Isa 61:1-3

61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.


     Sometime is the early morning hours of March 13, 1933, a tall and majestic redwood tree suddenly came crashing to the ground.  After a careful examination of a cross-section of the tree and a count of the growth rings, California forestry experts declared that a life of more than twelve  centuries had come to an end.  Through the science of tree chronology, they were able to piece together the history of this once mighty redwood.

     According to their analysis, this tree had experienced periods of both fatness and leanness, sometimes experiencing rapid growth; other times near stagnation.  In one section, 112 rings occupied only eight inches.  The next 100 rings occupied 36 inches.

     In 1147 a "ring shake," possibly an earthquake, had left stringy wight rot in a crevice.  But the tree had been strong and the rot had been defeated.

     In 1595, when Shakespeare was a young traveling player, the tree suffered a serious burn, which allowed fungus to grow beneath the scorched bark.  But the tree overcame the effects of the burn with new bark, and the fungus eventually died off.  For nearly 200 years thereafter, the tree grew in peace.  Then, because of lightning strikes and Indian fires, the tree again faced threats to its existence.  A serious burn occurred in 1787 and another in 1806.  The worst occurred in 1820 leaving a thirteen-foot scar.  During this fire, the roots on the north side of the tree were burned away - and slowly the tree began to lean in that direction.

     At the time of the 1820 burn, this beautiful redwood was at its prime - 320 feet tall and weighing over 500 tons.  For over a century it struggled to overcome the effects of the tragic event, but in the end the wound never fully healed and the tree ultimately was forced to yield to its weakening effects.

     And so it was, on the morning of that late winter day, the tree finally reached the point of critical balance.  Something, perhaps nothing more than a small bird landing on a limb or a gust of wind

swirling against its branches, proved to be more than the tree could bear and it toppled to the ground.

  • People also have their "tree rings,"  We have all had our good times with periods of exceptional personal growth, and bad times with periods of stagnation.
  • Just as rot and fungus can afflict great trees, so it is that the rot of unforgiveness and bitterness can afflict people.  How often have those who appeared to be spiritually strong and resolute suddenly fallen during a seemingly minor storm, never to rise again?
  • The children of God, like great trees, must expect to be afflicted from time to time.  Just as tall trees catch the full force of the wind and attract the worst kinds of resentments, petty jealousies, and hurtful attacks.  Just as fires can scorch trees, so will believers face many fiery testings and trials in this life.  None of us are immune to abuse, pain, or suffering.
  • The "rings" of a Christian reveal past experiences.  But they also reveal how well the believer has overcome the effects of those experiences.  In the places where complete healing has taken place, the marks of spiritual strength will be evident.  But where persistent struggling and spiritual weakness are evident, an unhealed wound is undoubtedly lurking somewhere beneath the surface.
  • God has equipped us all with the ability to weather the storms of life.  The willingness to be strengthened by our adversities and to forgive our persecutors is absolutely necessary to a successful Christian walk.
  • Frequently a fallen child of God, broken and torn by the hardships of life, can trace the root cause of his fall back to a single event where lightning struck with all its ferocity.  Sometimes the tragic story clearly establishes the innocence of the believer.  More often, however, some sin of some refusal to forgive is at the root.  Yet, weather the original wound was deserved or undeserved, the sad result is the same - spiritual weakening and eventual death.  Over the years the marks of spiritual leanness were evident - an inconsistent prayer life, insincere worship, shallow commitment.  Eventually, the signs of a bitter spirit began to emerge.  To many around him, the fall was a surprise.  But he knew it was coming.  He knew in his heart he was separated from God, even though he managed to keep up the pretense for a long time.
  • None of us can avoid the forest fires of life.  Jesus Himself said, "Offenses must come." Life-rattling earthquakes will touch us all, regardless of how spiritual we may be.
  • In the world we shall all face tribulations.  But these negative forces do not have to leave us broken and lost.  It is vitally important that we learn how to heal quickly and completely - or time will eventually reveal every festering wound, every infected spirit.
  • The spiritual health of an individual and a church is dependant on the ability to heal.  We need not fear attack; we need only fear the failure to heal.
  • The great and glorious forest of the Church has become littered with fallen, rotting trees.  We have heard too many stories about those whose wounds never healed.  Many ministers have not understood how to help people find that place of inner healing.  Hurting saints have often been classified as rebellious saints, fit only to be cast aside.  But Jesus sees these same people as wounded children. Whereas we see only the outward appearance, He looks right through the outward and see the broken heart within.
  • It is true that some people are simply unwilling to be healed, regardless of our best and most sincere efforts.  But others can be healed if we will be patient, ministering the truth in love, and preparing the way for the healing touch of the life-giving Spirit of God.