“Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as His eternal power and transcendence. He has made His wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.” Romans 1:20 (TPT)
Some time ago now I was walking through the woods with a group of my coworkers and we were being silent, listening to what Holy Spirit was telling us as we walked. As I walked through the woods I grabbed a leaf between two of my fingers and slid them down the length of it. At that moment the Lord said to me, “This leaf may never be seen or touched by any other person except you in its lifetime and, in a short while it will fall and never be seen again, yet it testifies more greatly of Me than you do.”
I would be remiss to say that I was not shocked by what He said to me, there must have been a million thoughts running through my mind. Thoughts like, “everything that I do is for the Lord, is my life not a testimony of Him?” and “is everything that I am doing still not enough?” After calming my mind and neglecting the fleshly urge to question everything that I knew He gave me reassurance that He was not bringing to question my righteousness; it is, after all, Him that is my righteousness and He cannot bring Himself into question. Rather what He was showing me at that moment was something beautiful, something that I am still learning and hope to someday fully grasp.
Much like this scripture in Romans (1:20) says, “seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible.” There is much more to God than the Bible itself can contain and truthfully each and every living thing testifies of Him. Would it be wrong to say that a single leaf testifies more greatly than the children of God? Are we really that insignificant, that a leaf has a greater testimony of Him than we do? The truth is that this has nothing to do with significance, rather it has everything to do with obedience.
For all of our singing, all of our words, all of our coming and going, each and every moment that we testify of the Lord does not equate to the testimony of a single leaf; which, although it appears and fades in a moment, performs the very will of God and waits for us to see it. The leaf does not question God, nor doubt God. It has no concept of itself. It is perfectly and utterly obedient to God in the purpose for which it was made. In fact, we, the children of God are the only thing in all of creation that has the option or the ability to choose not to obey Him, but even those who do serve Him seem to fall victim to the idea that we all stumble. Why is it that the thing which God loves the most is the only thing that questions His ability to enable it to obey?
The leaf is far frailer than we are and lives for much shorter a time than we do. How can its obedience outweigh ours? After all, we have much more time to practice it. It isn’t about the time we have to practice, because if we focus on the time we have to practice then we will focus on the time we have to make mistakes. The leaf simply focuses on one thing, its purpose. Of course, there are various types of leaves that each performs its function in a different way, however, all with a common goal; absorb sunlight and produce food for the body. This process, in turn, creates sugar and oxygen; sugar that is essential for the body and oxygen, which all living creatures breathe. Plants take carbon dioxide (something that is harmful), replace it with oxygen (something that is essential for all life) and in turn, they alter the course of the world around them.
I promise I have a point, don’t give up reading now… We all, as the children of God, have a common purpose. Just like the leaves of a tree replace carbon dioxide with oxygen and change the atmosphere around them to support life, so should we be doing. How much more would we achieve, how much more would we progress the kingdom of heaven if we spent less time questioning God and more time replacing the folly of the worldly with the realities of heaven? What if we spent more time taking what is harmful and replacing it with what is beneficial? After all, the One that lives in us is the way, the truth, and the life; yet we spend more time getting lost, questioning, and speaking negatively than we do anything else. Sadly, I think that most of the time we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.
The leaf does not question itself. The majesty and the will of God can be seen fully in such a small and fleeting thing. The leaf, however, is only one small part of a much bigger thing. Though the leaf may wither and fall, the tree which it is a part of does not die when the leaf is gone. It is simply waiting, performing its tasks more slowly and patiently until the season changes and the leaves return. What a marvelous example this is of what it is like to serve the Lord! How often do we get caught up in the work and forget to rest? How often do we become too focused on other things and forget that we even have a purpose? Or, remembering our purpose, how often do we simply choose not to fulfill it?
How many times do we get caught up in the “storms” of life, begging God to remove us from them, instead of shedding the sin which so easily holds us back and waiting patiently in Him? The same way that the tree sees the season changing and hides itself, so should we do as Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on and are punished for it.” Far more often than not the reason that we even experience trouble, storms, is because we got ourselves there either through willful disobedience or naivety.
