Guys, I just got a most beautiful insight into the incident of the cursing of the fig tree by Jesus in Matthew and Mark. My focus today will be on Mark’s version because of a tiny detail he added which I think makes a lot of difference. But before I begin, let me give you the background story of how I came upon this revelation.
If you have been a regular visitor or subscriber to this blog, you might have noticed that I went on a sort of hiatus for months now. It has nothing to do with “writer’s block,” rather, it had to do with a general lack of zeal or discipline to actually sit down and write. I am sometimes not eager to write, not because I don’t like to write, but because I like it too much, such that I can easily spend hours just writing. In my brain, I need to have a block of at least 3 hours if I want to write, but that does not make the activity attractive enough for me to start, so I just keep putting it off.
I have been praying about this disinterestedness and this morning (October 29, 2021) I just decided that enough was enough, so I engaged God in a heartfelt lengthy conversation/prayer on the matter. I was inspired to do this while studying Luke 11:1-13. I was still in verse 1 when the Spirit took over me and led me on that beautiful conversational journey with God. I told God that I didn’t understand why I was not zealous enough to have a regular writing habit. I told Him that I felt He also shared a part of the blame. Okay, I know you might be thinking, What! How could you blame God or even talk to Him like that??? But I assure you, God wants us to be sincere with our feelings when we approach Him (see Isaiah 41:21). He already hears our thoughts, anyway, so we might as well own up to them so He can help us.
As I was saying, I told God that if only He could give me the same experience with His word that He gave Jeremiah and His disciples, then I wouldn’t be struggling to keep up. (In Jeremiah 20:9, Jeremiah said, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Likewise, the disciples of Jesus, in Acts 2, received the Holy Spirit like tongues of fire which they couldn’t contain but which burst out of their mouths as they spoke the word of God powerfully in the streets of Jerusalem.) I told God that I needed such immense zeal that I cannot but write regularly.
Mind you, I have prayed this kind of prayer several times in the past and it seemed God was not ready to answer me the way I wanted. So, after I prayed it again today, I toyed with the idea of just closing down the publication arm of this ministry and maybe just keep renewing the domain registration and hosting so people can still have access to the precious words of God that have been revealed on this site since the inception of this ministry. But then I remembered how much I loved to write and knew that I couldn’t close it down. So I was back to square one, asking God for the zeal to sit down and write!
I thought about applying the strategies from the wonderful and famous book by James Clear called Atomic Habits, especially the part where he talked about how he set a schedule for writing every Monday and Thursday on his blog and never missed it. He said that helped grow his subscribers to hundreds of thousands. I also know that YouTube tips and tricks on how to grow a dedicated following include putting out content regularly. So, again, I toyed with the idea of writing at least once a week and sticking to the same day every week. But that was not the first time I had not only considered but actually planned to implement that and failed. So I knew I needed more than just purposeful planning but an external power—the power of the Holy Spirt. The psalmist said, “Passion for Your house has consumed me…” Another translation has it as “…zeal for Your house has eaten me up…”—Psalm 69:9. I needed that kind of zeal/passion.
After much meditating and praying, God finally spoke to me. He said, “What if you’re looking at it all wrong? What if you’re praying the wrong prayer?” I was taken aback and asked Him how. He then took me to the story that set off this writing today—Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14, 20-21. God asked me, “Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?” I said it was because it had the appearance of a fruit-bearing tree but had no fruit. But God drew my attention to the part where Mark said that it was not the season for figs (Mark 11:13). So He said to me, “If it was not its season to bear fruit, why, then, did Jesus curse it?” I thought about it and realized I had no clue. It seemed harsh that Jesus would judge someone for not bearing fruit when He had not given that person the grace or talent to do so (’cause the lesson in this story is about people, not figs).
When God saw that I was struggling with finding the answer, He had mercy on me and told me. He said, “People often get the procedure wrong when it comes to working for Me. They think it’s first about regularity, when, really, it is first about availability.” When you make yourself always available to God, you will always be regular in His use of you. Secular experts will tell you that if you want to get more subscribers, you need to put out content regularly. While that may be true, it can lead you into the dangerous practice of putting words into God’s mouth. We need to step back and let God take the lead, not the other way round.
Think of it this way: If I decide to write and publish every Monday (and maybe Thursday) at 6:00 PM, what happens, then, if God needs me on Wednesday at 9:00 AM, and I’m free but not in the mood to write? It will create a conflict of interest. I will try to convince myself that regularity matters and that I need to wait, maybe write down the points, but wait until Thursday at 6:00 PM.
