Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered September 24, 2005 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the King James Version KJV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

A Sapling in the Woods

(RealAudio Version available)

[Transcriber's note: This sermon was delivered during the annual Pathfinder Sabbath event, in which the church and Sabbath school services are presented by the McDonald Road Eagles Pathfinder Club. The local Pathfinder club is part of a worldwide youth organization sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are nearly 30,000 clubs operating in 120 countries around the world. It is a community and church organization that challenges the unique talents of each participant and develops leadership and teamwork skills among boy and girls.]

I want to speak with you this morning about Pathfinders. I am going to focus on something that you may not think much about as pertaining to Pathfinders. Walking in the woods is one of my things. I really enjoy walking in the woods. I was walking in the woods one cold day, from the top of White Oak Mountain back down the steep slope toward my house. I was still a good ways back up in the woods, way off the beaten trail, and I was surrounded by magnificent trees. It was January 30, there had been an ice storm the night before, and that morning as the ice was melting off the trees, it was not unlike a cold rain, dripping down on my head. Now I pray as I walk in the woods, and it seemed to me that God used a special visual illustration to me that morning. I was deep inside the woods. I had never been that way before. Way off the path. I don't like walking on the path. And suddenly I saw something I had never seen before in the woods: a young sapling in the heart of the woods.

Now before I tell you more about this sapling, that particular odd tree, I ask you to ponder the job description of a sapling in the woods. What is it's job description? You see, I want to compare the Pathfinders with the sapling in the woods. If you come over here in Isaiah 65:22, you will see one of a whole string of Bible texts that compare God's people to a tree. Isaiah 65:22 says for as the days of a tree are the days of my people. You see, God is comparing His people, adults, kids, to a tree.

I want to focus not on some big mature tree that you might be thinking of in your mind, but I want focus on a sapling. And where are all the trees? They're in the woods, usually. So I want to focus on the sapling in the woods. And as you think of the task of a tree trying to grow in the woods, I want you to think of the job description of a youngster, of a Pathfinder today, trying to grow up in this modern world. Okay? That is our focus today.

  1. Now I suppose that the first thing that a sapling has to do to stay alive and to grow in the woods is to find water. Look at Psalms chapter one. Turn to Psalm 1:3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. This text says we are like what? Tress. Tress planted where? By the river. A tree has to have water. Now most of the trees here in eastern Tennessee are not growing by a river. Most of the trees are in a wood. And it gets hot and dry here in eastern Tennessee in the summer time. And a sapling, like a Christian, like a Pathfinder, must find moisture or it is going to die. Life giving water must be had.

    Come over here to the last page of the Bible. Revelation 22. It will be easy for you to find. Revelation 22:17 NKJV. And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. The water is free, but it says you have to do what? You have to take it. The sapling in the woods has to take the water of life, or it is going to die. How does the sapling take water? Through the root system. What is the root system of a Pathfinder? What is the root system of any youngster? May I submit to you that I think the roots are our Family, our Church, our religious Beliefs, the things that nurture us. These are the things that connect us to the Water of Life. And these things anchor us and supply us with a heritage of guidelines and safety instructions so that we can live our life, and can grow and mature and be healthy.

    Now what is the water? What is the Water of Life? Come over to the book of John in your Bible. Look at John 4. Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well. What does He say? John 4:13-14. Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

    "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. So what do you think the water is? Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. I think it represents Jesus. For a youngster growing up today to be successful in life, that young person needs to find Jesus Christ. Would you agree?

    One of our motto's in the Pathfinder Club is to 'Keep the Morning Watch.' Do you remember that? Keep the morning watch. Well, I want you to know that I have kept The Morning Watch. I still have copies from 1950, 1951, 1952 I've got the all. .I have kept the Morning Watch (a daily devotional booklet). I've got 'em. But is this what it really means to keep the morning watch? No, that's not what it means. I was taught as a youngster in the Pathfinder Club... How many of you boys and girls have this book? It's called, 'Morning Watch.' How many of you have it? They aren't doing it any more are they. But are you being taught the keep the morning watch? Yes, you are. What this is, it has a reading for every day of the year. All through January through December, reading the Bible, reading the Spirit of Prophecy. Wonderful for young people. Keeping the morning watch is making a habit of set aside a time for Bible study and prayer each morning. That is keeping the morning watch. I have developed this habit in my life, to study the Bible. I enjoy reading and feeding on something that is going to help me, and build me, throughout my life. That connects me with Jesus; and that's the Water of Life.

