Speaking to the soul

York Minster

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
Psalm 92:12 NLT

I have on my desk a wonderful photograph of a large, aged tree flourishing within a barren landscape. It is a Cedar of Lebanon growing within its Lebanese homeland. Perched on a rock escarpment it defies nature, and dwarfs all other vegetation surrounding it. It offers me a powerful reminder that I can both survive and flourish in an inhospitable landscape. The Cedar of Lebanon is a slow-growing tree and takes years to reach its full height. This reminds me that we mature very slowly in God. That life is a marathon. God wants us to run the race “with perseverance” (Hebrews 12:1).

I was once a cross-country runner. I ran for my school and to win the race, I had to pace myself. There were obstacles along the route: five-barred gates and streams. I needed a strategy to ensure I stood some chance of finishing among the leading runners. On one occasion, when competing on unfamiliar territory, some ‘home supporters’ had dammed the flow of a stream, so we had a pool of cold water to navigate. Some plunged in: I ran upstream and around the dam. I regained the lost time as those who’d got soaking wet had to deal with running in sopping gear.

The path we run through life is designed to strengthen and deepen our faith in and love for God. Initially I lived my life very much in the present reality. Only slowly, provoked by unanticipated obstacles, did I begin to discover that following Jesus was about taking my own decisions to live as God instructed me to. The joy was that I might flourish in less than inviting circumstances. It was also to recognise that no two disciples run the same course and that there was no standard shape for the way of discipleship.

We are created to flourish no matter our context. It is always finding the presence of God in the landscape through which we travel that makes the difference between knowing God or becoming lost in confusion.


Are you running a sprint, or a marathon?


Lord, help me to live life as you instruct me to – whatever the circumstances.