Gleanings from J. Sidlow Baxter’s Palm Trees
“The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree.” – Psalm 92:12
Early on in my pastoral ministry, I browsed through a fascinating devotional book written by an Australian pastor and theologian named J. Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999). The book was titled, “Awake My Heart.” Baxter had a very unique way of unearthing spiritual gems of truth that are oftentimes overlooked within God’s Word. One devotional in particular that resonated deep within my heart and life was an entry that pertained to being a “palm tree Christian” I would like to share some of my thoughts birthed in my heart and mind after pondering Baxter’s devotional. There are five things to consider about a palm tree in relation to the Christian life.
First, palm trees point to a source of water. I remember in my childhood, my family would vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico. As we traveled down I-55 going southbound, we were getting closer and closer to the ocean. Gradually we would start seeing palm trees pop up here and there. It was a sign that the ocean was near. We would be seventy-five miles from the coast, and we would already start seeing the palm trees! It was almost as if they were pointing to the water. And so it is in the life of the Christian. The Christian ought to point to the source of living water, Jesus Christ, just as a palm tree points to a body of water.
But secondly, palm trees bear fruit. We always associate palm trees with bearing coconuts. This is true, but there are other types of fruit that palm trees bear. For example, some palm trees bear peaches. But no matter the type of fruit, when you think about how tall and how high up the fruit of a palm tree is, it almost looks like as if the palm tree is reaching up to heaven offering its fruit back to God. May this be your heartbeat as you bear fruit for God! Palm trees always give welcome fruit to a person. Are you offering fruit to others with your life? Author Charles Ryrie once wrote that “Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.” You see, the fruits of the Spirit are love, self-control, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, virtue, knowledge, endurance, piety, and brotherly love. To show these character traits is to bear fruit in one’s life. When you grow in godliness, and grow in your faith, you will be a fruit bearer.
Thirdly, palm trees grow from inside out. Most trees grow outwardly an outer ring each year. Unlike most trees, the palm tree grows from within an inner ring from the center. This must be true with the Christian life. So many people today are growing, but they are growing worldlier. On the other hand, the Christian, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the source of growth, comes from within.
Fourthly, palm trees are green every season. The Palm tree is an evergreen tree. Psalm 92:13 says, Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God.” The word “flourish” means to be constant, & faithful. That is what God desires for you to do in your Christian walk. You must also be as the palm tree; evergreen, constant, and faithful!
Finally, palm trees stand straight and upright. Palm trees have a tall, straight, woody, un-branched trunk. This is unlike most North American and European trees which have curved, bending trunks and branches. No matter where it has rooted or planted, it always grows upright. Even on a slope or a hill, it will still grow upright. I believe the prophet Jeremiah had considered these things when he wrote that the upright are as the palm tree (Jeremiah 10:5). As Christians we are to live an upright life, not a life that sways or curves or changes, but a life that is firm and solid; a life straight-up for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
– Pastor Eric