As spring days become brighter and the dreariness of winter recedes, we look forward to the growing season. It is a wonderful time when trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and fruit burst forth into a wondrous display of new life.
In God’s Church, alongside the physical elements of the season, we also focus on renewal and recommitment, beginning with the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Weeks later, we observe the final spring feast, Pentecost. Also called the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Firstfruits, this day coincides with the early spring harvest that occurs in the land of Israel. It pictures the smaller early spiritual “harvest” of firstfruits—those called now to learn God’s Way and overcome in this life.
Pentecost also represents the giving of God’s Law and His Holy Spirit. It is on this day that God issued the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. It is also the day on which the New Testament Church was founded in AD 31 and Christ’s disciples received God’s Spirit.
Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is the power that emanates from God. It is likened to flowing water—even “rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Elsewhere, verses state that the Spirit gives life (II Cor. 3:6).
The power of God is given to His people so they can have His laws written in their minds and hearts. It also allows Christians to bear good fruit. This fruit is an outward showing of good character—the results of spiritual growth.
Throughout spring, while rain falls and plants blossom and bud, there are abundant physical reminders of the spiritual fruit that should be evident in our lives. Watching a fruit tree progress from buds to flowers to green fruit to boughs weighed down by juicy fruit is analogous to the spiritual growth for which we strive.
In most cases, however, we only see half of the picture.
Importance of Roots
With plants we typically observe what is above ground, not the important part that is underneath—its root system.
“Because they are out of sight, roots are often out of mind,” according to information from Colorado State University Extension. “They are widely overlooked as to their significance in plant health. Eighty percent of all plant disorders include soil/root problems.”
The following remarkable quote from Crop Farming Review highlights the importance of roots: “The plant root system constitutes the major part of the plant body, both in terms of function and bulk…Roots are so massive that their total dry weight may exceed that of the entire plant body. Quantitative investigation revealed that a single rye plant (Secale cereale) that was 4 months old had a total root length of 387 miles (623 km) or an average root growth of about 3 miles (4.83 km) per day. It consisted of some 14 million separate branch roots, with more than 14 billion root hairs. All the roots and root hairs convert to an equivalent total absorptive surface area in contact with the soil of almost 640 sq meters, all contained within a limited volume of about 2 cu ft (0.057 cu. meter) of soil.”
Jesus Christ used the example of physical roots in the parable of the sower to illustrate a spiritual lesson. Read carefully: “And He spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt. 13:3-8).
Later Jesus explained the meaning behind the four types of seed to His disciples: “When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it; yet has he not root in himself, but [endures] for a while: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (vs. 19-23).
Notice that a plant with shallow roots will wither away. Without spiritual roots, a person can exhibit an interest in God’s truth “for a while”—yet be in severe danger of allowing “tribulation or persecution” to pull him back into the world.
The parallel account in Luke 8 adds more vital details about the seed that fell on rocky ground: “And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture” (vs. 6).
Without roots, a plant struggles to obtain moisture. Similarly, without God’s Spirit guiding or working within a person—he will spiritually wither!
What then is needed? A plant must be in good soil where it can obtain all the nutrients and water it needs to bear fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Learning about physical roots reveals vital spiritual principles that Christians must apply to bear good fruit—and qualify to rule in God’s kingdom. While there are many characteristics of roots that could be examined, three are most notable and essential to a plant’s survival.
The first major function of roots is to keep plants upright and stable. “The plant root system anchors the plant in the soil and provides physical support. Redwood trees…about 100 meters tall have stood erect for [about a] thousand years only because millions of individual fibrous roots dig into the ground, even though the depth of penetration is only up to about 5 meters” (Crop Farming Review).
Such is the case for most plant life—from a tiny blade of grass to a giant oak tree. Deep roots are important because the success of most land plants depends on their ability to stand erect. Even during great winds, vegetation with a well-established root system will not be knocked over or uprooted, while plants that are shallowly rooted can be easily destroyed.
Spiritually, this analogy reflects our Christian lives. Many proverbial “storms” are raging throughout the world—worsening immorality and perversion, civil conflicts, wild weather patterns, social disturbances, and crimes of every kind—a reality that will only intensify in the short time ahead. If we are solidly rooted, we will be able to withstand the fury of what swirls around us. But if we lack healthy spiritual roots, we will not stand much of a chance.
Of course, plants are grounded in soil. But where should Christians be rooted? The Bible provides the answer: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).
This verse reveals that we must be grounded in love, as defined by the Bible: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
By keeping the Commandments of God—summarized as “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”—you show love for God and love for others (Matt. 22:37-39).
Those in this “present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) do not live God’s Way and increasingly seek to break His laws at every possible opportunity. Therefore, if we seek to obey God, this world will do everything it can to knock us over and uproot us.
To remain firmly grounded and anchored in love, however, we must be thoroughly and solidly embedded in God’s Law. This will allow us to warmly welcome many whom God is bringing into or back to His Church.
While new or returning brethren grow necessary spiritual roots once they are brought into Christ’s Body, more experienced members must be solidly anchored and upright so they can support those whom God leads to His Church until they also become deeply rooted. Mature Church members must be prepared to give support, encouragement, love, comfort and understanding to newer brethren until they also can stand on their own. Acts 20:35 states, “I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
We must stay firmly anchored and grounded so that we do not wither away. This is essential not only for our spiritual survival, but also in making a difference in the lives of others.
Moisture and Nourishment
The second major purpose for roots is to provide a plant with moisture and nourishment.
