6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'” (Luke 13:6-9)
The big picture of this parable is that God has expectations of His people. He expects fruit in return for the gracious investment He has made in our lives.
One thing that comes through very clearly is that the owner comes regularly looking for fruit. This parable reveals at least three important principles relating to developing a culture and lifestyle of assessment. We will look at the first principle today.
1. Assess the Fruit. This is the clearest lesson in the parable. The owner and vineyard worker alike come looking for fruit, year-by-year. Just now we are in the early stages of putting in our spring vegetable gardens. Those of us who do so will have firm expectations of finding fruit later this summer. No one plows and plants without having a very firm expectation of a harvest.
When you plant a tomato plant you very clearly expect to find tomatoes. From squash plants you expect squash. From fig trees we expect figs.
But what fruit are we to look for in our lives and ministries? Most of us may immediately think, “The fruit of the Spirit.” This is a solid biblical answer. But we usually will need to take some time to “define” what each of these fruits look like in “shoe leather” today.
For instance what does love look like in the life of a believer? Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” We may think of love in terms of juicy emotions, but Jesus speaks of practicing His instructions!
Before we can have a healthy culture of assessment, we must first begin to define what the fruit is that we are looking for! If I haven’t defined what a “win” is, I might not immediately recognize it when it happens.
It is so important to think in terms of simples steps, of baby steps, of next steps. Otherwise our expectations can be unrealistic or unhealthy.
Here’s an example. There’s this guy that I am discipling. He’s a new Christian and is 63 years old. Last year at this time he was regularly contemplating how he could kill his ex-wife. Would he ever have done it? I doubt it. But it was often in his thoughts. You know what the “baby step” fruit that I was able to assess after a few months? He was of his own initiative starting to pray for his ex. He still had deep negative feelings, but had begun to realize that though her issues were too big for him, that with God it was different.
This was the fruit of God’s mercy and the faith of the gospel beginning to show up in this man’s life!
What are some practical symptoms of God’s activity and indicators of fruitfulness that you can begin to look for in your life and the lives of those you are seeking to influence for Christ? Take some time and define what you are looking for. And by the way, when you see evidence of fruit in the lives of others, be the first to rejoice and point it out!
Next time we will talk about assessing the soil.