River with ice melting along the banks. God is working to melt the ice in me. S. J. Little

Autumn, my favourite season of the year. The leaves turn colours, the air is crisp, and the first snow coats the ground.

I was recently blessed to be able to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I enjoyed the opportunity for quiet morning walks and time to reflect and press deeper into my relationship with Jesus.

Although it had snowed a couple of days before I arrived, the temperatures during my stay reached above freezing.

As I strolled through the forest on my second morning, I followed my footsteps from the previous day to a rocky beach along a nearby river where I’d sat the day before.

I looked up at a sound, not quite sure what it was. River with melting iceAfter watching and listening for a time, I concluded that the sound came from the ice on the river as it melted. Indeed, the ice lining the edges of the river was far smaller on this second day than it had been the day before. No longer was the ice threatening to span across the river.

As I ran my gaze over the melting ice, my mind wandered back to the things I’d been pondering and praying about at this beach the morning before. They were painful thoughts rather than pleasant. Thoughts of some challenges I’ve been facing in my life recently. Thoughts which, at times, inspire tears.

Looking at the river, I recalled a common allegory. It pictures me, a Christian, as a channel through which God’s love can flow. The love doesn’t come from me. Rather, God is working through me.

Sometimes, however, things in my life hinder the flow of God’s work through me. In the same way, the ice on this river hampered its flow. Indeed, the ice had constricted the river to a mere half of its typical width. Yet now, as the ice continued to melt, the river flowed more freely and fully.Cracked ice on a river - S. J. Little

Using this allegory, God reminded me of a different perspective on the challenges I’ve been facing. God is using them for good. 

In my life, I have areas, just like the ice, constraining the flow of God’s work through me. In order to melt that ice inside of me, God is allowing these challenges. They hurt and throb, perhaps like fingers thawing after a snowball fight. Yet, somehow, the end result will be good, as I lean into God during this time of challenge.

These challenges are melting those troublesome areas of ice within me, that I may more fully be available for God to work through me.

Is this an easy thing to remember? No, but what a burden it lifts when I do remember.

Indeed, I write this post as a reminder to myself to keep my eyes on the end result, rather than the current challenges which threaten to overwhelm me.

Romans 6:3-5 is a good reminder for me along these lines.

“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts…” Rom. 6:3b-5a CSB

In reflecting on these things, I have found A. W. Tozer’s words to be true.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer

Oh, that I would remember that God is working in me when challenges come.

Is it my power, or God’s power, that brings the impact? - S. J. Little

Is it my power, or God’s power, that brings the impact?

Ah, camp. I don’t know about you, but I love being at camp. This summer I was again blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a Christian summer camp. I thoroughly enjoy such times, though, boy, can they be busy!

Each morning, with the knowledge that I’ll be hardpressed to find downtime during the day, I try to get up fifteen minutes early in order to slip out for a brief walk in the woods.

As I slipped out for my early morning walk with Jesus on the first morning, I wandered into the woods. How wonderful to be out of the city and surrounded by God’s creation.

I found a log to sit on while I stopped to read a short Psalm. Glancing at my watch, I knew I had to get moving, so I put my Bible back in my bag, and strolled toward camp singing a song of praise.

Then I heard it. I stood still and listened. Tap, tap, tap. A woodpecker must be nearby.

Slowly I turned in a circle, eyeing the trees. Could I spot the bird?Looking for woodpeckers in the forest - The Woodpecker's Power - S. J. Little

It sounded rather distant, so I started walking toward the sound. Five steps later the sound appeared to be coming from the opposite direction. I turned and walked toward the sound again. This time I only took one step before the sound seemed to switch direction again. I was confused for a moment. Then, looking straight up the nearest tree, I smiled.

There it was. A little woodpecker.

He wasn’t a fancy woodpecker – no red crest or orange wings. He was a small brown and white bird.

He was hard at work, far overhead, pecking away at the tree.

I dared only stay a minute or two, as I couldn’t be late for staff devotions, but what a lovely way to start the day. I spoke a prayer of thanks as I moved away.

Seeing the woodpecker brought to memory an allegory I’ve heard before. I don’t know who first used this allegory, but Corrie ten Boom and Jonathan Goforth are among those who’ve included it in their messages. It is a powerful reminder.

The allegory goes like this: Once there was a woodpecker. He went about hisDid the tree split because of the woodpecker or the lightning? - S. J. Little business of tapping on trees, whether looking for bugs to eat or building himself a home.

One stormy day, as he pecked at a large sturdy tree, a bolt of lightning struck the very tree he was tapping on. The tree split in half.

The little woodpecker blinked. Then lifted his head proudly. “I didn’t know I had such power!”

Of course, I know it was not the woodpecker’s power that split the tree. The power belonged to the lightning. 

The little woodpecker was helpless to take down the tree by himself. Likewise, I am helpless to bring people closer to God in my own power. God’s power must be at work.

Keeping that in mind, I appreciate how this allegory goes a little further. Allow me to explain.

God has instructed me to work with all my heart, on whatever has been placed in front of me, as working for Him. (Colossians 3:23)The woodpecker thought it was his own power that split the tree - S. J. Little

The woodpecker exemplified this in that he was pecking away at that tree. He wasn’t sitting lazily on the branch. He was doing the job he was given to do with all his heart.

It was as he laboured at his job, that the lightning struck.

Do you see it? I am to put my heart into what God has given me to do, but the real impact happens through God’s power.

As Paul said:

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10b ESV

Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.”

Oh, that I would never forget what the woodpecker forgot, that even as I work for the Lord with all my heart, it is God’s power that brings the impact, not mine.

Purple flowers with barren woods in background

 

Some years back, I was blessed to be able to spend several months in Germany. While there, I often sought time alone with God. One of my favourite places to walk by myself was a quiet wooded area with a gentle winding creek.

One afternoon, with only a few weeks left in my stay, I wandered down this same path. It was March. On recent walks, I had observed bold green grass poking its way past dull faded leaves from the autumn before. Today, however, I stopped in my tracks and stooped to look closer. A tiny purple flower smiled up at me.

A few inches away I spotted another delicate purple flower, and another. Straightening, I marveled at the multitude of these little flowers scattered richly throughout the emerging grass. A smile touched my face as I took in the beauty of it. It seemed to me that the forest was coming alive!

Walking further, I tried in vain not to step on the delicate beauties – they were everywhere! For so long this forest trail had consisted of tired browns and dull greens, but now new life sprung forth.

Suddenly a sober thought hit me. In mere weeks I would be leaving this place which I’d come to love. I would never see the full bloom of this quiet path I’d strolled along countless times.

It was then another thought came, like a question whispered into my heart: “Are you willing to follow Me, even if you never get to see the blossoms that come from your labour?”

I stood still, a sorrow deep in my soul. I knew my answer was yes, but it would require God’s help for me to remain diligent. At that moment I grieved a little for the blossoms I would never get to see.

The seeds of those delicate purple flowers laid dormant all winter. Only as spring came had they popped up overnight.

In the Bible we read:  “[Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 CSB

My role is to serve by planting seeds of the Gospel and watering where the seeds are already planted. However, it is God alone who can make those seeds grow. Whether or not I get to see the result of my planting and watering is up to Him.

What will this look like in my life? I don’t know. Rather, by God’s help I will follow Him, even when I don’t see the reward of my toil. I will trust Him to use my life, even when I can’t see it.

“But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.'” Isaiah 49:4 NIV

 

Looking back through history, there are examples of Christian men and women who obeyed God faithfully for years before seeing any blossoms spring up. Some of them never saw the result of their faithful labours. Can you think of any examples? Please comment below.