What Kind of Roots Do You Have in the Faith?
by Jon Beadles - January 7, 2021
The Bible uses roots as an analogy of our strength in the faith. What is the function of roots for a tree? What can we learn from roots? How are our roots?
A tree’s roots provide it with nutrients. They absorb water from the ground and, in the process, absorb a variety of minerals and other nutrients that are contained in the water.
Roots also anchor a tree in place. When a large storm comes, trees are held in place by their roots. Not all roots are equal; some provide more support than others. For example, poplar trees have very shallow surface roots. I once had a lovely row of poplars in my backyard. Here in Kansas, where I live, they didn’t last long. One by one, they blew over.
We often sing a hymn based on the words of Psalm 1:3: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
There is an important spiritual analogy here. Trees are green and healthy when they have access to plenty of water. Water is a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39).
In Ephesians 3:17 Paul uses a similar analogy and urges us to be “rooted and grounded in love”—which is God’s core characteristic.
It takes time for root systems to grow deep into the earth. Young trees are often vulnerable to the elements because of their shallow root systems. But more mature trees with deep roots can withstand a lot that nature throws at them. Thankfully, God gives us time to grow roots in the faith—but not unlimited time.
What kind of roots are you growing in the faith? Let’s look at some different kinds of roots and see what spiritual lessons they can teach us.
Some trees have aerial roots, which are roots that grow above ground. These kinds of roots aren’t very effective at absorbing moisture or supporting the tree against the wind.
Aerial roots can be likened to a very shallow kind of faith, such as a faith based only on your parents’ bringing you to church every week. The truth isn’t necessarily absorbed into your personal convictions—you’re dependent on the belief of your parents. People like this may physically attend church every week, but they may not pay close attention, serve or develop close relationships with brethren.
To borrow a line from Star Wars, “These are not the [roots] you’re looking for.”
Surface roots are not more than a few feet deep. They are in the ground, so they do provide some support and essential nutrients for the tree. When rain falls, bringing life-giving water, most of that water is captured in the first few feet of the soil and can be taken in by the surface roots.
These roots can represent the connections that you make to the things of God. God is pleased when we start doing what we know is right. As we start practicing His ways, we’ll begin to learn more and more. That is a critical part of how you accept your calling—you show you accept it by the decisions you make from day to day.
For example, when you are presented with a choice like being asked to play baseball or football on Friday nights and Saturdays, God’s Sabbath day, what choice do you make? Every time you choose God’s way, your roots grow.
Of course, this principle also works in reverse. Every time you choose the world’s way, your roots get stunted and won’t grow. If you make the wrong choice too many times, those roots may even die. That’s the path that leads to rejecting your calling.
Some trees can grow a taproot. A taproot is large and extends deep into the earth all the way to ground water. But a tree can grow a taproot only under special circumstances, such as just the right soil conditions. For instance, if an oak tree (which can grow a taproot) grows in a place with only 6 inches of soil above the bedrock, it won’t form a taproot. It simply cannot grow through rock.
The taproot holds the tree firm against high winds. It gives the tree a constant source of water that persists even through long droughts. Trees that live hundreds of years usually have a taproot.
Developing a taproot in the faith means you have grown very deep roots in the faith. It means you go beyond just making good decisions. It means that you actively pray to God daily and study His Word. The right soil conditions include being involved in God’s Church and having your best friendships with people in the Church.
Godly living grows your taproot; ungodly decisions stunt it.
When your taproot grows deep enough, you realize that this is your faith. Eventually, you’ll be ready to commit your life to God through baptism. After you’re baptized, you will have full access to God’s Holy Spirit—just like a fully grown taproot has access to ground water for nourishment.
The deeper your spiritual taproot grows, the stronger you will be when trials come—and trials will come. With a deep taproot, you can stand strong, regardless of what happens in life.
Consider these two scriptures:
- Proverbs 12:3: “A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved.”
- Jeremiah 17:8: “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
Start growing your root system now
You are never too young to start growing your roots. In the Bible God says He started working with some people before they were even born (Jeremiah and John the Baptist, for example).
God is ready and willing to open your mind to deeper and deeper levels of understanding, but that hinges on your acting on what you already know.
So how deep are your roots growing?
Learn to study the Bible. Build the habit of reading at least a few verses on most days. If you miss a day, don’t be discouraged; just resolve to do it the next day.
Trees have different kinds of roots. We are to be rooted and grounded in the love of God—in the truth—in the faith. Do what you know to do, and God will reveal greater and greater depths of understanding.
Accept your calling by setting down deep roots in the faith.