Final Cuts/Dig It! Dung It! Cut It!
6 Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed.
Before I go on, let me go all the way back to .
11 Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened.
If you include the undiscovered parts of the Amazon, there probably are a hundred thousand tree species. After God is done creating, the very first thing He does is bless his creation, not once but twice. (v22, 28) The first words God directed to his creation were be fruitful and multiply. Let me come right out and say it. Here’s the moral of the story, God wants you to be fruitful. He wants to multiply the fruit of the Spirit in your life, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. He also wants to multiply your influence and your talent. Another way of saying it is this, potential is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift back to God.
In Old Testament terms, it is
2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: 3 Your towns and your fields will be blessed. 4 Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.
I love that language. He will command the blessing upon you in everything you do.
Now let’s flip over to the New Testament.
10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Parable of the good soil. He wants your life to yield these good gifts that He has given to you.
So to really appreciate the parable of the fig tree, you need that backdrop. Here’s why: It says the owner came to the vineyard and sought fruit. Well of course he did! He has been seeking fruit from day six. He had been seeking fruit since the Garden of Eden. That is how he was created. God loves you just the way you are but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. He is a good gardener. He wants you to be fruitful; not comfortable. That is the objective and that is the backdrop to this story.
7 Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ 8 “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’ ”
We are going to keep it simple this week. Dig it, dung it, cut it.
I. Dig it
I. Dig it
After planting a fig tree, it takes three years to produce fruit. It takes time. It takes effort. You have to take some measures during those three years to help produce the fruit. The first thing you have to do is dig it. In other words, you have to turn the soil over. You have to work the ground. You have to loosen the earth and give it room to grow.
I know that probably more than a few of us are frustrated because we want to see some fruit in our lives and it has been three years. I’ve been in a spot where it has taken longer than I expected for God to do what I wanted Him to do in my life. I was frustrated but I kept digging. I’m going to turn over the soil and make room for God to work his process in my life. I’ve learned that when God gives you a dream, it is probably going to be harder and take longer than what you anticipate and there is a very good reason for that, so that you learn to rely on Him in the process. So that then as you are a part of that vine, then the fruit begins to work and come out of your life.
I don’t know where it is that you want to bear fruit in your life. It might be a relationship that needs a little bit more fruit. It might be a career. Here’s what I believe. You have to dig it. You have to do your homework and your groundwork. Like I said a couple of weeks ago: you need to pray like it depends on God but you need to work like it depends on you. You have to plan the work and work the plan. Three years in and you might still be frustrated but I believe that if you keep doing the right thing day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, God will show up and show off. He will produce something. God wants you to be fruitful and if you do the groundwork, something great is going to happen.
I think it is a mindset. Peter King did an in-depth interview with the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rogers and Aaron said one thing that says it all to me. He said I desperately want to be coached. I thought to myself this is probably a player that needs to be coached the least. And yet he wants to be coached the most. Here’s what I’m getting at. Football, following Christ, same difference. It is a mindset. I think we have a couple of options. We could take that comfort mindset and say I really don’t want you to dig right here because I’m comfortable right here right now. Or you can take a growth mindset. A growth mindset is let’s not just dig, let’s dig deep because at the end of the day, I want to produce as much fruit as I possibly can. If you are being honest with yourself this weekend, are you on the comfort side or are you on the growth side?
Over the years, I desperately wanted and want to be mentored. Thank God for Bobby Basham, Ron Weinke and Ric Lewellen who desperately wanted to mentor. I desperately want to be pastored. I need people to speak into my life. As soon as I’m sanctified, I will let you know! But don’t hold your breath! I am a work in progress and there is so much for God to do in my life and I know I have to do the groundwork. So I hope that is encouraging.
Let me share this. Let me tell you now to dig in at Fellowsville AG. It is not complicated. You plug into a ministry. You plug into the many opportunities we have here from kids church and nursery to youth and royal rangers to cleaning and decorating. God has given you a gift and it is easier for me to tithe my money than it is for me to tithe my time or my talent. So when I’m really on point, I find that I’m a little bit more generous with my time and my talent. I believe you have something to offer this church that no one else has. We need you! The church is a body and you have a role to play. No one has time. Listen, you don’t find time, you make time. So you have to prioritize. And we have all these new incredible small groups starting up so I challenge you. I love you but as some point you can’t just continue to take up space. Maturity is producing more than you consume. So let’s allow the Lord to dig us and let’s dig in.
II. Dung it
II. Dung it
The King James says it in a way that you would never say it. Before the advent of horseless carriages, horses were the primary mode of transportation, and like cars, horses have exhaust pipes. And not just fumes! The average horse produces 15 to 30 pounds of manure per day. Aren’t you glad you came to church this weekend! 100 years ago, there was 150,000 horses in New York City. Do the math. Three million pounds of manure every day. In 1894, the Time of London estimated that by 1950, every street in London would be buried under nine feet of horse manure. Can we thank the Lord for the car! I bring this up because unless you grew up on a farm, have you lost any sleep over manure? No! But it is amazing. That something as noxious as manure would be the catalyst for growth. Here’s what I’m thinking. If I don’t know a thing about a thing, I’m thinking you put manure on something and that thing is going to die. Yet, God in his way of wiring his creation, says why don’t we take the waste product and let that be the fertilizer, the catalyst for growth. I think that is awesome! And I don’t think it is just an agricultural principle. I think it holds true in our lives.
