November 21, 2012

In His Time

Ross E. Hutchins tells a delightful children’s story about an acorn that defied the odds to become a great tree. It started with being left out. Buried so deep by squirrels in the fall, the dear acorn was quite forgotten through the winter. But as snow’s white blanket gave way to spring’s sunshine, the buried acorn felt the warmth and began to grow, sending up a stem, and down a rootlet.

All summer the little tree grew under the big oak’s shade. Sharp-eyed birds ate the beetles that chewed its tender leaves. Then a mother deer and her spotted fawn flattened it to the ground as they lay resting in the shade of the big oak. But summer’s showers came to bless the little oak with moisture. It began to straighten up and reach again for the light. Soon it was as good as new. Its roots kept pushing down, feeding and anchoring its growth until, after many years, the little oak had become a mighty tree.1


Trials and Growth
2012 1533 page14It’s amazing how many trials, pains, and hardships one little acorn goes through before becoming a full-grown oak tree, and how much it takes to make a mature Christian. James the brother of Jesus once wrote words of motivation to oppressed believers, encouraging them to keep the faith, not to give up, and to be brave unto the coming of the Lord (James 5:7-11). His concerns for those in need ring true today for many victims of the current massive international economic downturn. Oft-repeated phrases seem to hold true as greed helps some grow richer while many in desperate circumstances grow poorer. In this context USA Today laments that “with sustained high unemployment, mounting national debt, and legislative gridlock in Washington, the world’s most powerful nation is not in the midst of its finest hour.”2

Nevertheless, financial and economic prosperity are but secondary implications of our acorn story for Christians who must progress despite the chewing beetles and damage-dealing deer of our spiritual world.

Counsel From James
James 5:7 offers three thoughtful comments on the importance of patient endurance to the ultimate success of Christian oak trees: “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains” (NASB).3 James wishes “his fellow believers to be long-suffering under provocation and not to lose their courage.”4

As with our acorn, the warmth of Jesus’ love that first awakens us to spiritual life is still necessary to sustain us when Satan’s beetles launch their assaults. We have to be thankful for the guardianship of heavenly angels, Christian friends, and the Holy Spirit, who, like caring, sharp-eyed birds, protect us from potentially destructive spiritual attacks.

The gentle mother deer and her baby meant no harm to the little oak. But their presence was still a trial. So it is with us. When the words or actions of well-meaning friends crush our still-fragile spirits, James counsels us to wait with patience, because refreshing, renewing rain will come. Remember, too, that even crushing experiences can teach us lessons of more of God and less of self. Ellen White wrote, “The Lord requires us to move with a humble dependence upon His providence. ‘It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.’ . . . He can set His hand to prosper and bless, or He can turn His hand against us. ‘Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.’ ”5 Note the phrases of self-distrust and more of God—“humble dependence,” “commit thy way,” “trust also in him.” They speak to the patience that James would have us develop, and the self-surrender of Jesus who could pray to His Father “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
2012 1533 page14


Another Invitation
James offers another invitation: “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8, NASB). This reminds me of a well-known song inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:11: “In His time, in His time, He makes all things beautiful in His time. Lord, please show me every day, as You’re teaching me Your way, that You do just what You say, in Your time.” As Solomon himself became aware, we humans cannot naturally fathom our own human experience (Eccl. 8:17). What holds us, and what we must hold on to, in the midst of life’s perplexities is faith and hope.

As confidence in reason and reliance on science belie the trust once placed in them, a new age of despair, hopelessness, and meaninglessness has come to birth. Edvard Munch depicted this consciousness in his famous painting titled The Scream, which conveys the sense of despair, terror, confusion, and meaninglessness now characteristic of so many in society. We must agree with Solomon that we do not have all the answers. But we can place our hope in one we know who does, Jesus Christ.

Be Happy!
Finally, James 5:11 points out examples of this kind of patient trust: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (NKJV).6 “Blessed” means “to pronounce happy,” as Jesus does in each of the eight Beatitudes during His famous sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:3-10). The message is the same here. Do you face trials, mounting temptations, or an apparently hopeless situation? Then listen to the message, defy the challenge, and be happy! Few choose this path, for the broad way of worry seems more natural.

In the last chapter of Pilgrim’s Progress Christian faces his final trial before reaching the shores of the heavenly city, “a wide, deep, fast-flowing river . . . [with no] bridge or boat in sight.” The angels offered one assurance: “You’ll find the water shallower or deeper according to your trust in the King.”7

How well do we trust the King? Do we sigh as we sing “Deep River”? Why not look to Jesus? What have we ever lost by trusting in Him? We have more promise than the acorn, challenge and trial notwithstanding. Rest assured, He makes all things beautiful—in His time. 

1 Ross E. Hutchins, Lives of an Oak Tree (New York: Rand McNally & Co., 1962), pp. 3-15.
2 Jon Rosen, “Review: ‘Reckoning’ Is Chilling Glimpse of a U.S. in Decline,” USA Today, May 21, 2012. Available online at
3 Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
4 The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957), vol. 7, p. 538.
5 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 3, p. 482.
6 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
7 John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), pp. 118-120.

Luis O. Beltré, Jr., has served in youth ministry for 10 years and is the author of the book Escaping Postmodernism. This article was published November 22, 2012.