Fig trees and olive trees, as well as grape vines, are indigenous to Palestine. The fig tree and olive tree are used in the Bible as a type of Israel. See Deuteronomy 8:7-9.
The first-ripe figs come about June from the old growth and then the fall harvest begins about September, coming from the new growth. Figs come first, then are followed by the leaves.
No effort is too much to get the fig trees to produce, as the farmers dig around them and work in the cattle dung to encourage their productivity. Fruitless fig trees are rooted up and destroyed to make room for new fig trees. Destroying the fruitless trees is no more immoral than pulling weeds in a garden.
In this article I want to deal with two issues.
1. Prophetic truths concerning Israel as they relate to fig trees.
2. Practical truths concerning spiritual barrenness, illustrated by barren fig trees.
Prophetic truths concering Israel.
In Jeremiah 8:4-13 God speaks through Jeremiah about Israel‘s rejection of Him as they turned to idolatry and refused to repent. I encourage you to read this passage that describes how Israel has become like a barren fig tree. Hosea 9:10 continues this theme and Joel 1:6-7 prophecies their judgment by Babylon and Assyria, pictured by a lion ripping the bark off the fig tree and destroying it.
During Jesus’ short ministry with Israel, He cultivated them and worked with them, but they refused to repent. In AD 70 the Roman Empire destroyed them. That’s the warning Jesus is giving Israel in His parable in Luke 13:6-9.
Not only does Jesus warn of their dispersion and judgment, but He also speaks of their restoration and blessing, as prophesied in Matthew 24. There in verses 32-34 Israel is pictured as a budding fig tree. The budding has already begun to take place as Israel has become a nation and returned to their homeland in the past sixty years. This prophecy of Israel‘s restoration and blessing will come to full fruition at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation, prophesied in verses 15-31 of that same chapter.
Practical truths concering spiritual barrenness
As God made fruit trees to produce fruit and glorify Him, so God saves sinners to bear fruit. Fruitless Christians dishonor God. Read through John 15, noting Christ’s expectation of fruit in verses 5,8 and 16.
The fruit produced is the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who is surrendered to Christ.
The fruit is basically Christ-like attitude and actions. Giving to the work of Christ is also a fruit of the Spirit. See Romans 15:26-28 and Philippians 4:16-17.
Although no one becomes a Christian through his good works, these are the fruit of one who has come to Christ by faith. Normally, one can distinguish a Christian from a non- Christian by his works. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 7:16-20.
Even praising God can be a fruit of the Spirit. There are times when circumstances are going badly for us and we don’t feel like praising God. It is at such times that we can make a sacrifice of praise to Him, as Hebrews 13:15 encourages us.
Every Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit and called to exercise those gifts for the glory of God and for the building up of Christ’s Church. Those gifts are listed in Romans 12:6-8 and another list is given in I Corinthians 12:4-31. Each of us have different personalities and different blends of gifts, but God has given our gifts to us for a purpose. The gifts are given to us; not for our glory, but for the building up of others. I Corinthians 13 teaches us that without loving those to whom we are ministering , our gifts and Biblical knowledge are totally useless.
In John 4:35-38 Jesus teaches us that we Christians are to sow the Seed of the Gospel and we are to reap as we have opportunity. Some may reap more than others. The point is that all of us have occasions to sow, if we will just take those opportunities. If the Gospel is preached in your church, invite others to go with you. Invite them to a home Bible study. Invite them to our Hidden Treasures web site. If you are faithful in sowing the Seed, you are going to eventually reap a harvest. In Heaven you may meet people who came to saving faith in Christ because of your invitation. Won’t that be exciting!
I Peter 3:15-16 encourages us to always be ready to give an answer to one who asks of the hope, or the assurance within us. The more you study God’s Word, the stronger you are going to be to give an answer to those who ask you of your joy and confidence in Christ.
What must we do to bear fruit?
First, make sure you are trusting, not your works; but Christ alone for salvation.
Secondly, make sure you are abiding in Christ and that His Word is abiding in you. John 15:1-8 To abide in Christ we must continually walk in fellowship with Him, confessing sin to Him whenever the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. Read I John 1 on this topic of fellowship. For His Word to abide in you, you must read it and study it and obey it.
Third, be morally clean before God. He will only use clean vessels. II Timothy 2:20
Fourth, be prepared for Christ’s pruning in our lives. John 15:2 He often cuts things from our lives to make us more fruitful. The pruning may be painful at times, but it always works for our best.
Fifth, travail in prayer as a mother travails in labor before a birth. Isaiah 66:8
Sixth, surrender yourself to Christ and make yourself available to Him for His use.
Are you blessed of God? Psalm 1 tells us we will bring forth fruit for Him if we read and meditate in His Word. Psalm 92:12-14 encourages us that even as we grow to old age, we can still be fruitful. I thank God He is still using me in my 70’s.
One of the jobs of a pastor is to deal with sin in his preaching. That can be done kindly and lovingly and plainly without insulting people. Jeremiah 4:3 warns preachers to sow not among thorns. Sin needs to be dealt with before God will bless a church or ministry.
Those Christians who refuse to be fruitful, God will eventually root up as servants and cast them aside as useless stubble. Luke 13:7-9. If they are trusting Christ, they will not lose their salvation; but they will suffer the loss of rewards.
I encourage you to follow these six steps and discover the joy of bearing fruit for Christ.
Remember, Luke 12:48 reminds us that “to whom much is given; much is required.”
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