The KJV says dung it. The NLT says put manure on it. The NIV says fertilize it. They are all synonyms. After you dig it, you have to dung it. If you want to bear fruit, you have to fertilize. All of us know people who have been following Christ for 25 years but they don’t have 25 years of experience, they have one year of experience repeated 25 times. Why is that? Because they are not allowing the Word of God and the Spirit of God to fertilize growth in them. So they tend to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Here’s the point, God wants to take those things in your life, the wasted years and the wasted relationships and the terrible decisions that you’ve made, He says let me take those and recycle them and then fertilize them and use them. What the enemy intended for harm, He will use it for good.
We are going to be starting up “Living Free” Groups.
What is Living Free?
What is Living Free?
Living Free is a small group strategy that has helped over 800,000 people learn to face life's struggles and move toward freedom and wholeness in Christ. At church and work, people are smiling outside--hurting inside. Keeping up appearances. But something has its hooks in them. Threatens to take them under. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Broken Relationships. Caregiving Responsibilities. Addictions. Eating Disorders. Money Problems. Compulsive Sex. A Loved-one's Problems.
There are some of you here this weekend that need a little bit of hope that God is not done with you.
How awesome is that! Let’s experience living free!
You have to dig it, you have to dung it, and you have to cut it.
9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’ ”
III. Cut it down
III. Cut it down
There are different kinds of pruning.
There is directional pruning. If a tree is growing in the wrong direction, you need to correct it. There is vista pruning. That is when a branch might be blocking your view and you need to prune it so that you get a good sight-line.
There is Direct TV pruning. If it is blocking your satellite dish and you can’t get NFL Ticket, you cut it! I made that one up!
Then there is a kind of pruning that is called dead-wooding. It is removing the dead wood or the dead weight. I think all of us have some dead weight. Bad habits that waste time, waste energy, waste money. Listen, my goal is my utmost for his highest, to borrow the phrase from Oswald Chambers. There are things in our life that do not produce fruit. They are barren fig trees and if digging and dunging don’t work, you have to do some pruning.
Question: what am I doing that accomplishes nothing and leads to nowhere? That’s a great question! What am I doing that is accomplishing nothing? One of the seven deadly sins is sloth but the original definition was actually two dimensional. We automatically think laziness and that is certainly half of the equation but the original meaning wasn’t just laziness, it was busyness. Stick with me because at first laziness and busyness seem like antonyms but they are really synonyms. If you are too lazy to establish boundaries and establish priorities, what is going to happen? You are going to be too busy. Busyness is really a form of laziness. It is a failure to prune your life in a way that you can actually be fruitful.
After planting a fig tree, you actually need to prune it back by half so that the tree can focus on its root system. But even after a fig tree is fully grown, you still need to prune it by about a third to force the fruit. It is a process that never ends. In fact, a healthy fig tree really only has four to six branches that are producing the fruit. Everything else has been pruned.
So we need to go through this process. But let me reframe this idea of pruning. When I go to the gym, I am pruning fat. It is dead weight. When I confess sin, I am pruning guilt. It is this emotional weight that weighs me down. When I tithe, I am pruning greed in my life. God can do more with 90 percent than I can do with 100 percent. So when I give God the first fruit, when I subtract, God multiplies.
A few weeks ago, I talked about bragging about people behind their back. I try to do that often. One reason I do that is because it prunes pride in my own heart when I’m complimenting other people.
And what about getting into God’s Word? says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. So in a sense, what I’m doing when I get into God’s Word is I’m unlearning. I’m unlearning some of the lies and the assumptions and fears that I have bought into from the enemy. And God renews my mind.
Here’s what I’m getting at. Pruning is a part of your life every single day and in every way. But what we need to do is submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus and put ourselves on the potter’s wheel and say, ‘God, what in my life is not producing fruit?’ What are the barren fig trees in your life that you need to cut down?
So let me share one of my bad habits and how I’ve tried to deal with it. One of the biggest barren fig trees in my life is that silly cell phone. I love apps. I love Twitter. I love Instagram but when you check them 50 times a day, it is a barren fig tree. So I realized that there was one button on my phone that I never used, the off button. Someone might need to get ahold of me. We can’t imagine not being immediately available to anybody and everybody. So what I’ve tried to do is put a few rules in place. Then we said no phone at the table. Because if your phone is at the table, you’re not. Not 100 percent. Sometimes it is big things, sometimes it is little things but you have to find a way to identify those barren fig trees.
Here’s how we say it around here. If you want God to do something new, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. It is out with the old and in with the new. You need to subtract so that God can multiply.
Every year before the new football season starts, they have final cuts in the NFL. Every coach and player and will tell you it is the worst day on the NFL calendar when they have to cut down to a 53 man roster. It is true in football and it is true in finances. If you want to balance your budget, you have to make budget cuts. Here’s what I believe. God wants to put his finger on some things in our lives that are barren fig trees and we need the courage to cut them down. The word ‘decide’ from the Latin root means to cut.
Here’s the good news. You are one decision away from a totally different life. It might be the most difficult decision you have ever made but if you have the courage to do it, it will change your life. Dig it, dung it, cut it.
I know that some of you feel like you have wasted years, wasted talent, wasted relationships. I want to leave you with a promise instead of just praying for you. It is a promise in , God says: I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten.
25 The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.