There has never been a generation of Christ followers more materially blessed than we are. We are wealthier, healthier, better resourced, and better connected than any other Christian community in the history of the world.
Such benefits come with great responsibility, however. Scripture teaches that to whom much is given, much is required.
You may know exactly what your calling is, where you are headed next, what you want to do in the next 10 years. Or you may be trying to figure out where God would have you serve. I was in the latter category as I headed off to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, and I wasn’t sure what my vocational path would be. But that’s okay, and I’m living proof that you can change your major four times in college and still turn out fine.
What’s important to remember is that wherever God calls you, you have a responsibility as a Christ follower to take on the attitude of a servant, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to comfort those who mourn. Just like your Savior (Isa. 61:1–3; Luke 4:17–21). You are blessed to be a blessing to others.
Oaks of Righteousness
I love the metaphor for God’s servants in Isaiah 61. We’re called to display God’s splendor, to become oaks of righteousness (v. 3).
Righteousness isn’t a word we hear often these days. Our culture is uncomfortable with calls for holy living. And yet that is the countercultural entailment of gospel grace. So how are each of us doing in this call to righteousness? I imagine each of us fall woefully short in this calling. I certainly do. But that doesn’t mean we stop pursuing it.
The Bible suggests we are to be oaks of righteousness, mighty examples of God’s splendor, with roots that run deep and trees that grow tall and branches that give support for those who need a place to rest.
The interesting thing about giant oak trees is that they each begin as tiny acorns. In many ways, we, too, are like those trees. We each began as a tiny acorn. And by God’s grace, we grow into the man or woman God would have us to be.
I grew up in Mississippi, a land full of water oaks and live oaks. Did you know that there are approximately 600 existing species of oaks in the world today? Ninety of them can be found here in the United States.
Acorns take six to 18 months to mature, depending on the species. The full maturation of oaks, in general, takes a long time. This is because oaks are hardwoods that tend to grow slowly. And they can last for a long time. The oldest oak tree in the United States is estimated to be 2,000 years old.
But their slow-growing nature creates dense wood that is hearty and can be used for many different purposes. And so it is with us. We each have different callings, different spheres of service. Part of your task in the years ahead is to figure out what God is calling you toward.
Joy of Faithfulness
The threefold progression in Isaiah 61—you’re blessed to be a blessing; be an oak of righteousness; in return, everlasting joy will be yours—doesn’t mean the path will always be easy or that your investments will always double. These promises come to us in the new covenant age, after all, through union with the One who fulfilled them all. No, this is about taking the long view, about pursuing what Eugene Peterson famously called “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Christian faithfulness grows from a tiny acorn into a giant oak of righteousness—not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus has done and is doing in each of us. As God’s trees, we’re not responsible for the soil we’re born into, nor can we control how many sunny or rainy days fall within our lives. Those are important things to remember. But we are responsible for the direction of our trajectory, and Isaiah admonishes us to be people who display God’s splendor no matter our circumstances.
Like oaks, we are to have a multiplicative effect on our world for good. So my word of encouragement, as you contemplate your calling in this next chapter of your life, is to actively seek ways to showcase the splendor of your gracious God.