Today, I want to talk to about fruitfulness. When God saved you, He gave you everything you need to live for Him. He called you to Himself. He loved you. He blessed you. He equipped you so you could represent Him. He wants you to speak for Him in your relationships. He wants you to bring the fruit of joy into those relationships. He wants you to bring the fruit of love and peace to your workplace, to your church, and to your places of influence. You are to bring the fruit of God’s kingdom to a spiritually hungry world.
God’s word says that when you grow spiritually and you produce things like patience, care and concern for others, and a life that points people to God “the more productive and useful you will be” in this world (2 Peter 1:8, NLT). God wants you to be productive and useful. He doesn’t want you to waste your life. He wants you to make the most of the life He has given to you. Whether your life is long or short, produce God’s fruit in your life. Whether you are healthy or sick, be useful to God’s kingdom. Whether you are young or old let God produce humility, patience, kindness, goodness, and hope through your life.
There are some people who don’t have hope, let them feed off of your hope until they find their own. There are people who don’t feel loved, let them encounter the compassion and concern from your life even if it’s just for a moment. There are people who you work with and go to school with who live with rude, harsh, and abusive people but when they are with you let them hear gentleness, feel warmth, and experience safety in your presence. God wants you to be fruitful. God wants you to be like a tree planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season (Psalm 1:3).
We are going through the gospel of Mark. Jesus did a lot of miracles. His miracles brought life, inspiration, and hope. They blessed people and brought joy to individuals, villages, cities, and regions. He healed all kinds of sicknesses and diseases that demonstrated He was the Son of God. He cast out evil spirits revealing his power over the supernatural forces of evil. He raised the dead and walked on water and calmed the storms demonstrating His authority over God’s creation. Most of these miracles were very public and big. It amazed the crowds. Blessed the people. The blind could see. The deaf hear. The crippled started walking. Every miracle was an object lesson to His character and nature as the Son of God.
But today, we are going to see a different kind of miracle. This miracle does not heal, it destroys. This miracle doesn’t restore, it judges. Most miracles reveal the Lord’s compassion, love, grace, and mercy. This miracle reveals the Lord’s wrath and judgement. He will perform this miracle quietly and without any fan fair, just for the disciples. It is the miracle that involves Jesus cursing a fig tree. It’s an object lesson, but one we cannot overlook.
I’m going to read to you a lengthy section out of Mark 11 because it all goes together, but we are going to focus on the fig tree today.
The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14 Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it. 15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” 18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. 19 That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city. 20 The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. 21 Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” 22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (NLT)
There are three sections in this: the fruitless fig tree object lesson, the cleansing of the temple, and Jesus’ response to Peter about faith. All three of these are related.
We will look at all of these over the next few weeks. Let’s focus on the fig tree today and the lessons we learn.
Spiritual fruit is for the hungry
Number one, spiritual fruit is for the hungry. There are going to be people who come in and out of your life who are hungry. They are hungry for hope, joy, and peace. They are hungry for mercy, forgiveness, and grace. They are hungry for salvation.
Mark begins the story of the fig tree by saying in verse 12, The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Jesus was God in the flesh. He was God incarnate. Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. However, He placed limitations on Himself as a human (Heb. 2:14). As a human, Jesus became hungry. He would eventually see a fig tree that should have had figs on them to eat, but there were none there.
Remember, the fig tree encounter is an object lesson. It’s a metaphor with a message. Just as Jesus was hungry and expected to find something to eat on the fig tree, people should expect to find spiritual fruit coming from our lives. Spiritually hungry people should find spiritual fruit under the branches of your life.
When people come to you for advice give them God’s wisdom. When they are discouraged give them encouragement that is based on God’s truth. When they feel unloved, love them. When they feel rejected, accept them. When they feel alone, join them. When they feel misunderstood, listen to them. When their load gets to heavy, carry it for them. When they don’t know what to pray, pray for them. When they are having a hard time hearing from God, be a spokes person for God. There are hungry people all around you, let them feast on the spiritual fruit God has given you.
