If we showed up to work and didn’t do anything our boss told us, but instead frequently did the exact opposite of what we were told, how long would we last? In a lot of jobs, not very long. We wouldn’t expect to be retained. Or at least, we shouldn’t expect it. That’s really the message behind today’s miracle.
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
– Matthew 21:18-22, ESV
In the Church we talk a lot about bearing fruit. And preachers ask the question about what kind of fruit do people see in our lives. We probably have heard this question so many times that we’ve become inoculated to it. That’s why I went with the job perspective. The fig tree wasn’t producing fruit. It wasn’t doing its job. So Jesus “fired” it. It would never produce fruit any more. It was withered at Jesus’ command. I don’t like the sound of that. The implications are to us as His Church that if we don’t individually and corporately step up and bear fruit, He reserves the right to wither us whenever He deems the time is right. In other words, we will be “fired.” I’m not saying that one can lose one’s salvation. But what I am saying is that one can lose his or her effectiveness for ministry and the growth of the Kingdom, something we are all mandated to do. Don’t believe me? Take a peek at Eli. David stands out, too. Then there is Hezekiah. And let’s not forget Josiah. In our era we’ve seen great leaders fall. I don’t want to be one of those. I want to be faithful and effective until God chooses to call me home. However, this requires diligence on my part as well as a reliance by faith on the Holy Spirit. And if you think about it, the Holy Spirit will be doing most of the heavy lifting. I just need to listen to and obey Him.
But there’s a second part to this miracle and it’s a statement of what can be accomplished by faith. If we are acting in accordance with the will of our Father and something that requires a miracle to solve stands in our way, a miracle is possible. It’s possible if we have genuine faith. It will be delivered when we go to God and ask for what needs to be done. We don’t have to rely on our own efforts. If we’re serious about working for the Kingdom we’re going to run out of our own power very, very quickly. And then we’re in the situation where faith and prayer are the answers to the problems we will face. We won’t deliver, but God will. How easy it is to forget this. But we must not forget, because this is the only real way to see great things happen.
Let us be effective in our walk with Christ. Let us continually bear fruit so we won’t be “fired” by our Savior. And let us remember that part of that effectiveness is a dependence on God to do that which we cannot. When we run into something that is beyond our abilities and we are within the will of God, we have not come to a wall we cannot scale. Rather, we have come to a point where we must call up to God for the rope to scale it. He has already prepared the way. He has already seen to it that we’ll have what we need. We just have to believe in His ability to provide it and be humble enough to ask His help to receive it. Then we will be the fig trees that continually produce a sweet fruit, pleasing to the Lord.