in Austria and Germany in springtime set me worshipping the God of creation. We had an incredible view from the Schloss, a beautiful, ancient castle that houses a Capernwray Centre and Bible School for young people (an organization Stuart and I served in until we came to the US in the 1970s). It’s 200 steps from the base of the castle to the top! The steps, along with the view from our bedroom, took our breath away! In Germany, Stuart and I were working with Russian Germans — most of whom were immigrants who had returned to Germany from the former Soviet Union when the wall came down in 1989. Wonderful people in burgeoning church fellowships all across the land. They were eager to give us attention and hungry for instruction.
One day I looked for something in my purse, and my fingers found an acorn I carry with me as an illustration for one of my talks. Looking at the little seed and then at the trees outside, I thought of the young vibrant Bible school students and staff in Austria, and the strong godly Russian Germans who had returned to plant churches across Germany with their strict Baptist faith intact after years of communism and persecution. And I thought of Jesus’ words from nature that “Unless a seed falls into the ground it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24-26).
The principle remains the same as 2000 years ago. I met many delightful “oak trees” during this season of ministry who must delight the heart of God. They certainly delighted mine as I listened to their stories and realized there had been a lot of “dying” going on before the trees rose triumphant from the soil. The men and women in Austria and the Russian Germans continue a disciplined self-giving and sacrificial lifestyle for Jesus’ sake. Many have died to their own ambitions and dreams in order to serve and train others for Christian service. Some have put their personal dreams and relationships on hold to give themselves to mission work. There has already been a lot of dying in order to see such evident spiritual life.
“There is no other way, for all of us,” I reminded myself. The frightening thing is we little acorns have a choice. To die or not to die…that is the question.
Think of an acorn, then look at the tree
Who would have imagined what it could be?
So inconsequential a seed in the earth
Lying buried and broken yet watch its rebirth!
The birds of the air find a place for their young
A cathedral to practice their songs yet unsung.
Its leaf canopy covers the one who is caught
In a wintry rainstorm of the very worst sort!
The branches are perfect for feathered friend’s nest
The squirrels find roadways; the small birds find rest.
Our human eyes feast on the tree trunks so tall
And we praise God our Father and maker of all.
But we like our brown color and little hard shell
And we’re scared of the dying; we’d rather stay well.
While some die to themselves and never look back
Others stay in their cases, too hard to crack!
So the choice is our own as to what we shall be
To remain as a nut or become an oak tree!
We can die to ourselves, be reborn and survive
And find in the dying that we come alive!
Copyright Jill Briscoe, 2010.
Christians who seek to live lives worthy of their high calling are aware that they are involved in a struggle. They need to be clear about the unique nature of the struggle and the way in which God plans for them to stand firm against the enemy and to win the victory.All Sermons by Stuart, Jill & Pete Briscoe