When I was a child, I read the story of Jesus and the fig tree in Mark 11:11-21. In the story, Jesus was traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem when He became hungry. Seeing a fig tree on the side of the road, He went to inspect it. Although the verse indicates it was “not the season for figs,” Jesus was still upset when he found it barren. In fact, He cursed the tree so that it withered and died.
As a child, this upset my sensibilities. I pictured this little tree trying to grow on the side of the road, doing everything right in accordance with the seasons God ordained. Then God came along and cursed it! It just didn’t make sense. Eventually, I set the verses aside on faith, figuring that I was missing a deeper spiritual point.*
Years later, we studied trees and plants in my Bible classes. That’s when I learned that the fig trees of Jesus’ day produced fruit for ten months out of the year. However, if fig trees are not properly fertilized in the first three years, they’ll stop producing fruit altogether.**
When Jesus found the fig tree in April, it wasn’t technically fig season, but there still should have been figs ripening on the tree. Instead, the tree had no fruit at all. Because it was barren, it would always be barren. Jesus used the situation to explain that if we don’t bear spiritual fruit, then we aren’t being useful for the Kingdom.
The term “useful” doesn’t sound very spiritual today, but Paul referenced it several times in his letters. At one point, he stated, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [wickedness], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 NAS).
Although every person is loved and valued by God, not everyone is useful to Him. And what a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it!
If you want to make yourself useful to the Master, you need to be willing and able to heed His call.
Make yourself spiritually and physically available to God. If you’re too focused on your to-do list, or you’re consumed with worry, then you’ll find it hard to hear the voice of God. On the other hand, if you don’t care about your fellow man, then you won’t care about the assignments God gives you.
To be willing, you must also be humble. If you only care about working in the spotlight, then your motivation is on “self” and not service. You must be willing to accept any assignment God gives you (even if it’s sorting the mail).
A lot of people are willing for God to use them, but they aren’t able. Now, it’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. For example, if you want to share the Gospel with others, then you need know the Word. If you want to tell people about Jesus, you need to know Him personally. If you want to minister to people, then you need to love them.
Likewise, if you feel called to a specific area, then you should learn all you can about it. For example, if you see yourself writing books to minister to people throughout the world, then you need to learn the craft of writing, including the world of publishing and marketing. These topics are not mundane or secular when they are necessary tools for your godly service.
Paul specifically said that we must be holy and sanctified to be useful. (See 2 Timothy 2:21.) Therefore, you should repent of past sins and avoid sinning going forward. Despise wickedness and love righteousness. (See Psalm 45:7.) Above all, make God the top priority in your life, and everything else will follow. (See Matthew 6:33.)
A Servant’s Prayer
Are you tired of being spiritually barren? You have the power to change that! Decide in your heart that you want to be useful to the Master and His Kingdom. Here’s a simple prayer to help you become willing and able to accept God’s assignments:
“Lord, I feel like I haven’t been very helpful to you. Please forgive me and change my heart. Help me to want to be helpful. Instruct me so that I can be useful in the areas you need me. Then grant me assignments that will glorify you and bless your people. In the name of Jesus, the perfect servant. Amen.”
[Click to Tweet: It’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. #bigsisterknows]
[Click to Tweet: What a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it! #bigsisterknows]
* Some Scriptures don’t seem to jive with our understanding of who God is. When in doubt, have faith that God is in control, He loves you, and He had good plans for you. Stand on the sure foundation of faith while you continue to seek knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
**W.E. Shewell-Cooper, Plants, Flowers and Herbs of the Bible (New Canaan, Conneticut: Keats Publishing, Inc, 1977), Page 53-56.