Jan Limiero is a church planter with her husband David in Bakersfield, California. She is also a Christian Spiritual Director and on the leadership team for Stadia Bloom, a ministry to church planter wives. She is the mother of two sons 20 and 14 and daughter 16 who all love and follow God. Jan loves the outdoors and especially rock climbing. If you can’t find her in a coffee shop talking to someone about God, you will probably find her on a rock somewhere.
The Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed. Isaiah 61:1-4
As I read this verse, it strikes me that the people God is calling strong and graceful oaks here probably did not look that way to the world. They were not beautiful, happy or rich, and didn’t seem like they would be that way anytime soon. They were poor, brokenhearted, despairing prisoners, enslaved to their enemies.
Do you have people like this in your church; people crushed by the weight of the world, brokenhearted from relationships that haven’t turned out the way they wanted, or enslaved to any number of bad habits, addictions or even their own busy lifestyles?
How amazing that God calls these people strong and graceful oaks! I’m afraid we tend to discount people in these circumstances way too quickly as being weak and vulnerable (maybe even worthless), and in need of our help. We often fail to see them for what they were intended – His glory! You’ve may have seen the graceful oaks that grow in the California area. They grow that way against many oppositions including extreme heat and drought. Having grown up in east Tennessee, I know of oaks that look quite different. There they grow straight, tall and unhindered, neat and “proper” as they feast on copious rainfall and mild weather surrounded by thousands of other oaks in the same haven. Here, the harsh elements gnarl and stunt the few of them who survive. Yet there is nothing quite as glorious as a spreading green oak in the middle of a hot dry golden field. It brings peace, beauty and a shady sanctuary to the other life around it. What glory God must get for growing something so beautiful against all odds.
Let’s use our eyes of discernment to find the oaks in our churches who are growing that way against all odds. Let’s bring good news and announce freedom to them. Let’s show them God’s favor and stand with them against their enemies (not humans but spiritual forces). Let’s find the beauty in them, rejoice over them and praise God for them. These people who have been weathered by debilitating circumstances, who sometimes seem a little too rag-tag to us, are the very ones who God intends to use to restore things that have long been messed up in our world. What an honor to be called to bring this Good News!