An elderly man was once out for an evening stroll when his feet inadvertently sent a little acorn skittering across the forest floor. He came to the place where it had stopped rolling and, stooping slowly, picked it up. And then, strangely, he held that acorn to his ear. He held that acorn to his ear and, listening attentively, heard it speak.
“In time the birds will come and make their nests in my branches,” it said. “In time I will cast deep shade so that cattle can come and find respite from the midday sun. In time I will provide warmth for a home. In time I will be a shelter from the storm for those who gather beneath my timbers. In time I will form the ribs of a great ship and the storms will beat against me in vain as I carry passengers safely across the storm-swept seas.”
“You foolish little acorn,” said the old man. “Will you be all this? Can you be all this?”
“Yes,” replied the acorn. “Yes, God and I.”*
As Christians we are often discouraged by our scant accomplishments and slow progress. We find ourselves attuned more to our spiritual defeats than spiritual victories, more to the sin that remains than the holiness won. Though we may not be who and what we once were, we are still not nearly who and what we long to be.
The acorn in this parable models the kind of faith each of us can have, the kind of confidence we ought to have, for it reminds us that God has made many promises. God has said that since he is the one who began a good work in us, he is the one who will bring it to completion. God has said that he will sanctify us completely so that our whole spirit and soul and body will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has said that he will fulfill his every purpose for us. (Phil 1:4, 1 Thes 5:24, Psalm 138:8)
And though we have been justified and will be glorified, we are being sanctified. Though God has in one moment saved our souls and will in one moment deliver them to his presence, he is in the meantime progressively conforming us to his image. And though he calls us to battle to put sin to death and come alive to righteousness, he does not call us to battle in our own strength or with our own power.
Thus even the most recent convert and even the youngest Christian can say, “In time I will abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good. In time I will put to death all that is earthly in me and come alive to all that is heavenly. In time I will love my enemies and pray fervently for those who persecute me. In time I will be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. In time I will come to be so much holier than I ever believed possible. In time.”
And in that moment of confident proclamation he ought to expect that the tempter, the discourager, will whisper, “You foolish young Christian, will you be all this? Can you be all this?” And it then falls to him to answer back, “Yes, God and I.” For though it is He who demands, it is He who provides. It is He who works within, both to will and to work.