February 14, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 92:12-13; John 15:5 (NRSV)
The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
If we want to flourish in life, if we want to live fully and fruitfully, then we need to develop an intimate, growing relationship with Jesus. We do this by allowing his teachings to live within us and guide every part of our lives. We let his love claim us, fill us, and embrace us. The more we live in the truth and love of Jesus, the more we will make our home in him. As a result, we will flourish, living fully and fruitfully.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Invitation to a Flourishing Life
Psalm 92:12 promises that the righteous flourish like the palm tree. Verse 13 adds, “They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.” Scholars aren’t sure whether or not the temple courts in Jerusalem had real trees growing in them or not. Today, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, now a Muslim holy site, has a thriving grove of trees. (See the photo I took several years ago from the Mount of Olives.)
Of course, Psalm 92 is speaking figuratively. Righteous people are not actual trees literally planted in the temple and its courts. Rather, the righteous are in some way deeply connected to God, whose presence was represented by the temple. The imagery of Psalm 92 is similar to what we find in Psalm 1, where those who delight in God’s law “are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper” (Psalm 1:3).
As Christians, we do not have a physical temple in which to worship. Though we may call our places of worship “sanctuaries,” we don’t think of the places in which God is uniquely present. So, we might wonder where we should be “planted” if we want to flourish in life. Where do we put down our spiritual roots, so to speak, if we want to be truly and intimately connected to God?
We would rightly think of Jesus as we consider this connection. He is for us, in many ways, what the temple once was for the Jewish people. For example, Jesus is the dwelling place of God in an even more dramatic and literal sense than the temple (John 1:14). Moreover, it is through Jesus and his sacrifice that we receive God’s forgiveness, rather than through material sacrifices made in a material temple. If we want to flourish, we need to have our roots grow deeply into Jesus, so to speak.
Jesus did not use the analogy of trees and roots to describe our relationship with him. He did, however, employ a related agricultural image. In John 15, Jesus spoke of himself as the vine, with us as the branches (15:5). He promised that if we abide in him, that is, if we are deeply engaged with and connected to him, we will bear much fruit (John 15:5). He might have just as well said, “If you are deeply rooted in me, you will flourish.”
In John 15, Jesus indicated what we might do in order to abide in him. In verse 7, for example, he said, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you . . . .” One way we abide in Jesus is by having his words live within us. We do this by reading, reflecting upon, memorizing, discussing, teaching, and obeying his teachings.
Jesus also said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (15:9-10). Jesus invites us to live in his love. We do this, in part, by keeping his commandments, by living as he taught us to live. But that’s not all. We make our home in Jesus’s love as we spend time with him in prayer, as we share life with other “branches,” and as we remember regularly his loving sacrifice for us on the cross.
So, to employ the language of Psalm 92, one way we will be like trees planted in the temple is by developing an intimate, growing relationship with Jesus. We allow his teachings to live within us and guide our lives. We allow his love to claim us, fill us, and embrace us. The more we live in the truth and love of Jesus, the more we will flourish, living fully and fruitfully.
As you think about your life, where are you “planted”? What gives you energy? Where do you feel connected and at home?
What helps you to know Jesus better?
When in your life have you felt strongly the love of Jesus for you? What difference did this experience make?
Consider memorizing a verse from John 15. Perhaps verse 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Gracious God, thank you for being so available to us. Thank you for the privilege we have of being “planted” in you. Thank you for all the ways your nurture us so that we might flourish.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the invitation to abide in you. Help us, Lord, as we seek to have your words live in us. May our hearts be open to dwelling in your unsurpassable love for us. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: I Am the Vine and You Are the Branches (John 15)
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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.