In the growth cycle of fruit-bearing plants, fruit comes at the very end. The cycle starts with a seed being planted in the ground. When watered, the seed will break open and begin to put down roots. That root system will continue to grow as the seed forms a shoot and eventually breaks through the surface of the soil into air and sunlight. Both the plant and its root system will keep growing until the plant is strong and mature enough to bear fruit.
Significantly, in order for a plant to survive, much less bear fruit, its root system has to take up more space underground than the plant takes up above ground. When you look up at one of those immense redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, for example, you’re actually standing on root systems that are wider than those trees are tall. This is the principle of foundations. A foundation always has to be bigger than the thing it’s supporting.
Fruitfulness in your life comes about through a similar process. God plants the seed of His word inside you (see Luke 8:11) and waters it with His Holy Spirit, bringing to life. He begins to give you insight into who He created you to be in Him and what He is calling you to do with Him. He stirs up that desire in you to have a lasting impact in the world. And then He starts to build a root system for that seed in your heart, your internal world.
Your heart is your point of connection with Jesus – the place where you become rooted in your relationship with Him. He wants you to develop His heart-to-heart connection with you to the point where you become fully united with Him, where you think like He thinks, want what He wants, speak like He speaks, and do what He does. This is what it means to remain in Him. Only when you remain in Him will you produce fruit that lasts.
For you to bear abundant, enduring fruit, God needs to make you bigger on the inside than you are on the outside. You have to let Him build your root system in secret before He leads you into making a visible impact in the world. In his book Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds, one of the foremost authors on prayer, said: “The man – God’s man [and woman] – is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God.”
If you study in Scripture those who had a lasting impact, you will find that God led them through a season of preparation. For Joseph, that season lasted about 13 years. Moses had to spend 40 years shepherding in the wilderness before he was ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus himself spent 30 years preparing for his three years of ministry – the most impactful ministry in history.
Of all the people in the Bible who bore lasting fruit, however, David is unique, not just because of his incredible legacy, but also because of the depth of insight the Bible gives us into how God established roots in David’s life.
The highlights of David’s legacy are so impressive that a whole book on them wouldn’t do them justice. Within his lifetime, he ushered in the golden age of Israel and established a brand-new culture of worship in the nation. Beyond his lifetime, the blessing on David’s throne affected God’s dealing with every king of Israel and Judah who came after him. The promised Messiah, Jesus, is called the son of David and sits on the throne of David (Luke 1:32).
The psalms David wrote became a central part of worship for Jews, and, later, Christians. In other words, every day for thousands of years, millions of people around the world have quoted, prayed, meditated on, and worshipped God with David’s words. Finally, David was a prototype of New Testament believers, particularly because of his unique intimacy with God and his understanding that God desired a pure heart more than “sacrifice and offering” (Psalm 40:6). Every person on the plant, especially every Christian, has been impacted by the life of David. He bore lasting fruit that continues to this day and will continue into eternity.
Yet we can trace all of that fruit back to a single moment, the moment in which God planted a seed in David’s life. This moment took place when he was young – probably between 10 and 13 years old – and it was pretty dramatic. The prophet Samuel, who at that time in Israel was like Billy Graham, the president and Bono all wrapped into one, showed up at David’s house and announced that he had come to anoint the next king of Israel.
David’s dad, Jesse, didn’t even think to call David in from the field, because Jesse naturally assumed that his youngest could not be the one destined for kingship when David had far more suitable older brothers to fill the role. Samuel surveyed Jesse’s tall, handsome sons and thought: “One of these has to be the king.” Yet one by one, each of David’s seven brothers stood before Samuel, and the prophet heard the Lord say: “He’s not the one.”
In the midst of this selection process, the Lord spoke a word to Samuel that we often pull out and quote: “The Lord doesn’t look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV). God was saying: “I’m looking for someone who will let me grow him on the inside before I grow him on the outside.” He didn’t want another King Saul. Saul looked like a king, but he wasn’t sufficiently rooted in God’s heart to lead a nation in God’s way. God wanted a man He could groom for the kingship from a young age, a man who would actually last in that role for a lifetime and establish the nation on a firm foundation of faithfulness to God.
None of Jesse’s older sons had what God was looking for. So the prophet asked: “Did we miss anyone?” They reluctantly called their little brother in from the field, and when Samuel saw him, he said: “There’s the king.” He anointed David with oil, and the Holy Spirit came on David in power, watering the seed of God’s word and causing it to grow (see verse 13).
From that point, God began to build David’s roots – a journey we will be exploring in more detail throughout this book. Only when that journey was complete did God’s word come true:
“When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king mad a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.
David was 39 years old when he became king, and he reigned 40 years.”
(2 Samuel 5:3-4, NIV)
30 years old! You do the math. God took somewhere between 17 and 20 years to build roots in David and get him ready to bear visible fruit.
This is an excerpt from Banning Liebscher’s excellent new book, Rooted. You can get your own copy here.