What would our lives look like if we simply obeyed the Lord, setting aside all ideas and opinions and just doing what He says? Perhaps they would resemble the lives of the Apostles who, although they may not have been perfect, chased after God with passion and unhindered surrender. Paul actually addresses this in the very same set of scriptures in his letter to the Romans (1:22) saying, “Throughout human history, the fingerprints of God were upon them, yet they refused to honor Him as God or even be thankful for His kindness. Instead, they entertained corrupt and foolish thoughts about what God was like. This left them with nothing but misguided hearts, steeped in moral darkness. Although claiming to be super-intelligent, they were, in fact, shallow fools.”
When we begin to entertain the ideas and opinions of what God is like, over actually just being obedient to Him, we become lost in moral darkness and forget that “faith without works is dead, being alone.” Even still, when we rely so fully on the bible that we cannot experience God without it we miss the evidence of Him in the world around us. I am not saying that we shouldn’t read the Word, we most certainly should! What I am saying is that there is far more to God than all of the pages in that book can contain, and the world around us is eagerly waiting for us to see the evidence of Him; in truth, no one can deny Him in ignorance because even the leaves testify of His greatness. Even the leaves testify of His will for us, performing their tasks obediently without ever questioning the One Who created them.
They do not become lazy, nor do they choose not to, they simply do what it is that they were made to do. The book of Proverbs does a great job of reminding us of the danger of becoming lax in our duty, saying, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:33-34) This is all easy to say, of course, but what is our purpose? What is the thing that we should obey? Micah says it well, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) and Christ Jesus, even more, saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Of course, Jesus also said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6) Apart from the tree, the leaf can do nothing and when the leaf falls from the tree it withers and is rendered useless. I am not saying that God’s heart is to consider us useless, rather I am saying that when our lives do not produce the evidence, that is the fruit, of the One Who created us then we are as a leaf that is no longer attached to the tree; for as long as the leaf remains on the tree it performs its reasonable duty.
There is so much darkness in this world, so much folly, so much pain, so much ignorance and wickedness and we are the “light of the world.” Should we not be taking that very darkness, folly, pain, ignorance, and wickedness and replacing it with truth and grace; which are beneficial for life and give life? Should we not have lives that echo Psalm 1:1-4, which says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”
When we say that we love the Lord but do not obey Him, nor seek to obey Him, are we any different than a leaf that has fallen from the tree? Have you ever seen a leaf caught on flat ground as the wind blows; how it blows the leaf away from the tree? When we become lazy in obedience, caught up in the sin that we are indeed dead to, and neglect the will and purpose of the Lord in our lives surely we are no different than that leaf which the wind blows further and further away from the tree that once sustained it. This Psalm, however, says that the righteous are like a tree whose leaves never wither!
Not all trees lose their leaves! Think of any tropical environment, where winter does not affect the trees. Their leaves remain, and yet they produce fruit in the proper season. However, just because they produce fruit in the proper season, this does not mean that the tree has stopped performing its reasonable duty; its leaves still take in carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen. The same goes for us! Just because it may not be a season in which fruit is blossoming, does not mean that we should ever stop producing the evidence of the kingdom that we are born into, that kingdom that we represent on this earth; revealing, as a light to the world, truth, and grace to those who are lost in darkness and condemnation. In fact, we should “live such good lives among unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”
Just like the leaves of the tree perform their reasonable duty, without willing neglect and with no hesitation, we also have a reasonable duty to perform. As Paul says to the Romans (12:1-2) “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
When we are wholly obedient to our Father, without question and without the interference of our own opinions or ideas of what and who He is, we will produce the fruit of the kingdom of heaven; which in turn changes the atmosphere around us from one of darkness to one that is full of His marvelous light because “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Knowing this, we should “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (Ephesians 5:11-13)
My heart is not to condemn anyone, rather it is to encourage you to live as you are called to live! We are not of this world, but we a light to this world! We do not partake of the ways of this world, but in the midst of the wickedness that is in it, we represent the One Who created it! We are called to righteousness, holiness, obedience, and above all love; without which none of these are possible. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) When we set aside ourselves, our opinions and ideas, and simply love Him it is not only our reasonable duty, but our joy to live in obedience to the One Who first loved us.