Matthew 21:18-19 (NLT) In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
We adopted a new family member a few months ago in the form of a Labrador retriever puppy. In the past, our family pets have included guinea pigs and Chihuahuas all under the ten pound weight limit and truly without much drive to anything other than eat and sleep. Scout is a massive black lab weighing in around 70 pounds at seven months old. At her size, it would be pretty difficult to make her do something she did not want to do. Thankfully she is a good puppy. She learns quickly. However, one thing we did not have to teach her is to retrieve. In fact, she loves to carry stuff and bring things to you. It is innate. Preprogrammed in her DNA as she was bred for hunting. The breed is considered a working class animal. She has a purpose and it comes out in her behavior naturally.
The fig tree grew from a tiny seed with great potential. All fruit-bearing trees come preprogrammed to reproduce fruit containing more seeds. When Jesus saw the fig tree, he was hungry. There should have been ripe tasty fruit hidden behind the foray of plentiful leaves. As the Lord got closer and inspected the tree, he found no fruit. Jesus cursed the tree and it dried up right then and there. It seems harsh to think Jesus would be a tree killer. To note in this passage, there were no blooms and no fruit on the tree. The potential of the tree was to bear fruit and it did not fulfill its purpose. There were two lessons to be learned that day – first the obvious example of faith inspired revelation and secondly the less obvious truth of the future of unfulfilled potential.
Matthew 21:20-22 (NLT) The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
The disciples were amazed. How did the Master speak causing the tree to wither in die just like that? It was a sight to see no doubt. I wonder if they were listening to what He said or mesmerized by what He did? This is vitally important in our walk with the Lord. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) However in that moment they could not take their eyes off the once alive now dead carcass of the tree once covered in leaves now reduced to firewood.
Jesus explained the power of confident faith. The kind of faith that doesn’t just prays but believes that prayer is a powerful resource in their life. Faith is empowered by our belief. If you do not believe that God will do exactly what He says, you will not have enough faith to see it come to pass. The disciples had witnessed signs, wonders and miracles yet still did not fully believe without doubting. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who EARNESTLY seek Him. You can pray for anything and if you have faith you WILL receive it. Jesus said it, but do we have enough faith to believe it. It only takes a seed of faith to produce such confidence. The seed that is planted deep within our heart and not forgotten but nurtured until it grows, develops and matures into confident hope. Hope that never leads to disappointment. (Romans 5:5)
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
Our puppy came with a purpose engrained in her being. She knows that it is her job to retrieve. In fact, she does it all the time without being send or issued a command. She walks around the house with dog toys. She carries sticks and limbs around outside. She demonstrates her potential every single day. It is up to me as her owner to cultivate her purpose by teaching her commands and obedience that will lead her to fulfillment in her potential.
The Lord has preprogrammed us with purpose. He has a plan handwritten for each one of us individually. (Psalm 139:16) You are not insignificant to the Body of Christ but incorporated in its full potential. (Colossians 3:15) The plans of God for His People are good always good. He has given us a future and hope in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) He has given us His Spirit to guide us, teach us and encourage us along the way. (John 14:26) We are full of potential and purpose! Our life is not meaningless and insignificant. The challenge is to believe it beyond what we can see. To accept that God has something bigger and strive for it even when faced with adversity. Faith is the catalyst and by believing the conduit to reaching fulfillment in Christ. But what about right now…what about today…what if there is no fruit…what if not a single bloom…what then?
Haggai 2:19 (NLT) I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”
2 Corinthians 1:19-20 (NLT) For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
God has given us a promise. Each heart knows the promises of God spoken to them. I wonder if faith has been applied to that seed. We can condition our conversation to say all the right things producing leaves that cover the ugly side of unbelief. I can talk a good talk, but am I walking a faith walk. The fig tree had the potential to produce fruit. Planted in good soil by the side of the road, carefully watered and cared for by the Hand of God, it appeared to be a healthy tree. God doesn’t look on the outside but carefully examines the human heart. When the Lord came close to look for fruit, He found nothing. I wonder if sometimes we get caught up in the social spectrum of religion forsaking a faith-filled relationship with Jesus Christ. When the answer takes too long, the promise seems too impossible, or when the opinion of others override our confidence in Christ.
In Haggai, the Lord spoke through the prophet that He was about shake the heavens and earth once more. He promised that even in the shaking they had His Promise. I wonder if we needed the reminder today that even when nothing seems to be going right and even in the waiting that His Promise is yes and amen in Jesus Christ. The potential inside of us is not dictated by our surroundings or sufferings but rather prescribed by God beforehand so that He could do exceedingly abundantly more than we could think or ask. Do you believe that today? Your life has hidden potential released in a broken heart. Your heart is not broken by God for destruction but for full consummation of all that He has for you. Faith cannot reach a hard heart. Seeds must find fertile ground. All seeds take time to grow but the promise keeps the farmer waiting and tending the field.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2) This is one of my favorite verses. It is true revelation for the believer. May you prosper in all things and be in health…just as your soul prospers. God will not prosper our natural life until first we prosper in our spiritual life. The Fruit of God’s Spirit (who labels us Children of the Living God) are love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Faith in growing, developing and maturing in our life begins with these qualities. Confident hope will cultivate this kind of fruit long before the natural overflowing of abundance comes. The disciples were caught up in the awe of the moment. They couldn’t believe what their eyes had encountered. Jesus was trying to get through to their heart. Their lives as His Disciples would need a prospering soul to make it through the dark times ahead. To fulfill their purpose, they couldn’t abandon the Cross but had to follow Jesus to it.
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” How is your praise today? Can you rejoice right here and right now? Even though the fig trees have no blossoms…What is your response in such times? Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. The vinedresser will have to prune us from time to time to allow new life to come forth. Will His Praise still be on your lips in times of testing? God loves us too much to keep us from fulfillment. To give us our way when the Highway of Holiness becomes too steep. He just can’t put aside His Perfect Love to allow us to compromise for less than His Best. He is more than enough so when settling for less than enough is not in His Nature. Jesus may have cursed the fig tree that day, but He has not cursed you. He has given you and I every spiritual blessing. Now it is up to us to receive it for ourselves. You have potential – His Name is Jesus Christ. You have a purpose handwritten by God and gifted by grace. You have blessings, promises and fulfillment waiting for you. It is for now in the land of the living. Thank you Lord for the future and hope that I have in you. Teach me never to settle for leaves when fruit is my potential and purpose. Lord, help me to accept nothing less than the fulfillment you have predestined in my life! I will walk by faith. I will believe. I will not be moved.
Romans 15:1-5 (NLT)“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.