God Didn’t Remove the Tree

By Bruno Borges – Director of Men’s Ministry

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite moments in a church service is the time designated for worship and praise through song. I am always so moved by the beautiful music, as well as the idea of coming together as a group to raise up our voices in worship of the Lord our God. This time offers us a dedicated space to reflect, pray, repent, or just be still before the King of Kings.

Although these times of song and verbal response play an important role in our praise of God, many people tend to associate the word “worship” solely with this particular moment in a church service. However, I would argue that worship—or rather “true worship”—cannot be confined to a Sunday service, but instead should be defined as the action of choosing God as the best response to our temptations.

In my walk with those who seek to be healed from their same-sex attractions (SSA), I am repeatedly asked, “Why won’t God just take these feelings from me?” I myself asked this question numerous times at the beginning of my journey with Jesus. Could He not simply reach inside of me, yank these feelings out, and wipe my memories clear forever? Absolutely! We know that He can do anything. However, the bigger question is why would he choose to do it?

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve everything they could possibly want, and a whole lot more. They had dominion over the whole garden, as well as every living creature. Additionally, they possessed an unending supply and variety of food. This would be the equivalent of being able to eat out every day, at any restaurant, for. God placed only one limitation upon them, they could not eat from one particular tree that God Himself placed in the garden, or else they would die.  Wow! Talk about temptation!

Some have argued that in placing this prohibition on Adam and Eve, God acted out of a vindictive spirit, setting up our first parents for failure despite his foreknowledge of the fall. Even when accounting for God’s foresight, I would argue the complete opposite. He both created us and equipped us for complete success. The following, although not exhaustive, are some of the ways He prepared Adam and Eve to triumph over the temptation of the tree:

  1. As He created our world, and everything in it, He declared that, “it was good.” He created a paradise, essentially giving Adam and Eve the keys to this real estate with the mortgage, utilities, and property taxes already paid for life.
  2. He made humanity according to His image. Not just any image, but His image (Genesis 1:27). The implications of this one verse are staggering. God made us with amazing attributes and potential, and thus there are no limitations to the wonderful things God can do in and through those who are truly seeking Him with all their hearts.
  3. He then gave Adam dominion over everything and authority to establish order over all living creatures (Genesis 1:28-31). (I don’t know about you, but I think I would have loved to come up with crazy names for all the animals, plants, and objects around me.)
  4. When Adam felt lonely, God decided that it was not good for him to be alone. In response to Adams need, God creates an amazingly beautiful woman and tells them to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Dwell for a moment on the significance of these four truths about the creation. In his goodness, God provided for every need and desire that Adam and Eve could have ever possibly felt. To put it simply, God told Adam that he did not have to work in order to live in what was essentially an all-inclusive resort, nor would he ever have to pay any unexpected bills. To top it off, Adam was commanded to have sex.

However, amongst all this amazing provision, God places the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a huge temptation, in the midst of this paradise. Genesis 2:9 says:

“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Genesis goes on to describe the tree God forbade as “a delight to the eyes.” This description begs the question, do the other trees in the garden pale in comparison to this one? Given God’s declaration of goodness over the rest of creation, I would venture to say no. Yet, is this not exactly how sin works even today? The other trees of the garden were just as beautiful, just as pleasant; however, they were not as desirable as the one they could not have. We exhibit this same logic in our own struggles with sin. Are we not typically blinded by prohibited desires with such veracity that we simply no longer see or recognize the amazing provision that we already have access to? This way of thinking poses such a danger to us. If we follow this logical strain, we find ourselves in moments where we are willing to risk everything that God has already given us for seconds of pleasure.

So, if this tree was so dangerous, why did God not simply remove it? Why could He not prevent the fall of men from ever happening in the first place?

The reason is that he did not plant that tree (our temptation) in order that it might be taken away. He planted it, rather, that we might humble ourselves and choose Him. He planted it as a reminder that we do not live by our feelings or desires, but only by the truth found in His Word. He planted it that we might know His true definition of Worship, that we choose Him, and everything He’s already done for us, over our temptations.

So, it’s about time we stop asking God to cut down whatever trees we have in our lives. The reality is that He placed that tree where it is. Now, it’s our choice to recognize it as sin—however it may manifest in our lives— and run from it by digging deeper in our relationship with God through Christ, His Word, and Holy Spirit.

As we seek a more intimate relationship with Christ, and healing in areas where trees have been planted, We must keep in mind what Ricky Chelette, LHM Executive Director oftens says, “Healing is not the absence of temptation, but rather the ability—through the power of Chrsit—to choose God.” Now that’s true worship!