Figs and Faith

Figs and Faith
Matthew 21:18-22

“Seeing a one fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once, the fig tree withered.”

 

            One event important lesson.  After his return to Bethany, Jesus again set forth to go into the city of Jerusalem.  Traveling in the morning, he became hungry.  Walking by a fig tree, he approached it looking for fruit, for the lushness of the leaves foretold of fruit. Even though it was not yet the season for figs, the fully developed leaves suggested that this tree had matured early and would have fruit.  By all outward appearances, the tree looked healthy and vibrant, one that would have sweet figs on it. However, when Jesus looked closely for figs, he found none.  With its fully developed foliage, the tree promised fruit, but in reality, it was barren.  Because it did not have any fruit, Jesus condemned the fruit, resulting in the tree withered.

            As we read the story, we wonder why the condemnation of a tree?  Jesus was not just reacting in anger to a barren tree.  Ever the teacher, Jesus saw this as an opportunity to teach his disciples spiritual lessons.  The fig tree illustrated the condition and fate of Israel. Jesus and the disciples had an incredible view of Herod’s temple from the Mount of Olives.  The structure of the building was an architectural wonder.  Even today, when one walks along the base, the visitor is amazed at the remnants.  Like the fig tree, the casual onlooker would be impressed with the religious enthusiasm of the people of Israel.  Their outward acts of piety were impressive.  However, Jesus points us beyond the appearance and points to the heart condition.  They professed to be the people of God, but they lived unfruitful lives.  They outwardly performed all the religious duties but failed to live genuinely by faith and bear the fruit of obedience.  This served as a vivid illustration to the disciples and to us today.  We can perform all the outward activities of being involved in a church.  We can make all the proper confessions and say all the right things.  But if we are not being transformed and living in obedience, we are in danger of divine judgment.  

            This brings us to the critical question:  How do we live fruit-bearing lives?  Jesus uses the tree's withering to teach the disciples a second essential principle.  The answer to a fruitful life that has an eternal impact is to live a life of faith and dependency upon God.  When we live by faith, we can achieve the impossible.  The point that he makes is that when we are living a life of dependence upon God, all things are possible, including bearing fruit when it would seem as if the time is not right.

            In our Christian life, it is easy to become focused on outward activities.  It is easy to affirm our faith verbally, but becoming actively involved in God’s redemptive program is quite another.  We get distracted by the activities of life.  We get discouraged by the struggles we face.  We lose sight of God’s divine purpose and his supernatural empowerment.  We need to be reminded when we surrender to God, and allow his power to work through us, we can bear much fruit.  This comes through prayer and seeking God’s direction, and the purpose of prayer is more than just asking God to give us what we desire.  Prayer is aligning our will with his.  It is submitting to his purpose and design for our life.  God will answer in ways we do not envision when that becomes our prayer.  

 

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