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TRUST JESUS TODAY
This was written for pre-teens and other children.
The Unruly Branches
Once upon a time a farmer planted a tree where everyone thought nothing could grow. The ground was totally self-reliant and defiant. Even weeds had a hard time surviving there. There was plenty of water available and sunshine, but the ground was very hard. People wondered why the farmer would try plant anything there. But no matter, the farmer knew what he was doing.
The young tree began to grow to everyone amazement. But soon the elements started beating on it. The winter was very harsh and the winds blew strong, yet the tree seemed to thrive. Other farmers watched with envy. They had not been able to grow anything in this soil, yet he was growing a fruit tree of all things! The tree grew and grew, the roots going very deep.
The other farmers got together and decided that this was too much, the tree had to go. They discussed what to do. They thought about poisoning the tree, but that was too slow and besides the farmer could counteract the poison. They thought about chopping it down, but the root would still be there and the farmer would just graft new branches into it. They decided to make a deal with the elements.
That winter was especially harsh. Lightening storms every day and cold frost on top of deep snow. The ground grew hard with the snow. Then came the spring rains which were more like torrents. The ground was very soggy with all the water. Then the winds blew strong. The other farmers were hoping the tree would blow down roots and all. That would end all this nonsense. And much to their delight, the tree did blow over. However, the farmer anticipated this and quickly reset the tree in the soil. The roots immediately grabbed onto the new soil the farmer put around the tree to stabilize it.
The other farmers were defeated! There wasn’t much they could do now. Then they got an idea to try to influence the branches to bend and reach deep into the soil of self-reliance. Maybe they couldn’t kill the tree but they could kill or neutralize the branches. What good was a fruit tree with no fruit?
So they watched and watched. Waiting for the branches to get strong enough to bend. They had to bend because if they broke off they would just be grafted back in by the farmer.
After several years the branches were strong and began to bear fruit. It was a wonderful sight to behold. The farmer had grafted several kinds of fruit into one tree. This should not have worked, but he was a very special and talented farmer. All the different fruits and colors made this tree the envy of all the other farmers.
Finally, they decided it was time. They stirred up the soil of self-reliance. The branches were facing down at the time. They saw the soil and it looked pretty good. Some branches reasoned they could augment the nutrients from the sap with the nutrients from this great looking soil. Then they could produce more fruit and impress the farmer. Wouldn’t he be proud of their ingenuity?
However, that isn’t what happened. As soon as they stuck the end of their branch into the soil, the soil began sucking the nutrients out of the branches. When they tried to pull away, they found themselves stuck. They not only were not producing fruit, they were dying! The sap from the tree with the nutrients slowed down to a trickle. The farmer came by and they called out to him. “Please help us, we cannot pull ourselves out of this soil. You are our only hope”.
So, the farmer pulled each branch out and shook off the soil. “Why did you do that?”
“Because we wanted you to be proud of us.”
“I was already proud of you. I love you and want to see you produce lots of fruit. This way others can benefit from you. I planted you here to show people how to grow fruitful trees even in the worst soil.
“Oh. We’re very sorry we messed up your plan.”
“You didn’t mess up my plan. I will be able to use you again as long as you stay out of the soil of self-reliance.”
“Oh, we will,” they responded.
The other farmers were furious. Their plan had back-fired. Now those stupid branches were producing more fruit that ever. This would not do. Then the oldest farmer said, “Why not make them ineffective by convincing them that they have nothing to do—therefore they shouldn’t do ANYTHING”. The others saw the evil genius in this plan. It was great—not self-reliance, but ambivalence. They could convince the branches that doing nothing was the best thing ever. They could even have pride in doing nothing. So it began.
The next day the farmers walked by and commented how it was a shame all the work these poor branches had to do to try to produce fruit.
The branches said they didn’t have to do anything to produce fruit, the sap flowed through them and produced the fruit. The farmers challenged this idea. They told the branches if that were true then you could curl up in a ball and still produce fruit. We don’t think you can.
Some of the branches fell for it. They decided to defend the honor of the farmer and prove he was right. So, they curled up into a ball. The other farmers were yelling “tighter, tighter” All the while knowing that this would be counter-productive and actually cut off the sap. Which of course was exactly what they wanted. They knew the sap produced the fruit and cutting it off would cut off the production of fruit. They were delighted at the thought of the farmer having little or no crop to harvest.
The farmer came by and saw the branches curled up next to the trunk. He knew they were curled too tight to pull open. He would have to wait for them to decide they were tired of not producing fruit. He would try to coax them into opening up. Some eventually did. Others were trying to prove and point and just couldn’t let the other farmers be right. They didn’t realize the other farmers had lied to them, they just knew they had to defend their farmer.
This continued throughout most of the spring. The curled branched were wound so tight they could only look up. What they saw were the other branches producing flowers and the bees pollinating those flowers. They knew the flowers would soon fall off and tiny fruits begin to grow. They glanced at their branches and saw nothing! No one flower or even a bud. They had been wrong. So they tried to uncurl themselves; only to find out they had done an excellent job of winding themselves up. They couldn’t be unwound. Oh, where was the farmer? Maybe it wasn’t too late for them to grow flowers and produce fruit.
Right on cue, the farmer was there. He told them to relax and he was able to straighten them out. Most of the branches just couldn’t uncurl fully and had to have the ends pruned off. The farmer assured them this was okay and pruning would help them grow. Sure enough, in what seemed like no time at all, they had flowers on them.
As summer approached the farmer spoke to the tree and the branches. “This has been an interesting year. There are valuable lessons learned to be learned. You cannot produce fruit without the sap. You do not have to defend my honor—I can do that myself. If you cut off the sap, then you can’t produce fruit. My desire is that you work with the tree and the sap and produce fruit. You need to look up and stop listening to the other farmers. They are jealous and do not have your best interests in mind. I love you and want you to be fruitful. You were created to be fruitful and I want you to attain all that you were created to be. Focus on your job—allowing the sap to flow through you. You alone control how much sap flows through you. The more sap the more fruitful you will be. Without the sap you will die. I will prune off the parts of you that are not filled with sap. This may hurt, but it is for your own good. Look what happened when I got rid of the curled ends. You were more fruitful than you have even been before! Trust me. I love you and I will make sure there is plenty of sap flowing for you to thrive. This is my tree and no one will harm it. It can grow wherever I plant it. Just trust me and you will bear lots of fruit—more than you can ever imagine.
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