  2. Secondly in the job description, a sapling must find LIGHT.

    If it can't find light, it can't grow. Come over here to John in your Bible. John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness," [you can't walk in darkness, or you will die] but shall have the light of life. Who is the Light of the World? It is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the World. Light brings life. If you don't believe that, try growing corn in your dark basement. It is not going to work. You can't do it.

    Now the unusual sapling that caught my attention there on that cold, icy January morning was about eight feet tall. It was growing on a spot just a few feet away from a large tree that I deemed to be its parent. Here was this tree growing maybe three feet away from its parent. And that large parent tree in the summer would surely produce a circle of shade, would it not? Now this is a disadvantageous location for a young sapling in the woods to try to flourish and grow, underneath the shade of its parent. We all know that trees must not be planted too close together because they need room to grow and mature and be well rounded. And just so, kids must eventually, some day, get out from underneath the shade of their parents. They have to do that. And a wise parent will not so much hold the child in that shade, but try to release them, gradually over the years acclimating them to the light, so that they can grow into the fullness of adulthood. Young adults must eventually leave their father and mother and cleave to their wife. They need to get out from underneath the shade of their parent. The whole purpose and process of growing up is to enable young people to bloom and flourish. Now I suppose it seems safer to just stay their in the womb. But you have to get out of their in order to grow and to flourish. And we want to help them, and wean them so that they can be successfully independent.

    Now, that particular sapling I ran across, that grabbed my attention that morning had two major limbs. The trunk was probably just an inch or so in diameter. And each of those two major limbs were exactly the same size as the trunk. It was amazingly that the two limbs would be that size. And each of the two limbs were growing horizontally, as if you had stretched a string eight to ten feet, even longer than the tree was tall, growing horizontally away from the parent, trying desperately to seek the light. The tree was stunted in its growth. Instead of using its energies to grow up, it was consuming its energies trying to get to the light, to escape the shade. And this tree, that should have been much taller was growing under the hovering shadow of its parent.

    Now what is true for ourselves is also true for our kids. 1 John 1:7 says that we need to walk in the light. We must have light to grow. And the Bible over and over again warns us against the Shadow of Death. You can read that phrase many times in the Bible. Job 10:22 for instance. We are called to be children of the light. And trees must have light. And your kids must be in direct exposure to the light. So give the saplings room to grow. Don't hover over them too much.

    We want to allow our children the freedom at various points along their path to make some minor mistakes. Should your children ever make mistakes? They should. Mistakes are good. You want to keep them under the safety of our home umbrella but not circumscribed too much, especially as they get older and older. They need to be allowed the independence to grow and make mistakes. A noted scientist said "Mistakes are experiences that prepare youngsters for their futures,"1 Mistakes are valuable. They really are.

    I made a mistake one time. I was out on a Pathfinder campout. Up in Indiana when I was a boy. I was away from my parents. My counselor told us, "Now you can walk in the woods. Go as a group. Don't drink out of the creek. Take care of yourselves." Well, it got hot, and I was dry and thirsty. And the creek water looked so good, I drank out of it. That was a mistake. Because later that afternoon someone discovered a dead dog that was badly decomposed not too far upstream in that creek. It was awful. I saw it. I made a mistake. I didn't get sick. I was lucky I guess. the knowledge that I have learned from that mistake

    I made this mistake as a boy, but the knowledge I have learned from that mistake has changed my life a little bit. You know, in our house now, we have these expensive water purifiers on our faucets. I am very conscientious to drink clean water. If I had not made that mistake would I be as careful? I don't know.

    We often overprotect our offspring. They need to fight some of their own battles and the need not be constantly rescued by some helicopter type parent who is hovering over them all of the time. One of the finest things you can teach your children is how to benefit from their mistakes. That is a good lesson.

    By a certain age a child must be allowed to contact the environment in which he or she is going to have to contend in life.

    I like Pathfindering and Adventuring because this is a guarded environment, where your children are cared for by counselors and instructors and directors that allows a young sapling to experience and gradually move out of the shade of the parent and to begin constructive spiritual growth among the people with which he or she must grow up with. These skills of social maturity are also be learned in the Sabbath School department. They are learned in the church school. They're learned in the dormitory.

    I read in a book called 'Child Guidance' one time. I read the whole book all the way through. I hope you have read if you are a parent. Let me quote from this book. "Continual oversight or constant watchfulness on the part of an over-protective parent produces the very evils that it seeks to avoid." We have all seen children raised under an Iron Rule who are not allowed to act or decide for them. Ellen White says that "such children are easily led in the wrong direction once they get out from under such authority."2 Parental control is good and could be bad.