“The roots are the beginning of the vascular system pipeline that moves water and minerals from the soil up to the leaves and fruits” (Colorado State University Extension).
Earth’s soil is rapidly being depleted of nutrients through short-sighted agricultural and forestry practices. Land moisture is also becoming extremely scarce in many areas as drought intensifies. Hundreds of thousands of trees are dying annually. Some few could be revived and nourished back to health if caught in time. But for many, it is too late.
Plants and trees make every effort to send down roots as far as possible—or out as far as possible—to get to the water and minerals they need. We must do likewise in searching for that living water that is described as the Holy Spirit (John 7:38) and spiritual nourishment (6:33-35, 51).
We are to seek after the eternal, life-giving nutrients that our Creator provides in His Word. The Bible tells us in John 17:17 that God’s Word is truth. Also, in John 6:63, Jesus stated “...the words [of truth] that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
One more notable characteristic of roots bears examining as it is also akin to our spiritual conditions. It has been discovered that roots fend off diseases and viruses by producing antibiotic microorganisms to help fight off pathogens both in the soil and in the air.
“The [rhizosphere] is the area close around the roots in the soil,” agricultural company U.S. Ag reported. “This area is very vital to the growing plant. If a plant [is] to be healthy and vigorous, then the [rhizosphere] must be active with a healthy [biological] life…Then as roots begin to develop, they begin to secrete a high enzyme concentrate combined with [various] organic acids…These warriors against disease, not only produce secretions that kill or suppress harmful fungi, molds and pathogenic bacteria, but some bacillus provides the plant with needed enzymes and material to produce their own substances called phytoalexin which is toxic to certain diseases, pathogens, fungus, and/or nematodes.”
Spiritually, the world is full of all kinds of wrong beliefs generated by false religious systems, which could be characterized as “religious diseases.” Even some of God’s people in this final era have been infected with doctrinal sickness. Those who have not built up a strong, healthy, spiritual root system have been unable to ward off these deadly spiritual viruses. Some have already succumbed to them and “died” spiritually!
Due to this, we must see the absolute importance of remaining rooted, grounded, nourished and healthy. But how can we accomplish this?
In reality, there is only one time-tested way to grow healthy spiritual roots: we must exercise the Holy Spirit. This is done through daily prayer, diligent Bible study, regular meditation, and periodic fasting. Overcoming weaknesses, weathering trials, obeying all of God’s commands, and fellowshipping with true Christians are also ways to grow. (Be sure to read and listen to the Church’s articles and sermons on each of these subjects.)
Are we praying and studying diligently? Our very lives depend on it! Or are we, perhaps, “too busy” with other things? If so, it will leave us vulnerable to the many dangers around us.
We will, however, thrive and grow if we remain rooted, grounded and nourished in God and His Word.
Different kinds of vegetation yield various types of produce. Fruit trees bring forth apples, pears, plums and cherries. Vines form clusters of grapes. Vegetable plants produce beans, peas, brussel sprouts…the list goes on. And among the great variety of root crops such as potatoes, carrots and beets, the roots themselves produce the harvest. The entire plant is used in the process, but everything begins with the roots.
Many plants develop fruit of some kind. God created them that way: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:11-12).
Spiritually, it is no different. God admonishes us to produce fruit that nourishes. Jesus Christ told His disciples, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16).
How do we recognize this fruit? Fruit is classified as the edible or usable portion of a plant or vine. A healthy fruit tree, vegetable plant, or grapevine would not produce thistles or thorns (Matt. 7:16-19). Neither do truly begotten Christians. They produce good fruit that nourishes not only themselves but those around them as well. The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
Love: This is outgoing concern and care for others, and is only made possible by the keeping of God’s commandments (I John 5:2-3).
Joy: This means “gladness.” It comes from serving others—not personal gratification.
Peace: A state of calmness and tranquility of mind, the key to having this is found in Psalm 119:165, which states that loving God’s Law gives peace.
Longsuffering: Something so rare in this world, this characteristic is the ability to endure adversity for extended periods and take it patiently, knowing that it builds character (Jms. 5:11).
Gentleness: This fruit is akin to “graciousness” as Paul instructed the ministry to be in II Timothy 2:24. It involves taking extra measures to assist those in need.
Goodness: At this present time, only God is “good” (Matt. 19:17). This fruit is better translated generosity. True Christians should strive to become like Him in this way (5:48).
Faith: One of the most used words in so-called “Christianity” today and yet one of the least understood, genuine faith is believing all that God says in His Word and then acting on it. His faith in us is the ultimate “saving faith” (Eph. 2:8).
Meekness: This is not weakness. Rather, it is a realistic view of the self (Rom. 12:13).
Temperance: Self-control is the exact opposite of this world, which is “out of control” on all fronts. We grow in this fruit of the Spirit by seeking the things of the soon-coming kingdom of God (Col. 3:2).
These “fruits” or “works” define the way of life that will be taught and practiced for all eternity.
Consider the ultimate goal. Psalm 1 states, “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper” (vs. 1-3).
God’s ultimate purpose for us is to build godly character to the point that we are ready to become part of the God Family. The evidence that we are on the right path is that we are growing and producing good fruit! Therefore, we have to be firmly rooted to be part of God’s first harvest of saints who will help others bear fruit in His kingdom.
As we observe Pentecost, let’s consider our fruits and the conclusions that can be drawn from them—both areas of strength and weakness. Remember, we need daily “watering” through the Holy Spirit. Resolve to move your spiritual root system toward its best possible condition.
If we have many miles of deep, rich and healthy spiritual roots, we will embody the following verse: “Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples” (John 15:8).