May 10, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Last year, my wife, Linda, and I moved into a house in Pasadena, California. One of the greatest blessings of our home is the collection of citrus trees in the backyard. Because they are not all the same type of tree, they produce fruit in different seasons. This means that Linda and I get to enjoy fresh lemons and oranges many times throughout the year. What a wonderful gift! (The photo to the right shows one of the blossoms on our lemon tree. The smell of these blossoms is truly heavenly.)
John’s vision of the fruitful future both fills us with hope and reminds us of our potential for significant fruitfulness today if we live deeply engaged with Christ.
In Revelation 22 there is a tree that produces plentiful fruit, not just once a year or even several times a year, but every single month of the year. It’s a little hard to figure out whether John envisions one very large and unusual tree that somehow grows on both sides of the river of life, or whether he sees a collection of trees. But we don’t have to get hung up in the details. The point is that the tree (or grove of trees) provides an abundant harvest throughout the year. Talk about exceptional fruitfulness!
It’s equally striking that this is not just some amazing fruit tree. John identifies it as the “tree of life,” picking up the language of Genesis, where God planted the “tree of life” in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8-9). When Adam and Eve sinned, God banished them from the Garden lest they eat from the “tree of life” and live forever in their sinful, shattered state (Gen 3:22-23). In the age to come, however, God will have fully and finally dealt with the problem of sin. Thus, we will be able to enjoy the fruit of the tree of life without limitation. This is implicit in Revelation 22, but explicit in Revelation 2, where the risen Christ promises that, to “the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7).
We have much to look forward to according to Revelation 22. There will be a time when life will flow from God like a crystal river. This river will water the tree of life, enabling it to be consistently fruitful. This suggests, not only that we will be nourished by God’s living water and life-giving fruit, but also that we will live fruitfully beyond anything we can imagine today.
Yet, the promise of future fruitfulness does not mean that we are sentenced to live barren lives in this age. In John 15, Christ invites us to be deeply and inseparably connected to him, even as branches are joined to the vine. When we live this way, drawing our vitality from Christ, we will bear much fruit in all areas of life, including our work (John 15:1-8). Moreover, our lives will be filled with meaning and value, even though we continue to live imperfect lives in an imperfect world. Yet, John’s vision of the fruitful future both fills us with hope and reminds us of our potential for exceptional fruitfulness today if we live deeply engaged with Christ.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In what areas or activities of life are you fruitful today?
How does your relationship with Christ help you to bear fruit? How do you stay deeply connected to Christ?
If you could become more fruitful in your life, what might this look like? In what aspects of your life are you longing to be more fruitful?
How might John’s vision of the exceptionally fruitful tree make a difference for you?
Gracious God, our hearts yearn for the day when the tree of life will be abundantly fruitful and we will be able to enjoy this fruit. How wonderful it will be to experience the fullness of life, life as you meant it to be!
As we look forward to this time, we are grateful for the invitation to live fruitfully now. Thank you for connecting us to Christ by your grace, so that we might bear much fruit. Help us, Lord, to live in Christ so that we might be fruitful at home and at work, in our service and our relationships, in church and throughout the world. Let your fruit grow exceptionally through us, Lord.
To you be all the glory! Amen.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Mark D. Roberts. All rights reserved.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.