Charles Naylor, 1920
In our yard, a few feet from the door, stands an apple-tree. In the early spring I watched its swelling buds from day to day. Soon they burst forth into snowy white blossoms, beautifying the tree, and filling the air with their fragrance. There was the promise of a bountiful crop of fruit. In a few days the petals had fallen like a belated snow. As the leaves unfolded and grew larger, and here and there appeared a little apple that gave promise of maturing into full-ripened fruit. But, alas! how few apples there were — compared with the number of blossoms with which the boughs had been laden! Most of the blossoms had been blighted, and had fallen to the ground leaving nothing behind.
"Ah," thought I, "how like these blighted blossoms are so many of the desires and hopes and plans of our lives! How many of our aspirations are never realized! How many of our plans fail! How scanty is the perfectly matured fruit in our lives — when compared with the blossoms!"
When we consider this, how barren our lives often seem! How little we seem to accomplish! How little our lives seem to amount to!
Every truly saved heart longs to serve. The redeemed heart loves, and love finds its joy in service. How much there is to be done all around us — and how eagerly we would take up the task of doing it! How much we want to accomplish for the Lord! But ah — how little we do really accomplish! How many blossoms of desire we possess! But how little fruit of real accomplishment!
Seeing this, we sometimes become discouraged. It does not seem worth while to try to do the few little things that we actually can do. Though we do the best we can, so many of our blossoms will be blighted — so many of our plans will fail — so many of our hopes will not be realized — so many of our desires will not be fulfilled. We can rejoice in those that are brought to fruitage; we can rejoice in those that do mature — but how about the blossoms that fall and seem to leave nothing behind them? Do they bud in vain? Do they serve no good purpose in our lives?
They are not in vain. The blossoms on that apple-tree which were blighted, and died, were just as beautiful and just as fragrant as those which bore fruit. They served a very real purpose; and so do the hopes and purposes that we cherish in our hearts — even though we never see their fruitage.
David was a man who loved the Lord, and out of that love came a desire to build the Lord a house. That desire was never realized by David. Making it a reality was left to others. Nevertheless, David's purpose was pleasing to the Lord.
In his prayer at the dedication of the temple, Solomon said, "My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David: Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart." 1 Kings 8:17-18
God did not despise the desire — even though he did not permit David to carry it out. As God was well-pleased with the desire of David to build a temple for him — so he is well-pleased with those worthy desires and purposes of our hearts that are never carried out. Whether it be circumstances or surroundings which hinder us — whether it be a lack of wisdom or of ability — whether it be the pressure of other duties — or even if God gives the task to someone else — there is, nevertheless, beauty and fragrance in the desire that is in our heart to do him service.
We must not become discouraged and give up hoping and desiring and planning to do something for the Lord — even though so many of our plans fail and our hopes become blighted. We know that it is the sap flowing upward through the tree that produces the beautiful fragrant blossoms. Likewise God knows that it is the love in our hearts that produces the desire for service — and that love is precious in his sight.
Do you sometimes feel that there is so little, oh, so little! that you can do for the Lord? Does your life seem to count so little for his kingdom? Do you long to be more useful? That very longing is as the fragrance of sweet incense before the Lord.
If you are prevented from doing the things that you would gladly do — if circumstances shut you in like a hedge — if you seem weak when you would be strong — you can still do something. The more of those blossoms of desire you have, even if they never reach fruition — the more your life is beautified, and the more the Lord is pleased. These unfulfilled desires work to ennoble our character and to enrich us, provided we do not spend our time mourning and lamenting because we cannot put them into action.
There is, however, one danger which we must be careful to shun. Sometimes people have their hearts so set on doing some great thing — that they miss the little things, the little opportunities that lie close to their hands. Life is made up of a round of little things. The great things only happen at rare intervals. But it is being faithful in the little things which makes us ready for our opportunities for the great things when they come.
Christ said "He who is faithful in that which is least — is faithful also in much." The little things are not spectacular, they do not attract much attention — but they are the things that make up life. If we are true in these little things — then God may trust us with some greater things by and by. It is not wrong to yearn to do more — but that longing works evil if, in our reaching forward to greater opportunities, we neglect what opportunities we have. It is the fruits we are able to produce, not their blossoms — which count at the harvest.
Let us, therefore, strive to do all that we can; and if we cannot do all that we would — let us remember that the blossoms which are blasted, are not in vain. They serve their purpose. They are well worth while. If we go resolutely and steadfastly on, we shall at last hear the Master's voice say to us, "It is good that it was in your heart!" How sweet these words will sound in our ears! How they will soothe our feelings of disappointment at not having done more!
Let us press on, therefore, and not be discouraged because we do not see our hopes and plans realized in this world. Let us be strong and of good courage — knowing that God knows all about it. Let us thank him for such privileges as we have — and make the best of our little opportunities.