Dung it Another Year

In Luke, Chapter 13, we read,

The Parable of the fig tree.

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

Luke 13:6

That “certain man” knew he had a fig tree. We can assume that the man wanted the fig tree, because it had grown there, in the same place, for at least three years.

However, the man wanted more than just the tree. He wanted figs.

During the next few moments, I want you to learn some…

Lessons from the fig tree.

I believe that the man had…

Reasonable expectations.

He knew he had a fig tree. He knew the season: He knew when to look for figs.

I think we can all agree that the man was sensible. He wasn’t asking for anything extraordinary, was he?

Still, disappointment takes center stage of our story.

He came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

Luke 13:6

The man wanted figs. He wanted figs during fig season from his fig tree.

Sadly, he had a fig tree, but he had no figs.

I think we could say that the man had…

Understandable frustration.

Here’s what he said,

Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none:

Luke 13:7

Imagine having your expectations dashed one year after another. That’s how this man felt.

He wanted figs. He had a fig tree. He should have figs, but he had none.

I’d say the man was angry. The situation ticked him off. He felt like he wasted his time with this tree. He also felt like he had wasted the space in his vineyard.

So, he arrived at a…

Practical solution.

The man grew weary of his disappointing tree. He said,

Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

Luke 13:7

I’m sure the man had in mind something new to plant. He would finally put the ground to productive use.

Jesus’ parable takes a sad turn.

Here we have a tree that, for reasons beyond its control, bore no fruit. Now, the time came to end its life.

Just as things looked bleak for the tree, the keeper of the vineyard spoke up.

Rather than obeying orders, the vineyard keeper made a…

Surprising suggestion.

He told his boss,

Let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

Luke 13:8

Rather than cutting down the tree, the keeper of the vineyard wanted to give the tree a little more time. He…

Understood the problem.

The owner of the tree recognized the symptom of the problem: No figs. The expert gardener recognized the cause of the problem: The soil.

I’m telling you that the keeper of the vineyard had a…

Feasible solution.

He wanted to work on the soil. He wanted to aerate it. He wanted to add some fertilizer.

He made a personal commitment, hoping to save the tree.

I think the context of this incident suggests a….

Successful negotiation.

In exchange for his master’s patience, the vineyard keeper promises to give m attention to the tree for one more year.

He also promises to accept his master’s future decision regarding whether to save the tree or cut it down.

I’d also like to mention some…

Impressive optimism.

The vineyard keeper was optimistic about his capabilities. He saw hope for the fig tree where others did not.

He wasn’t required to make an extra effort. He could have obeyed the boss’ wishes and cut down the tree.

He trusted his capabilities. He saw hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Before moving on, I need to tell you about the…

Final differentiation.

After another year, the vineyard owner and the keeper will check the fig tree.

They will ask a differentiating question: “Does this fig tree have fruit?”

If the answer is “yes,” then all is well. They were successful.

If the answer is “no,” then the tree goes away. They will cut it down.

Next, I’d like to make a…

Practical interpretation

Scripture often speaks of fruit. Right now, I’m thinking of a question James asks in his epistle:

Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? 

James 3:12

You see, the master of the vineyard didn’t go to this tree looking for olive berries: He knew that this was a fig tree.

When you received salvation, God planted you. He knows what you are. He knows what to expect from you.

Jesus speaks in Matthew, Chapter 12, saying,

The tree is known by his fruit.

Matthew 12:33

Your fruit reveals what you are.

But what if you have no fruit? The Master knows you, but you give Him no benefit. Passersby can’t tell what you are because you have no fruit.

Here’s what Jesus says to His disciples:

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;

John 15:8

If you’re in God’s vineyard, you glorify god by bearing fruit.

You are like a tree, but you are not a tree.

I want you to remember the parable. The problem with the tree was the soil, not the tree.

Unlike the tree, we can choose whether we bear fruit. God makes us responsible for bearing fruit. Still, factors beyond our control determine our fruitfulness.

What made the difference in this story?

Effectual intercession

The keeper of the vineyard interceded on behalf of the tree. He convinced the owner to let him…

Dung it another year.

I’m wondering if this past year didn’t go well for you. Sure, you know that you’re living in God’s vineyard, but you’re not fulfilling His expectations.

I’m asking you to allow the…

Holy Spirit

…to work in your life. Let Him loosen the fallow ground, let him work on your environment.

We should be thankful that we have an intercessor.

Romans, Chapter Eight, Verse 26 tells us,

The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:26

I believe that the Holy Ghost is interceding right now on your behalf, “Let me dung it another year!”

As you allow the Spirit to work in your life, remember that God wants you to use your…

Free will.

Take responsibility for yourself.

The prophet Hosea tells us to take control of our situation. He tells us,

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD,

Hosea 10:12

If you don’t want God to cut you down, I suggest that you learn God’s Word. Spend time in prayer. Believe God’s promises for your life.

Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Now, even if you’ve borne much fruit this year, the fig tree has a lesson for you. I believe that…

Fellow believers

have a role in God’s vineyard. God’s Spirit may show you a brother or sister in Christ who has no fruit. God might be ready to cut them down.

I’m asking you, will you work on their soil? Will you intercede for them? Will you diagnose the problem and then be the solution?

You see, the man who worked in the vineyard din’t own the vineyard. He didn’t have any “skin in the game.” He didn’t have to volunteer to do extra work to help this fig tree bear fruit.

If the Master had cut it down, the keeper of the vineyard wouldn’t have lost anything.

I’m telling you that he cared about his work. He cared about the tree. He too wanted to see the fig tree bear fruit.

I believe that God speaks through this parable to you: Who do you see that needs special care right now, before God destroys them?

In closing, I want to illustrate…

The importance of intercession.

I’ve talked to you about a parable. It’s a story that teaches lessons to those who hear it.

Now, I want you to see a real-life account of a historical incident. It involves Jesus and – you guessed it – a fig tree.

Matthew, Chapter 21, Verse 19 tells us that

He [Jesus] saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

Matthew 21:19

Jesus applied the same test of fruit that we saw in the parable.

Unlike the owner of the vineyard in the parable, Jesus had no patience. He cursed the tree. It had no fruit when it should have had fruit.

Jesus didn’t ask any questions about the soil or what happened during the past three years.

Nobody interceded on behalf of the tree.

This fig tree didn’t get another chance. It didn’t get another year.

Respond

I want you to receive this message from God into your spirit: God has a plan for your life. You need to decide to fulfill that purpose.

You must decide to bear fruit. If you don’t, God will cut you down.

Finally, if you see a brother or sister in Christ who has potential, but isn’t bearing fruit for God, get involved.

Intercede on their behalf.

Dig around in the dirt, be the fertilizer – the inspiration – that will encourage others to do great things for God.

In the words of Jude,

And of some have compassion, making a difference:

And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; 

Jude 1:22-23
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