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Lessons from a Palm Tree

(ROCKWALL, TX — August 2, 2017) Some 10 years after a devastating earthquake off the coast of Peru, a missionary family visited the site of what had been the town of Yungay. They walked across a vast plain, now a national cemetery, that covered the remains of homes, stores, buses, and bicycles—18 feet beneath them. An avalanche of mud, rock, snow, and ice had buried all of this in three minutes, along with 25,000 people with no chance to get away.

Hayward Armstrong1 is now a Professor of Missions at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He says something remained alive in that place of death. Besides the remnant of a cathedral and the back end of a half-buried bus, they saw the tops of four trees sticking out of the ground. Still rooted in the town square far below, the palms trees had survived.

“The righteous thrive like a palm tree,” according to Psalm 92:12,2 which Dr. Armstrong refers to as a “golden nugget” verse that drew his attention again and again over his years as a missionary. With this in mind, he reflected on the characteristics of palm trees and how these traits should apply to followers of Christ.

Although nearly 3,000 species of palms exist, they have many things in common:

  • They are recognizable. Most anyone could identify this tree.
  • They grow practically anywhere. Though considered tropical, various species are compatible with other climates.
  • They suggest serenity, offering a sense of well-being, peace, and relaxation.
  • They withstand storms. Palm tree roots grow down and out, providing unique stability.
  • They are evergreen, pleasant year-round.
  • They offer hope. Where there are palm trees, there is water.
  • They are graceful. As palm branches sway, they interlace instead of bruising each other.
  • They symbolize victory. We observe Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Like palm trees:

  • In many shapes and sizes, we are recognized as Christ’s followers.
  • We grow wherever God sees fit to plant us.
  • We offer a calm presence in the midst of a chaotic world.
  • We withstand the storms of life.
  • We are pleasant—hopefully—to those who interact with us.
  • We represent and preach hope.
  • We exhibit grace and forbearance in opposition.
  • We live triumphantly, knowing that Christ has gained our victory over sin and death.

Though often at odds with the culture around us, we can choose to both thrive and serve as a blessing in our troubled world.

1Hayward Armstrong, Ph.D., is the author of several missions-related books, including M-Life Illustrated: Reflections on the Lives of Cross-Cultural Missionaries (2016). A longer version of this article has been published by The Baptist Standard. 2From the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter of Heath. Photo by Anna Carson.

 

 

 

 

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