Trees That Stand the Test of Time
A cliff might not seem to be the ideal place to make your home, especially if it is located high up in the mountains. Despite the apparent disadvantages, however, some alpine trees cling tenaciously to such rock faces, braving the icy cold of winter and enduring the droughts of summer.
USUALLY, these hardy trees are not as majestic as their lowland cousins. Their trunks may be gnarled and twisted and their growth considerably stunted. Some even look like natural bonsai—shaped and pruned by the harsh climate and the scanty soil in which they grow.
Enduring as they do in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, you might assume that such trees would have a short life span. But the contrary is true. Some claim that Methuselah, a bristlecone pine growing at an elevation of 10,000 feet [3,000 m] in the White Mountains of California, is 4,700 years old. The Guinness Book of Records 1997 cites this specimen as the oldest living tree on the planet. Edmund Schulman, who made a study of these ancient trees, explained: “The bristlecone pine . . . seems to survive because of adversity. All the older individuals [pine trees] in the White Mountains are found near 10,000 feet [3,000 m] in a dry, rocky wilderness.” Schulman also discovered that the oldest specimens of other pines likewise grew in harsh conditions.
Although they must overcome adversity, these examples of endurance make the most of the two advantages they have. Their lonely location, where vegetation is sparse, protects them against forest fires, one of the biggest threats to mature trees. And their roots anchor them so firmly to the rock face that only an earthquake can shift them.
In the Bible faithful servants of God are compared to trees. (Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7, 8) They too may face adversity because of the circumstances in which they find themselves. Persecution, poor health, or grinding poverty can severely test their faith, especially when the trials continue year after year. Nevertheless, their Creator, who designed the trees that withstand adversity so well, assures his worshipers that he will support them. The Bible promises those who stand their ground: “He will make you firm, he will make you strong.”—1 Peter 5:9, 10.
‘Standing one’s ground, remaining steadfast, or persevering’ is the thought behind the Greek verb often translated “endure” in the Bible. As with the alpine trees, a good anchorage is the key to endurance. In the case of Christians, they need to be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ in order to stand firm. “As you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord,” Paul wrote, “go on walking in union with him, rooted and being built up in him and being stabilized in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with faith in thanksgiving.”—Colossians 2:6, 7.
Paul appreciated the need for strong spiritual roots. He himself struggled with “a thorn in the flesh,” and he endured bitter persecution throughout his ministry. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27; 12:7) But he discovered that in God’s strength he could keep going. “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” he declared.—Philippians 4:13.
As the example of Paul shows, successful Christian endurance does not depend on favorable circumstances. Like alpine trees that successfully weather storms for centuries, we can stand our ground if we are rooted in Christ and depend on the power that God imparts. Furthermore, if we endure to the end, we have the prospect of experiencing for ourselves the realization of another divine promise: “Like the days of a tree will the days of my people be.”—Isaiah 65:22; Matthew 24:13.