Spiritual fruit should be noticeable
Number two, spiritual fruit should be noticeable. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, there should be some evidence of God’s divine fruit coming from your life. There should be something about you that says you are connected to God, you are one of His children, a follower of Christ, a believer.
Mark tells us in verse 13 that Jesus noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. Remember, this is an object lesson. To understand what’s happening you must understand a fig tree.
- A fig tree would produce little unripe figs, then leaves would grow to protect the figs while they grew to ripped figs. The leaves would protect the figs from the sun and weather.
- If you saw a fig tree with leaves you would assume behind the leaves would be figs.
When Jesus was walking, He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off. Because of the leaves Jesus assumed the fig tree would have figs. Then Mark adds a statement saying, there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. What Mark is actually saying is “there were only leaves” AND “it was too early in the season for fruit.” The season for the full ripe figs were still a few weeks off, but this particular fig tree was saying it was ahead of the season. By its leaves it was saying it had fruit to offer.
It’s leaves, it’s outer covering, was communicating to hungry people walking by that it had food to offer. At this point, we should be like the fig tree. When people see the leaves of our lives, the stuff on the outside: what we say, what we don’t say, how we react, how we listen, show compassion, forgive others, we don’t slander, we don’t steal, we are honest, and the like. The leaves of our lives: they see us pray, read our Bibles, and go to church. Even when people are a little way off from us, they should be able to see that the leaves of our lives say there is substance underneath. Eventually, as a follower of Jesus, your life should produce leaves that says you offer something different.
Your life should produce leaves that says there is substance underneath, but there should also be substance underneath.
Spiritual fruit is to be expected
Number three, spiritual fruit is to be expected. The Lord expects His people to produce fruit. He takes this very seriously. Jesus does something shocking and what appears to be out of character for Him. Instead of healing the fig tree to where it can produce fruit, Jesus curses it. Keep in mind, this is an object lesson about hypocrisy and deception as we will see clearly next week. Some people claim to be followers of Jesus. They claim to have a relationship with God, and they claim to speak on God’s behalf telling others what they believe is true. However, they only offer leaves and no real fruit. They claim to have something which they do not have. Jesus takes this very seriously.
Mark goes on to say in verse 14, Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” This is not an outburst. This is not done in anger. This is a learning moment for the disciples and us. This statement by Jesus reminds me of something He said earlier.
One day Jesus was addressing the religious leaders and Pharisees about their hypocrisy. Claiming they represented God when in reality they didn’t. Jesus said about them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matt. 15:8-9, NLT). They had great leaves, but no fruit. They looked good on the outside but were empty on the inside. What they professed they did not possess.
Let me paraphrase my understanding of what’s happening here. Jesus is using this fig tree to send a message and Jesus is saying, “You give the appearance that you have eternal life. You sound like and act like you have something to offer, but in reality, you have nothing. You look religious and sound religious, but you have nothing to offer those who are truly hungry for me. What you do offer is empty and hollow and religious lies and burdens. Because of this, may no one ever eat your fruit again!” Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had the appearance of fruitfulness, but it was deceptive like many of the religious leaders of His time and like many people today. They are all leaves and no substance.
Mark concludes verse 14 by saying, And the disciples heard him say it…. Mark wants us to know that all His disciples heard him speak to the tree and curse it. This seems to emphasize that all His disciples, you and me, need to hear the lesson of this fig tree.
Spiritual fruit requires God’s blessings
Number four, spiritual fruit requires God’s blessings. You cannot produce God’s fruit without God’s blessings and Him being the foundation of your life. If you are going to produce God’s fruit, then you must have the right root.
Mark says in verse 20, The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Notice it had withered from the roots up. Jesus was using this to teach His disciples the importance of our roots being grounded in the right source. Jesus wanted to use this object lesson to teach us that we must pay close attention to the roots of our lives, where we get spiritual nourishment and what we base our truth on.
- Proverbs 12:3 says, “Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots” (NLT). The “godly,” those who build their lives on God, have “deep roots.” No matter what comes into your life you are deeply tapped into God’s resources. You are on a firm foundation.