    We've all seen kids that get the car keys and a little freedom and they go berserk. Why? Maybe it just happened all at once. Maybe they didn't have any freedom and then all of a sudden they got the freedom. I think our job is to take care of the saplings, to give them a little more light each time to allow them to grow properly. Maybe it is best to introduce it a little bit at a time.

    Help the saplings. The saplings need help. Did you know that kids born after 2000, here in America will not outlive their parents? They will not have the same life-span as their parents due to various factors. That's here in America. And when it comes time for them to retire they will not get the Social Security check that some of you older folks get. We have got to help the saplings. The way to help the saplings is

    How are they ever going to grow up, how are they ever going to learn if every time they get on the sliding board of life, both parents are standing their at the bottom to rescue them and prevent them from crashing?
  3. The third part of a sapling's job description is to look out for falling adults.

    Have you ever though of how dangerous it is to live in a forest if you are a sapling and an adult happens to fall? Adults, don't you fall, because your fall hurts the saplings. Go for a walk this afternoon in the woods someplace. Get off the trail and look around. Look at all the pine trees that have crashed. Look at what is underneath those trees. Sapling crushed and knocked down to the ground. A sapling has a hard time. Many are choked in their struggle to find moisture and light. And many others are injured beyond repair by the fall of a mature, older tree. When an older person falls, the impact upon a child is devastating. This happens when parents get divorced. The influence on the kids is devastating often times. It happens when one person, one parent, stops attending church. And the kids start to say "I think I will stay home too." Be careful. All too soon the little sapling will want to begin following what the adult is doing and will be discouraged by it and crushed by it. So set the right example to these children.

  4. The job description of a sapling in the woods is to GROW so that it can eventually produce fruit. Look at Matthew 7 in your Bible. Matthew 7:19, 20 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

    So give the saplings room to grow. For the little stars to really shine the big round sun has to get out of the picture. Don't just turn them loose all of a sudden, but don't hover over them too much. Pray for guidance as to the correct time table for your children.

    And don't expect perfect kids. How many trees are perfect? There was a parent trying to get a nap on Sabbath afternoon. And finally the parent said to the child, "You go out and find a perfect leaf off of a maple tree, or some big tree, and bring it back." The parent got a long nap that Sabbath afternoon. You can't find any perfect leaves on a maple tree. There aren't any perfect trees. And there aren't any perfect kids. Do the best you can. This month's Readers Digest has an article titled: The Perfect Childhood: Why it's bad for kids. (September 2005)

    Psalm 92:12 -14 says The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.

    You don't want kids that are misshapen. You don't want kids with two long, lonely branches extending out desperately seeking to develop beyond the shade. You want well formed, well rounded "trees." Isn't that what you want? Proverbs 11:30 NLT, The godly are like trees that bear life giving fruit.

    I think Pathfindering is a pretty good venue to help the saplings grow up.

Our church has provided a whole system to assist Godly parents to raise their children for Heaven. Take advantage of the system. From the Beginners to the Youth and from Eager Beavers through Adventurers to Pathfinders, this system is designed to help conscientious Christian parents in their effort to save their children for heaven. It includes a Christ centered elementary school and academy. It was at one of our schools where I gave my life to God. At a church operated college is where I met my wife. How many of you met your life companion at one of our educational institutions? This system is tailor made to help young people get to heaven.

I like the way the Pathfinders witness for Jesus. They want to finish the work so we might all go home. I can see as they march, and learn skills and earn honors and work for Jesus that these saplings are well into the process of becoming well rounded fruit trees in God's vineyard. They are the ones who will finish the work. They are the ones who will go to the ends of the earth to preach Jesus.

Matthew 28:19, 20 says Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

These kids are going to be the ones who are going to finish the work. Let's pray for them. Let's empower them. Let's get behind them. I am proud to be a Pathfinder. And I hope you are proud of our club. And I hope you will utilize this tool to help your boys and girls be the tree in God's vineyard, the successful tree that God wants them to be. God bless you.

Endo notes:

1. Robert Brookes in Reader's Digest, September 2005, p. 146.

2. Child Guidance, by E G White, 00. 222-228.

Hymn of Praise: #20,  O Praise Ye the Lord
Scripture: 2 Peter 1:3, 4
Hymn of Response: #407,  Sent Forth by God's Blessing

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