The parable known as “The Barren Fig Tree” Lk. 13:6-9 is about a tree that had not born fruit for three years. The vinedresser asks the owner for a one year reprieve for the tree – an opportunity to dig around it and add fertilizer. Other possible titles for this parable might be: “The Faithful Vinedresser”, or, “Hope for Change.” We too easily accept the verdict of barrenness in our personal and married lives, cutting down trees that have not finished growing and bearing fruit, because we have no hope for change.We too easily accept the verdict of barrenness in our personal and married lives, cutting down trees that have not finished growing and bearing fruit, because we have no hope for change. Click To Tweet
I remember as a young boy, watching my dad turn over the dirt in the flower beds around our home. It looked so much nicer afterwards and seemed to me that if dirt had feelings, it would enjoy the process of being “refreshed.” Its consistency, color, and the ability to absorb water, are all enhanced. Even the flowers seemed to perk up with a supporting cast of renewed soil. “Fruitful” is a banner over every marriage.The marriage dirt needs to be “turned over” often. Water, fertilizer, and other nutrients need to be applied on a regular basis. Husbands and wives need to work the ground, partnering with the Vine-Dresser and Intercessor who will never give up on us.
If there were ever a barren tree that deserved to be cut down, it was the city of Sodom, but like the vinedresser in Luke’s parable, Abraham was humbly digging around the tree. Essentially, there was no hope for change as God’s judgment was already pronounced, but Abraham had a vested interest in the city – his nephew Lot and his family. His Spirit-led intercession made provision for the fruit of ten souls to be rescued. Gen. 18:32 As it turned out, only four were rescued from Sodom, and when all the dust settled, only three people survived – Lot and his two daughters.
I had little hope for change, mired in a painful transition season, fifteen years ago. I had closed down the church I had pastored for ten years, started working full time in a bank call center, with little hope of ever functioning in ministry again. That interim season would last four years and what kept me afloat was one of those clear “inner-audible” words from the Lord, which I received about two years into the process. I was sitting in my cubicle and suddenly these words became very loud and clear in my mind: For now, this cubicle is your crucible. My little cubicle, where I sat clad with audio headset, peering into people’s mortgage accounts day after day – God said that this cubicle was my crucible, for now.
A crucible is a container that is capable of withstanding very high temperatures and is used for melting and refining purposes. The “cruci” part of the word is from the Latin “crux” (meaning, cross) hence the word “crucifix.” My four years of working full time in what I knew was not my primary calling in life, was one of the most refining seasons I’ve experienced. Emotionally, I was not brimming over with hope of change, but I had a promise to hold onto. Some days, I felt like I was underwater, breathing through a straw. Other days, I felt exhilarated that I was participating in “the fellowship of His sufferings.” Phil. 3:10 Crucible; for now; I can do this.
It was about four months after the “crucible” message from God, that He spoke to me again. I was actually in a public restroom, washing my hands, when I suddenly spoke these words out loud: “Be a weapon in my hands.” I instantly knew that it was a word for myself. In context, I had been setting aside time, playing my guitar and worshipping, so that I could be a part of a local house of prayer that was emerging in our city. God had His eye on me the whole time and the crucible was shaping me into being an instrument in His hands. Suddenly I felt a surge of purpose and hope. I could at least connect two dots!
Every one of us will have seasons where the fruit is not apparent but the barrenness is! This is the time to entrust ourselves to the Vinedresser, who is faithful to dig, fertilize, and cultivate unto fruitfulness. In the meantime, crucibles are formative. There IS hope for change. Job 11:18
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash