“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:5-9
Always looking for fruit. I get sick of hearing fruit talk these days within Christendom. Most who talk about fruit don’t know what fruit is. They don’t see any apples so they want to get the axe out and chop down the fig tree. We don’t always get to see the fruit. And sometimes even as it is staring us in the face we don’t recognize it. Patience wears thin in this dilemma.
Christ is always interceding for another year. He sees fruit you don’t see. Finally it is him who creates fruit. This is as true of the fig tree in your back yard as it is of you. Any fruit we have cause to rejoice in is the work of our Father in and through us working on us with the word. Pastors therefore have to be careful, they aren’t there to judge fruit or the lack thereof, but to water the vineyard and help it grow. We preach the word, and with the word rains down the Holy Spirit upon our souls just as he did in baptism. Finally it is the gospel, and not the law, that causes the fig trees to bear fruit.
So as a pastor, frustrated for not seeing fruit, you have a couple choices, you can start looking for fruit other than apples. Rejoice when parents bring their children forward for baptism, rejoice as you see a family communing together, sing to heaven when stragglers make their way back in, be thankful for the faithful, few as they may be. And then you can tend to yourself, learn to pray for the fruit you long to see, and patience to see it. Tend to yourself, make sure it is the gospel you have been preaching and are preaching. Don’t preach about the gospel, but preach the gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus who died for the sins of the world, live in it and by it yourself.