From promise to process by Sarah Wehrli
When my family and I lived in Orlando, we experienced a major hurricane. It was intense, producing wind and rain unlike anything I’ve ever seen. At one point, I remember looking out the window at my beautiful palm tree in the front yard. While most of our trees thrashed around violently, that palm tree endured the storm differently. Sure, it blew around. In fact, it bent all the way to the ground! I kept thinking the trunk would snap in two, but it never did.
Once the storm subsided, we emerged from our home to assess the damage. As we looked over the debris, I discovered something shocking. The storm had affected every tree but the palm tree. It remained completely undamaged, looking as if nothing had happened. This fascinated me so much that I went inside and researched why.
What I learned went beyond intriguing me to inspiring me. I found the palm tree is not just abundantly fruitful and beautiful; it’s also incredibly resilient. God designed it with a unique bounce-back ability so that it could outlast even the worst of storms. In good times or bad, it never stops flourishing!
Psalm 92:12-15 (AMP) compares you and me to a palm tree. It says: “The righteous will flourish like the date palm [long-lived, upright and useful]; They will grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic and stable]. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. [Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; They will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust and love and contentment]; [They are living memorials] to declare that the LORD is upright and faithful [to His promises]; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines flourish like this: “To grow luxuriantly; to increase and enlarge, as a healthy, growing plant; to be prosperous.” Some of its synonyms include: thrive, prosper, expand, multiply, spring up, shoot up, bloom, blossom, bear fruit, and burst forth. What an incredible promise this passage offers: that we would flourish like the date palm, in every season and circumstance. It promises that we can bounce back, even after the worst of life’s storms!
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t only offer us the promise of flourishing in Scripture; He gives us the process for it, too. Just as a farmer works to bring a harvest from a seed, Jesus shows us how to work with Him to bring His promises to pass in our lives, throughout every season. In my book, You Were Made to Flourish: 10 Keys to Thriving in Every Season, we discuss the process in depth.
First, we must connect and commit to our source—Jesus. He alone can bring our heart’s greatest longings to pass. Second, we must gain God’s vision for our lives. Like an experienced farmer, we must see our “fields” full of abundant harvest, though they may appear barren to the natural eye. When we see what God sees, we’ll prepare the ground to hold what’s coming.
Third, we must believe in the seed. When we do, we will protect and nurture it. Fourth, we’ve got to tend the soil. We must keep our heart-soil healthy, constantly pulling up weeds of offense, resentment, doubt, worry and greed that would choke the promise. Fifth, we should sow seeds of time, talent and treasure, taking practical steps toward the promise. Sixth, we’ve got to allow pruning. We must let God rid us of the old, whether sinful or simply season-specific, in order to make room for the new He wants to bring.
Seventh, we should water the seed, speaking in faith what God promised we would see. Eighth, we must guard our environment. It’s vital we surround ourselves with faith-filled people, understanding that the company we keep and the voices we heed will pave the path we walk in. The ninth key can often be the hardest: we cannot allow discouragement to settle in our hearts. Instead, we must patiently embrace the process of flourishing.
When my family and I lived in Hong Kong as missionaries, I discovered another tree I grew to love—the Chinese bamboo tree. Its growth process intrigued me. Once a bamboo seed is planted, nothing will sprout for the first five years. Nothing! Still, you must keep watering and fertilizing the seed. If you don’t, it will die.
Honestly, it would be difficult for me to continue investing time and energy into something I have seen no progress from. It would be tempting to think, Well, I must have done something wrong. This tree is not going to grow! However, if you remain consistent in caring for the bamboo tree—in the fifth year of its growth process—it will sprout. But this sprout is not a normal, gradual one. It can shoot up to 90 feet tall in six weeks, and it can grow up to three feet in a mere 24 hours!
It may seem the growth occurred overnight, but that’s not the case at all. The tree was growing underground the whole time. For five years, it was receiving nourishment to grow strong enough to hold the harvest.
This is how it is when we plant seeds of God’s promises. We won’t see overnight results, but we must stay focused, knowing that the harvest depends upon our faithfulness. When it seems nothing is happening, we’re developing and strengthening our roots to one day hold a great harvest.
You may think, But Sarah! I have waited and trusted for years! I’ve connected, believed, planted, watered, guarded, tended, pruned and waited! Maybe the promise isn’t coming. Maybe I messed it up! If that’s you, I want to encourage you today—don’t give up! I promise—your harvest is coming. If you’ve been waiting awhile, it’s probably because you need a strong root system to hold your large harvest! Galatians 6:9 (ESV) says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
When we finally reap our bountiful harvest, we can engage in the final part of the process—stewarding it well. A farmer stewards his harvest well through multiplication, taking seeds from the fruit to scatter for more fruit. We steward our promise in the same way—by multiplying it through the power of generosity.
Friends, I’m not sure what type of storms you have encountered or will encounter. I don’t know how long you’ve waited to see God’s promises come to pass. What I do know is that amid every season, you can flourish! You can bounce back from anything the enemy meant for evil, and you can thrive in every circumstance!
What promise has God made you? Are you growing discouraged in the process? If so, I encourage you to ask yourself—Have I embraced each of these keys to flourishing? If not, then embrace them and wait actively and expectantly, knowing that God always keeps His word! In every season, in every circumstance and through every storm—your life can flourish!