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Monday, April 27

The Fruit's on the End of the Limb

When was the last time that you "went out on a limb" or, as we Christians say, stepped out in faith for something, especially to the point of actually hearing the limb cracking under you?

W hen I was in grade school, I remember very vividly the passion that I had for building things, especially tree forts. Each night before my friends and I would start to build, and we built quite a few in those days, I would lie in bed and my mind would come alive with visions of a tree house that was second only to the one in Walt Disney's movie, "The Swiss Family Robinson." I could see it all so clearly: Ladders; trap doors; rope swings; windows; and so much more. I could hardly wait to get home from school to get to work on it.
As you can imagine, each day in class was quite a battle for me as well. It never failed, I would find myself headlong in a fight to stay focused on my school work while, at the same time, struggling to hold at bay the temptation to daydream about everything I had planned for that afternoon. I regret to say that, more often than not, it was a skirmish that regularly ended in my defeat. Once the final bell rang, I grabbed my books and headed for the bus with my bud's. It seemed like the bus ride that actually took about twenty minutes took every bit of an hour. It goes without saying, we could hardly wait to get home! When we arrived at our bus stop, we would jump off of the bus, run home, change into our play clothes, gather up our tools, and head straight for the woods. Finally, it was time to make our vision a reality!
Anyone who is well-versed in the fine art of tree fort construction will tell you that the first order of business is always the selection of the perfect tree. Living in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the time, we found that the best trees were either maple or oak. Even though we also had lots of pine trees, they were not as desirable since their limbs were usually much higher up and rather brittle. Once we had picked out the best tree, we then set out to locate the materials we would need. Fortunately for us, the housing development where we lived at the time was only a few years old and was surrounded with quite a few new home construction sites. We would grab our little red wagons and head straight for the nearest scrap pile. While one guy was picking up discarded nails, others would be digging through the piles for scrap 2x4s and ply wood. Once we gathered everything we needed, we then loaded it all on the wagons and headed for the woods.
With our tree picked out, all of the materials gathered together, and with our dads' saws and hammers in hand, it was finally time to begin construction. We went right to work. Our first project was to cut short pieces of 2x4s to nail to the trunk of the tree. These would serve as a makeshift ladder. Once we nailed enough of them up high enough to reach our desired build site, where the limbs were just right, it was then time to frame up the floor. This was perhaps the most crucial stage of the project. Here is how it works. The bigger you want your fort to be, the further out on the limb you would have go to nail up your first floor supports. So really, the size of your fort was directly related to the courage of the guy whose job it was to make that first trip out on the limb. To put it simply: little courage, little tree fort; big courage, big tree fort! After quite a few painful plunges to the ground, I was able to develop a pretty fail-safe method of doing this. I would climb out on the limb until I heard it starting to crack, then slide backward about two feet and nail the floor support at that spot where I could reach. It never failed. This way we knew that we were actually building the biggest tree fort that we could for the size tree that we had chosen. It was interesting, you could actually look at the size of some of the other guys' tree forts and tell a lot about their level of courage, or lack thereof. Sadly, most of their forts were really nothing more than small platforms nailed very securely to the truck of their tree. It's a simple fact, 'scaredy cats’ never build big tree forts!
I soon found that the same theory we used for building tree forts also applied when picking apples out of a neighbor's tree. It did not take but a few seconds to see that the apples did not grow out of the trunk of the tree and, if we wanted to enjoy them, we were going to have to go out on the end of the limb to get them. Sure, you can cling to the trunk where it is much safer, and occasionally reach far enough to grab an apple or two, but if you really want an abundant harvest, you will have to go out on the limb. This is not a task for the faint-hearted. The whole time you're out there, you're faced with two thoughts: First, just how good the apples are going to taste once we get out to them; Secondly, just how fearful it was to think of taking that much-dreaded plunge to earth. I eventually learned that, the more I would venture out on limbs, the less often I would fall.
When was the last time that you went out on a limb or, as we Christians say, stepped out in faith for something, especially to the point of actually hearing the limb cracking under you? For some, it could be getting the courage to share your love for Jesus with unbelievers. For others, it could be asking their boss for a much-needed promotion, or getting the courage to leave a church body that is steeped in religion in order to pursue one that practices the complete Word of God. No matter what you are pursuing, the sound of the limb cracking under you means different things to different people. To most, that sound represents impending doom that usually results in the abandonment of reaching their goals in life while, to the rare few who have overcome fear and doubt, that cracking sound is always an indication that abundance lies just ahead.