- Proverbs 12:12 says, “Thieves are jealous of each other’s loot, but the godly are well rooted and bear their own fruit” (NLT). When you are “well rooted” you are going to produce “fruit.” As you mature, you will not be jealous or envious of what others have, but you will be thankful and grateful for what you have. Instead of being like a thief who wants to take from others you are going to be a giver and a blesser who wants to share your fruit and share what God has blessed you with.
- Back in Mark 4, Jesus was teaching about people who don’t have deep roots in God. Jesus said in Mark 4:17, “But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word” (NLT). The way you can tell if someone’s roots are deep in God is how they respond to the problems in life. If your roots are deep, you will remain faithful when others quit, you will keep believing God’s Word while others doubt it, you will see God at work in the problem while others see nothing. Instead of falling away you will stand strong.
- Ephesians 3:17 says, “Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (NLT). When you know you are loved and accepted you are stronger. When you know you are welcomed and belong you are more confident. When you know you are cared for you can walk with great peace. When your roots are deep in God’s love that is when you are strong.
- Colossians 2:6 says, “Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (vs. 6-7, NLT). When your roots “grow down into him” your faith is stronger, you believe what others can’t believe, you are committed when others quit, you see God at work when others don’t, you notice God’s blessings in the midst of the storm, you see His guidance even though it may be dark, and “your faith will grow strong in the truth.” In addition to that, when “your roots grow down into him… you will overflow with thankfulness.” You will thank God for the salvation you have. You will be grateful for the opportunities to serve. You will be thankful for the lessons you learned in the valley. You will appreciate the little things God does in your life more.
Eventually, your life is going to be examined and tested. Those around you are going to notice whether you wither or produce fruit. Look carefully at what Mark says, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Eventually your life will be squeezed, pressured, and pushed to the limit and what comes out is what is really there. When people notice you, do they see someone who is withering or growing?
Spiritual fruit displays God’s glory
Number five, spiritual fruit displays God’s glory. Everything the Lord says is either true or will come true regardless of how wonderful it sounds or alarming it sounds. Mark says in verse 21, Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Peter was shocked that it happened so fast and so clearly. Whether it’s a blessing or judgement all of God’s promises will be fulfilled.
- Everything God says about heaven is true. Everything God says about hell is true.
- Everything God says about the rapture is true. Some will be taken, and some will be left behind.
- Everything God says about rewards for those who obey is true. Everything God says about the consequences of disobedience is true.
- There are some things God blesses and there are some things God curses.
Everything God created and sets up is for His glory. When we obey God, we prove Him right. When we disobey God, we prove Him right. When our roots are in Him, we display His strength. When our roots are not in Him, we display that we need His strength. Either way God is going to get glory.
Spiritual fruit is produced by faith
Number six, spiritual fruit is produced by faith. God does not want you to wither away. He doesn’t want you to be fruitless and be like this fig tree. He wants you to produce fruit. He wants you to be strong. He wants you to walk with your head high knowing you are a part of God’s family and His kingdom. When people see the leaves of your life, He wants there to also be fruit. He wants what people see on the outside to indicate what’s on the inside.
Instead of withering away, God wants you to bloom. Instead of shriveling away God wants you to thrive. The first thing Jesus says to Peter in response to the withered-up fig tree is “Have faith in God” (v.22). To have faith in God is to have confidence in Him, to trust Him, to rely on Him and to believe Him. To have faith in God is to be devoted to Him, committed to Him, and dedicated to Him.
Those who offer the fruit of God from their life have faith in God. Their faith in God produces the fruit of God. It’s not about just knowing about God but believing in God.
When God saved you, He gave you everything you need to live for Him. He called you to Himself. He loved you. He blessed you. He equipped you so you could represent Him. He wants you to speak for Him in your relationships. He wants you to bring the fruit of joy into those relationships. He wants you to bring the fruit of love and peace to your workplace, to your church, and to your places of influence. You are to bring the fruit of God’s kingdom to a spiritually hungry world. He doesn’t want you to be selfish, but a servant. A follower of Jesus who serves others, loves others, and cares for others.