Let me paint another scenario: What if I get ready to write an article on a Monday but God doesn’t have anything for me then? Well, that will create another conflict of interest. I know my readers are counting on me, and I know there are many Christian topics I can write about without necessarily hearing from God, so what do I do? I will certainly be tempted to go ahead and put something out. You know, some prophets of old were this way. There were seasons, in the Old Testament, when God was silent and His word was scarce (see 1 Samuel 3:1), but some prophets chose to manufacture visions and prophecies. Read God’s complaint against them:
21 “I have not sent these prophets,Jeremiah 23; (see also Jeremiah 27:15)
yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
yet they go on prophesying.
22 If they had stood before me and listened to me,
they would have spoken my words,
and they would have turned my people
from their evil ways and deeds.
Unfortunately, many Christian leaders in different fields have created a culture where we strive to engage the hearers more than we engage the Speaker. We struggle to maintain our subscribers at the expense of the Provider. We pay more attention to the needs of the receivers of our message than those of the Giver. And then we confuse blooming with bearing fruit.
There are many ways to look at the fig tree in our story for today, but I will highlight only two in this article. (See Miracle Lessons #19, #20 and #21 for three other ways to look at it.) First, the fig tree was certainly blooming, not because it had the ability on its own (it was not its season, remember?), but because God gave it the ability. Secondly, having that ability was not enough, it needed to make itself available to God, but when God needed it, it had no fruit. God needed it out of its season; it wasn’t ready to bear fruit. But, then again, it wasn’t ready to bloom either.
When God gives you an assignment, do you erroneously think it was because you were the best man/woman for the job? Also, when God needs you instantly, do you erroneously try to fit Him in and around your regular schedule? Do you say, “God, at least, I’m blooming?” Or, “God, it’s not yet time?” Like the fig tree in our story, God wants you to do more than bloom; He wants you to bear fruit, and He wants you now… or even a different day than when you want it. Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “…be instant in season, out of season.” In another translation: “Be prepared, whether the time is favourable or not.”—2 Timothy 4:2
So, after receiving this beautiful teaching from the Lord, I was going to tuck it away in my heart, as usual, but He said, “Nope, open your blog and bless someone else with it.” I hadn’t planned for this and immediately wanted to procrastinate (’cause I had already spent, like, 2 hours of my morning conversing with God), but He reminded me of what He had just taught me, so I obeyed Him and here I am , still typing 2 hours later.
So what should the right prayer have been in my situation? That God would give me the courage to make myself available whenever He needs me, the patience to wait Him out when He is silent, and the wisdom to understand the seasons.
I do realize that this teaching might seem to paint God as one inconsiderate, overbearing dictator who just barges into our day and demands to have our attention now! However, that is definitely not my intention, and I would like to correct that very wrong notion if it were ever formed.
First of all, you need to keep as the foundation of your knowledge of God the basic and absolute truth that God is love. God is not the product of love or a being that has feelings of love. No! GOD IS LOVE! He is the embodiment of love, and therefore, everything He does begins and ends in love. To do otherwise would be to go against His very nature. Humans cannot do without water for a month, otherwise, they die. In a similar way, God cannot do without love for a second, otherwise, He ceases to exist.
Therefore, having that as a solid foundation of your faith and understanding of who God is, do you think it fits His nature and description to barge into our day and get mad when we don’t give Him the attention He seeks? Never! God respects our schedules and ability to live organized lives. In fact, He created and instituted order in the universe. Paul, in admonishing the Corinthian church to have orderly meetings, said that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
So, what am I saying here? When working for God, it is nice to have a schedule, but it is important to remember that God is bigger than your schedule. God often works within our schedule. And we need to recognize that it is a great act of humility for the God of the whole universe to constrain Himself to the confines of our schedule. When you decide to have particular days of meeting with God, He respects and even anticipates those meetings. However, sometimes, in His infinite wisdom and love, He is silent. And sometimes, He decides to alter that schedule and wants to meet at a different time. But when that happens, He also makes sure to provide you with the ability to meet Him or be used by Him. That’s your blooming season. And whenever you sense that you are blooming, even if out of season, just begin to bear fruit, ’cause Jesus is nearby. Don’t make Him wait.
I was around 5 when, I am strongly convinced, I first heard the distinct voice of God. But, not until I was 11 (2002) did I have a personal encounter with Him. I was in my room that night, about to pray before bed, when I saw a revelation of how filthy my heart was. I didn't argue with God that I was too young to have such amount of filth ('cause I believed I was a 'good boy,' by human standards, at least). I simply cried uncontrollably in brokenness of heart - "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God" (Psalm 51:17) - and He didn't.
Still crying uncontrollably, I left my room and went to the living room, where my parents were watching the nightly news on TV. After I managed to tell them about the revelation I saw, my sweet mum took me to her room and led me to Christ. I got saved that night. And 6 years later, I discovered my purpose and assignment on earth, which is raising up men and women to be godly, and teaching them the simplicity of Christianity. More than a decade later, I am still fulfilling that purpose to His glory. Hallelujah!