Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lessons From a Fig Tree

Lesson #1-Miracles happen outside of your comfort zone!

Russ Lee, a long time Christian artist, once said the coolest thing about miracles. He said, “You know that boundary you set around yourself called your comfort zone? Just over that line is where all of the miracles happen.” It’s so true! I’m a big fan of comfort…believe me. If I could spend all day wearing pajamas, I would. But, I see time after time in the Bible where people accept God’s invitation outside of their comfort zone and into the place where He does the most glorious things.

Take, for example, the calling of one of Jesus’ first disciples, Nathanael…

John 1:43 (NKJV) The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." 44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. 47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." 48"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." 50Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." 51He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man
In the Old Testament, being “under the fig tree” often refers to being safe, at leisure, secure, comfortable, at peace, taken care of…

Micah 4:4 (NKJV) But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken

1 Kings 4:25 (NKJV) And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

Jesus tells Nathaniel that he saw him while he was under the fig tree. We can assume that Jesus saw him in a supernatural way…Nathanael must have been alone at the time. And, this event is enough to convince Nathanael that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus’ response to Nathanael is something like…“That’s why you believe??? Because I saw you under the fig tree? Just wait till you see what’s in store!! You ain’t seen nothing yet!!”

Jesus sees us in our safe, comfortable places. But imagine the possibilities when we step out of that comfort zone and follow him just like Nathanael did!

Lesson #2- Jesus wants us to bear fruit!! He is a patient and loving master gardener, but our time will eventually run out!

Matthew 21:18 (NKJV) Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.

Luke 13:6 (NKJV) Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 8" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'

In both of these passages Israel is represented by the fig tree. In the parable in Luke, God is the owner of the vineyard and Jesus is the caretaker asking for more time to care for the tree in hopes that it will eventually bear fruit. And, I believe, these verses also have many implications in our own life…

*Jesus longs for, hungers for, our lives and our faith to bear fruit. He is disappointed when we don’t.

*What is fruit? It is evidence of a healthy, growing faith!

Gal 5:22 (NKJV)But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

*Notice in both passages the trees bore NO fruit. Don’t get caught up in the guilt trap believing that what you have to offer isn’t good enough for God. If your fruit is produced as a result of sincerely seeking and knowing God, and living in accordance with his will…it is acceptable to Him.

*He’s regularly checking us out to look for fruit.

*We’re not left on our own to produce this fruit…we have an expert gardener watering , weeding and feeding us to help us bear this fruit. We must stay in His care by reading the bible, going to church, praying, etc.

*(Bear with me on this one…I know it’s kind of gross, but the point is valid) Fertilizer is poop. And we all know what it’s like to have manure dropped into our lives. I think the expression “Poop Happens” is true. It just does. Matthew 5:45 (NKJV) 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The important thing to note is that when manure is used in gardening, the gardener uses animal waste for fertilizer…not his own (except maybe in Chinese rice paddies…eeewww). It’s true in our lives too, may times that trials we face are not caused by God, but allowed by Him and used to help us grow.

*The tree does not bear fruit to please the gardener or to be allowed to stay in the garden, the tree bears fruit because in a gardener’s care that’s just what trees do. Likewise, we should not force ourselves to be fruitful so that God will be happy with us or so that we can go to heaven. The fruit in our lives should be a natural outcome of DAILY watering and care (prayer and bible study).

*Jesus is not fooled by a bunch of shiny green leaves….we can fill our lives with all kinds of nice looking Christian adornments (12 different bibles, fish on your car, Christian music, being at church every time the door is open, etc). If real fruit is not there…he knows it!

*We don’t have forever to bear this fruit. A withered up tree is a great visual reminder of what a life that never gets to the point of fruit bearing looks like.

Lesson 3. Don’t lose your fruit every time you’re shaken!

Nahum 12 (NKJV) All your strongholds are fig trees with ripened figs: If they are shaken, They fall into the mouth of the eater.

In this verse Nahum is describing how easily Ninevah will be defeated. Like shaking fruit from a tree.

How easily are you shaken? How much shaking does it take before your fruit is dropping from your branches and you start to wither up? In other words, when trials come, do you stand firm in the faith, trusting God as you weather the storm, or do you shake your fist at heaven and begin to withdraw from Him? God wants our fruit to be used for good, for his Glory. Moreover, our fruit should be available to feed those that are hungry for God's love. Not the enemy who shook us up to start with or opportunistic scavengers ready to take advantage of us when we’re vulnerable. There will be storms, we will be shaken, but we must hold fast to the faith and the fruit that the Master gardener has been so carefully cultivating us to produce.


Anonymous said...

tami, this was so cool to read. i had never read about the calling of philip and nathanael in depth-- i just skimmed over it, like 'ok, four down, eight to go.'

thank you for the insight-- it took me deeper into my devotions today!

kari, nj

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insightful words on the fig tree parables. I especially feel enlightened by the fertilizer analogy. LOL It does make good sense that God uses the iccky stuff in our lives to bring us to him!