Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums
As I near that magical age of retirement, I know I have worked hard all of my adult life to attain this new chapter but that doesn’t mean I am going to sit around, eat grapes and have angels fan me. I cannot imagine that I would ever retire from my first love – the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. From that there is no such thing as retirement.
But I do have to constantly pray that God will show me when and how the next chapter of my life will unfold. Psalm 92 says…
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.  The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.  They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,  to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalms 92:11-15 ESV)
Did you catch that? They still bear fruit in old age (v.14a). God expects the aging saints to be fruit bearers. Years ago, I got the bright idea to try my hand at raising peaches. I planted three trees, watered and fertilized them expecting to have peaches coming out of my ears. That didn’t happen. In fact, the peaches grew to pea size and then fell off the tree. Concluding that I was doing something wrong (brilliant, eh?) I contacted an elderly man in my church, the owner of a very successful orchard that was known for its apples, peaches and other fruit. When John arrived at our home he had in his hand a pair of sharp shears and took it to the trees. He snipped here and cut there brutally shaving that tree down to almost nothing. I actually asked him if he knew what he was doing as he was mumbling something about why don’t novices like me just don’t visit his orchard and buy his peaches.
John told me something I will never forget. He said that the trees should have never been allowed to bear any fruit in the first two years. He continued that they needed to be pruned to drive energy to the vine and the root system. He chastised me lovingly and said that I will be very happy with big, thick juicy peaches next year but for now I had to be patient and wait for God to do His thing on the trees. He grabbed a bag of special fertilizer and threw it about the roots being careful to pour the fertilizer only on the edges where the branches once stood. It took him all of ten minutes to ready those trees for the next season. And, ready they were with the biggest, juiciest and most delicious peaches one will ever eat.
Where are those trees now you ask? They are all dead. Why, because I did not listen to the peach doctor. I expected that they would continue to produce abundantly without pruning and fertilizing. John is with the Lord now but his orchards continue to draw people from four states because he passed down a legacy of knowledge to his kids and their kids. The future of these orchards is bright, thanks to an old man who continued to practice his art in his old age in a way that I did not allow my three trees to bear fruit. I learned from the master how to get my trees to bear fruit but I did not listen.
The old man of Psalm 92 is a man of great vision. He is constantly asking the Lord for details on the next chapter in his life. For the believer there is no such thing as retirement from the spreading of the Gospel. He or she will always have to be pruned and fertilized with the disciplines of grace, the study of the Word, the power of prevailing prayer and a solid witness to the lost. Are you bearing fruit in your old age? Is your fruit bearing yielding a deeper love for Jesus and great big juicy converts? Are you practicing the presence of the Lord in worship and prayer in a way that continually matures and creates delight in His love? Do you receive the disciplines of the Lord, His pruning, with an open heart that refuses to grumble but graciously says yes to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, recognizing that “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11)?
Friends, one thing I know, at some point the old man of Psalm 92 embraced the “old season of life,” recognizing that his life had prepared him to continue to bear fruit – he would not stop growing or seeing life with eternity in view. That’s my hope for myself. How about you?
In His grip,
Dr. Chuck F. Betters
For more information from In His Grip with Dr. Chuck F. Betters please visit http://www.markinc.org/