“Do not despise these small beginnings”… (Zechariah 4:10)
Has God placed a dream or desire in your heart? Are you discouraged because you are experiencing “small beginnings” as you are taking faith steps of obedience toward its fulfillment? It can be disappointing, at times, when God may require you to take baby steps instead of giant leaps towards the plans He has planted inside of you. But, an important principle to hold onto as you are trusting the Lord: Don’t be afraid to dream big and start small. At times, it may seem like what God whispered in your Spirit is experiencing frustration, “dirt”, and darkness. Circumstances may contradict what you know in your heart the LORD has been speaking to you. Embrace where you are on the way to where He is taking you. Each step has a purpose. Remember the visual of the acorn. A tiny seed can sprout and turn into something gigantic. By looking at the illustration of the oak tree, we can be encouraged in the process of where we are to where God is taking us.
From Acorn to Oak Tree
Throughout Scripture, God uses the analogy of “trees” to symbolize a believer’s growth and relationship with the Lord. Isaiah 61:3 says, “…And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” The fact that a specific type of tree is listed in this verse inspired me to research further the symbolism involved in this passage.
So, what exactly is the symbolism?… Oaks are known to be some of the strongest trees. They are majestic and provide a vast amount of shade to those that are needing reprieve from the heat of the scorching sun. As believers, this can visually illustrate God’s desire for us to grow strong in our Christian walk and to provide “shade” (refreshment) to those around us. Providing “shade” to others can be visualized by living and speaking Scripture and wisdom to one another, by providing exhortation, and by offering prayers and a shoulder to cry on to those who God puts in our path.
Another important aspect of studying the oak is the the process it takes in becoming majestic and strong—an undertaking that does not happen overnight. This massive tree arises from a tiny acorn that becomes submerged beneath the surface…hidden away for a time. Throughout Scripture, the LORD allowed many of the people He used mightily to be “hidden away” (Moses and David to name a few…), as they were trained and ready for the next step…If you can personally identify with this, remember that the acorn experiences dirt and darkness in the initial stages, and then, it goes through a “cracking” time where the shell breaks open underneath the ground.
Many times, in the process of our dreams, we can feel like we too are “cracking” (being broken before the LORD as He molds and shapes us). After the cracking occurs, the acorn shoots forward and reappears from beneath the surface. This allows the tree to be rooted, to become strong, and to flourish. So, too with us, a time of hiddenness and brokenness can equip us with growth in our faith, strength in the trials, and maturity, as we develop in our walk with the LORD and become more Christ-like “oaks for God”. With humility and surrender, “oak” believers can thrive in the plans and dreams He has prepared.
Spiritually speaking, it may take awhile, but God knows what He is doing. Because oaks are some of the strongest, they are strengthened by the winds, as we are through challenges or tests of faith, which, ultimately, help us to thrive. You may be met with discouragement right now, but hold on to Scripture, and water the dreams He has planted in your heart. God can take tiny things and multiply them for His glory. Take for instance, Jesus’ miracle at the Sea of Galilee when he multiplied the little boy’s lunch and fed a multitude of people with the loaves and fish. That boy’s willingness pleased the Lord and is a beautiful reminder of childlike faith. When that boy gave all that he had to Jesus, God created a miracle out of his surrender. (John 6). What a powerful reminder to give what is in our hands back to the LORD, and then watch and see what He does with it.
To overcome discouragement and embrace the process, remember:
- If God has planted that dream in your heart, keep prayerfully taking steps forward and trust His timing. If it’s God’s will, He can part the waters, as He did with Joshua and the Israelites. In Joshua Chapters 3-4, God asks Joshua to walk by faith with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River during the highest point of the water—flood season. When they obeyed, and stepped into the water, the LORD parted the river, allowing the Israelites to cross over! Faith requires action on our part and allows God to do the impossible. Even mustard seed faith can move mountains!
- Surrendering to the Lord involves your gifts, talents and availability. Listening to His voice on how He wants to use them is key to walking into the future He has planned for your life. Don’t jump ahead of Him or behind Him. Remember the Israelites followed the Lord “cloud by day and fire by night”. Staying in step with the Father is important. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you by studying the Word and taking time to listen. And, while you are waiting to hear, enjoy where you are in the present moment.
- Sometimes, what God asks you to do will not make sense in your natural mind (aka: Noah building an ark when he had never seen rain before in his life), but that is part of growing your faith. Believe that He has ways of accomplishing His purposes and that His ways are higher. Even though humanly speaking, you may not see a way for something to come to pass, remember that the Creator of the universe holds the keys and that He can open doors that no man can shut. (Isaiah 22:22).
These three principles can embolden your faith walk and your trust in His Sovereignty. Years ago, God began speaking to me about this, as He asked me to step outside my comfort zone and help organize a conference for an international organization. Having no experience, fears tried to attack me, but my firm belief that the Lord had called me to do it, enabled me to look beyond myself and trust His supernatural intervention.
One afternoon, I had gotten a phone call from a local pastor, who wanted to meet with me about the details of the event. I had no pamphlets to share but agreed to meet the next day to share the “heart beat” of the conference. To make “the best of it”, I began printing off some information from my computer, but the quality wasn’t ideal. So, I prayed, “Lord, you know what I need.” When I got home from work that afternoon, I had a surprise waiting at my door. Inside the box, was a package with a file folder full of supplies and information that I could bring the next day.
The timing could not have been more perfect. I had told no one about the improptu meeting and the need for supplies. BUT, GOD KNEW. He led someone at just the right time to send the materials and organized the meeting at the precise moment. It was such an encouragement of God’s sovereignty. As He did with this, I am reminded that He is orchestrating our steps and the details of our lives. This could definitely be likened to Him “parting the waters” and a reminder that, as we take baby steps of obedience, God opens the doors and is ultimately in charge of every detail. What courage for our hearts!
Take heart and refuse to give up on your God-given dreams. He has instilled you with gifts and talents that can make a significant difference for the Kingdom. Just as one acorn can spark an entire multitude of oak trees, your obedience to follow His plans for your life, may spark others to follow theirs. Courage can create a chain reaction. Even if you feel discouraged because life has worked out differently than you had pictured…
Even if you are disappointed because things are moving slowly, you might be in the “acorn” phase of God’s dream for you.
Know that each step of the process is for a purpose and that beautiful and strong oak trees must develop at the right pace. In the fullness of time, God can cause acceleration and breakthrough to happen. The Father is watching the specific timeline for you. When you look back, “Oak tree”, you will see how He worked everything together for your good and His glory. As it says in Isaiah 61:3, He wants to use you for the display of His splendor.
- “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
- “Then said the Lord to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.’” (Jeremiah 1:12)
- “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20)