“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” Psalm 4:1
James Michener, the well-known author, was asked one time how he kept writing productively in his advancing years. Michener told about a farmer who did something that inspired him when he was only 5 years old.
It seems that this farmer had an old apple tree whose productivity had declined drastically over the years. One afternoon the farmer drove eight old rusty nails into the trunk of that apple tree. The next autumn that old apple tree produced a bumper crop of the most delicious apples you ever tasted.
Michener asked the farmer how the miracle happened. The farmer explained, “Hammering the rusty nails gave it a shock to remind it that its job is to produce apples.”
I first read this story on the day after close to 2 million men gathered to worship God on the Mall in Washington, D.C. There, God drove a lot of rusty nails into a lot of unproductive men.
It was a shock to us all. There, God reminded us that our purpose is to “bear fruit and that our fruit should remain” (John 15:16).
Encouragement is a wonderful thing. We all need it. We can’t live without it. However, encouragement comes in different packages. Sometimes it comes with a warm embrace. Others come as shared tears.
Still others come with a word of praise. But sometimes encouragement comes in less palatable doses...like rusty nails of reproof and rebuke.
It is easy to hear and not heed... to listen but not live. Too often we become “gospel hardened.”
We hear the good news so much that we take it for granted. Its freshness becomes stale and brittle.
Allow me to offer a few rusty nails for your encouragement:
When is the last time you jumped up on your Heavenly Daddy’s lap and told Him you loved Him?
When is the last time you told another person how good God is?
Did you use words this week that you would never use in front of Jesus?
Have you been rude or impolite?
Men, did you honor your wife this week as Christ honors the church? Did you treat her as a prized possession, or as a maid or a fixture? How often did you tell her you love her in both word and deed?
Were you sarcastic at the expense of your Bride?
Ladies, did you reverence your husband this week?
Did you brag on him to others? Did you tell him how wonderful he is? Did you belittle your husband in front of others?
Children, did you obey your parents this week with a good attitude? Did you express appreciation for all they have done for you?
Did you listen to the Holy Spirit? Did you immediately obey when you heard His voice? Did you give thanks for all things, including the bad things?
I could go on, but the pain maybe getting a little intense. Do you remember the Westminster Shorter Catechism? It states that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Are you doing that?
Beloved, what is your purpose? Why are you here? Why did God create you? Well, He created apple trees to make apples. He created you and me to live fully alive in Christ. Are you doing that?
You say... “How do I do that?” It’s simple. Let me give you three steps:
3. Live life recklessly abandoned to His great love for you.
Beloved, we live in a world system that perpetuates selfishness, ego, pride and independence. It’s all too easy to get dirty and polluted from merely walking in the world every day.
Thank God for those rusty nails that remind us of our purpose. Let us not gripe and complain when God encourages us with rusty nails. Instead, let us give thanks and praise Him for these gracious reminders.
Right now, I am reminded of three rusty nails that pinned our Lord and Savior to a tree 2000 years ago.
Those nails were a shock to His body, too. But look at the fruit they produced... and still produces! Because He received those rusty nails, I am the apple of His eye! And so are you!
Kenny Ashley is the leader of The Journey, which meets at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at Crowders Creek Elementary School.