The two leaves above are from the same Mango tree. This was planted from seed some ten years ago, and is flourishing. It’s now almost twenty feet high. The only difference between these two leaves is that one was removed from the tree a few days ago while pruning, and the other stayed connected to its source of nourishment, the tree.
The two leaves can be understood to represent the condition of one’s soul. In the original biblical languages the word soul refers to something that breathes, and thus has life. Made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) all humans have a soul. One’s soul is among the deepest part of who we are, and is closely tied to our spirit, the part of us that relates to God. Unlike the two leaves pictured above, it’s not easy to tell the condition of one’s soul from the outside.
In John 15:5-6 (ESV) Jesus is recorded as saying:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Although Jesus used a grape vine and its branches as a metaphor, we can apply the same lesson to our mango tree. Jesus is saying that those who abide in him are nourished spiritually, while those separated are not. The word “abide” in this verse is the Greek word “menō.” It means to stay connected, remain in, or to dwell with. The point is, those who choose to trust in Jesus for salvation, and who abide in him for nourishment, will be spiritually healthy. Those who remain distant from Jesus are like dried and withered leaves.
Even those who love God and trust in Jesus for salvation know that there are times in our lives when we are very close to Him and nourished, and other times when we may be preoccupied with other things and start to wither spiritually. Although our salvation is not in question, when there’s distance between us and the Lord we start to lose the love, joy, peace, patience, and other fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23. At such times our souls may not be represented by the dry leaf pictured above, yet we know deep down that we are not as nourished as we could be.
The dry leaf does, however, represent those who have not accepted God’s offer of salvation through Christ. John 14:1-6 teaches that reconciliation to God is only available through Jesus. Those who reject this are separated from God, and are spiritually starved. This may include celebrities adored by millions for their wit and wisdom, leaders in whom millions place their trust, or masters of non-biblical religious teachings. In the verse quoted above Jesus says of them all, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Certainly much can be accomplished on earth by such luminaries, yet nothing they do will have any degree of eternal value. Despite the praise they receive from men and women during their lifetimes, in the end they will be found wanting.
The great news is that no matter what our condition, as long as we have breath within us we can choose to draw near and abide in Jesus. Psalm 23 is a favorite of many Christ followers. One very small part of this Psalm, however, may have escaped your attention. Just after mentioning that he’s led beside still waters and before stating that the Lord leads him in paths of righteousness, David states in verse 3 (ESV) that the Lord, “restores his soul.” What a beautiful image that is. This reminds me of a another verse. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) reads:
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Imagine the leaves produced by a tree planted by streams of water. As they stay connected to a tree that can drink at any time and during any environmental condition, these leaves must be a deep, dark shade of healthy green.
We can be like that as well if we choose to stay connected to Jesus, our source of spiritual nourishment. Spending time in His word, in prayer, listening quietly for guidance, and trusting in Him through good times or bad, we can be like a tree that has no need to be anxious in times of drought.
There’s also great news for those who are separated from God, and who don’t yet trust in Jesus for salvation. Luke Chapter 15 records the story Jesus told about an individual who’s come to be known as the Prodigal Son. This young man chose to be separated from his father and to squander his inheritance on worldly passions. When he came to his senses and decided to return, he thought his father might reject him as a son. To his surprise, he was welcomed back with joy and feasting. Jesus precedes this story in Luke 15:10 by saying, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
It’s clear that God welcomes all who choose to draw near to him through Jesus. No matter who you are or what’s you’ve done, you too can know what it’s like to be planted by streams of living water.
It was noted above that in both biblical Hebrew and Greek the word for “soul” refers to something that is alive and thus has breath. For an inspirational portion of scripture that speaks to how God can bring life to that which is spiritually dead, listen to the song by Lauren Daigle called “Come Alive” by CLICKING HERE. The biblical text behind the song can be found in Ezekiel 37:1-4 HERE.
No matter what you’re facing in these challenging days, choose to abide in Jesus. In this way you can stay connected to the spiritual nourishment that’s available in God alone.