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In one of my visits to my birth country, Brazil, my family took me to an amazing hotel in the middle of the rain forest in an almost untouched part of the Amazon region.

A stunning place with exuberant nature, it was exactly what I needed at that time to rest and recharge after a long, uninterrupted time of the everyday race of life and ministry.

When we got there, a path leading into the middle of the jungle caught my attention. It was a wooden walkway about five feet off the ground and three miles long. I couldn’t resist, and within the very first hour after arriving, I was walking in the middle of the densest forest in the world. What a breathtaking experience!

The Amazon rain forest is a very powerful place, full of life and surprises. It was January, and I had just arrived from wintry Boston. The heat and humidity almost made me give up, but I was too excited to miss anything. In the first 10 minutes of walking, I had my first surprise as we had to stop for a huge snake across our path.

What really impressed me was the incredible height and quantity of trees—there are so many trees per square foot. They squeeze each other so much that I had the impression it was some kind of competition between them. I couldn’t help but thinking that maybe God was distracted when He was spreading seeds around there, and that He had opened his hand a little bit too much.

Then my brother-in-law told me something amazing. The reason the trees grow so tall there is that they can’t stop growing until they are certain to be exposed to sunlight. Without light, there is no life. And, with so many trees side by side, they all need to keep growing to prevent being overshadowed by their neighbors. Forged by necessity, Amazon trees grow to heights that others can’t dream of in other regions of the world where God dropped fewer seeds.

At that very moment, I stopped walking and had to make an analogy to life and ministry:

  1. When we surround ourselves with people who are desirous to grow and people who strive for excellence, we naturally also grow. But when our models are low with small thoughts and goals, then we can get relaxed and lost in mediocrity. May you love and help everyone who comes across your path, but associate yourself with people who force you to stretch and develop yourself into a better person. In ministry, we need to learn with those who are striving for growth. Think about Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV).
  2. Don’t ever forget that we need to be exposed to the light. We need to be fed every day to keep our spiritual health and motivation to honor Jesus through our lives and calling. We dedicate ourselves to reach people for the kingdom, and, despite all the trials and tribulations, we keep doing it because we are strengthened by the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life'” (John 8:12, NKJV).

Prayer points

  • Pray that we will recognize the people around us as a gift, and not a problem, when they challenge us to grow.
  • Ask the Lord to enhance your prayer and devotional life so that you can be well nurtured by the light of Jesus.

Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.

serves as the senior pastor of Celebration Church (Boca Raton Foursquare Church) in Boca Raton, Fla.