In the business world it is a well-known fact that the risk-takers eventually become the money-makers! This same principle also applies to our life in Christ. If we truly want to live the abundant life that Jesus Christ came to provide for us, we are simply going to have to turn loose of the trunk, or go beyond the place of comfort in our lives, and climb out to where the fruit is. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) We refer to this process of going out on the limb as "stepping out in faith". And, if we are going to be successful as Christians, "walking by faith" will have to be a regular part of our daily life. Successful Christians do regularly what unsuccessful Christians do only occasionally! "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) As a matter of fact, our living life by faith is not simply an option, it is mandatory if we want to be pleasing to God. Paul teaches us, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
If we truly want to be successful in God's eyes, we must make “stepping out in faith” our way of life. Think about it for a moment. Do you personally know and love God enough to trust Him and to stop clinging to the fruitless truck of life's tree? If not, abundance will always remain out of reach for you. Everything is based on faith where God is concerned and, frankly, those who do not trust Him will always live on the outside of a whole, fulfilled life. Ironically, this is where the vast majority of folks who claim to be Christians dwell today. The Church today is filled with hearers of God's Word, but very few who are the doers. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)
The unsaved world, whether they know it or not, looks for people who will lead the way IN-to life's fulfillment. Sadly, though those leaders are supposed to be us in the Church, the unsaved world AND the Church today are both in desperate need of "godly heroes". What this means for you and me is that we have the priceless opportunity to both speak and model God's Word to this lost and rapidly dying generation.
What part has God called you to play in this end-times harvest of souls and can you say without a shadow of a doubt that you are doing everything that you possibly can to see that calling fulfilled in your life? One of the most widely publicized accounts of someone stepping out in faith was Peter stepping out of the boat and walking across the water to meet Jesus. "But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." (Matthew 14:24-32) Peter was the only one of the disciples who loved and trusted Jesus enough to even try stepping out.
Never forget, it is always better to try and fail, rather than to never have tried at all! One thing I can guarantee you is, if we never climb out there, we can be sure to never eat of the fruit of abundance!
Imagine how God feels when we believe Him enough to attempt something that we have never had the courage to try before. Much like the jubilation that occurs between parents at the sight of their child taking their first step, God also rejoices when we, as His children, attempt to step out on His Word, like Peter did.
Is there something you are praying for that has not yet come to pass? Is there something that you have wanted to do for a long time but, for one reason or another, you have not yet attempted it? I encourage you to throw off any fear or doubts you may have, and get out there! Launch out into the deep and see if Jesus won't bless you in the same way that He blessed Peter and the guys for their obedience in Luke 5:4-7: "Now when He (Jesus) had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy Word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net broke. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink."
There is indescribable abundance that God has in store for any one of us who is obedient to act on His word! As a matter of fact, take a look at what resulted from Abraham's obedience to God when he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, who he and Sarah had waited over 100 years to bear. In offering his son as an act of his trust in God and the promises of God, he fulfilled his assignment for his life. "And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:15-18)
Think about that for just a moment.  Because of that one act of Abraham's obedience, every generation since then has been blessed! Not only do we suffer when we fail to act on God's Word and assignment for our lives, but think of all of those who will come behind us who will miss out on their own inheritance, if we fail to obey God's voice for our lives.
Be courageous, be strong, throw back your shoulders, and walk right into the face of the intimidating spirits that have, in the past, hindered you from possessing the fulfillment of God's promises for your life.  And never forget, "When thou pass through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walk through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isaiah 43:2)
I encourage you with all of my heart to set aside a time to pray and fast for the purpose of hearing God's voice for your life's assignment.  If I had not faced my own fears where climbing trees were concerned, we would have never enjoyed playing in the nicest tree forts or eating the sweetest apples.
God has blessing beyond measure waiting for you, as soon as you get out there and take those steps of faith.  "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13)
Thank you so much for allowing Brenda and I this opportunity to share our heart with you.  We  pray that this blog message will, in many ways, help you as you “press toward” the high calling of God in Christ Jesus for your life. And, to help you further in your pursuit to fulfill God’s purpose for you in your life, read this message in its entirety, and eleven more messages, in our book Letters From The Front available at TowardTheMark.com. If you have any questions or would like to place a special request for multiple book copies, please send us an e-mail or order by mail at the address shown below.
Your friends & servants in Christ,

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