Here’s Matthew’s version:
18Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew’s account is not my favorite, however, because it leaves out my five life-changing words, “It was out of season.” See Mark 11. Why are these words life changing for me?
Well, as I see it, the fig tree was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing – what God had created it to do. It was not the season for it to have figs. It was “resting”.
At first, I thought about how unfair that was for Jesus to curse a tree for doing exactly what God had created it to do – or, to be more exact, not do what it was not supposed to be doing.
But then, I felt God teaching me through this internal debate. You see, I’ve grown up being taught to pray “God’s will”. I had come to understand that everything had to be preceded or followed up with “if it be Your will.” Yet, it was not “God’s will” for this tree to have fruit at this time of the year. Still, Jesus prayed that the tree would wither and die and that no one would eat fruit from it again. And it did.
Then, the next day when the DUHciples acted so astounded that the tree was dead (particularly my favorite, Peter), Jesus laughed and told them that if they told a nearby mountain to get up and throw itself into the sea, and DID NOT DOUBT, that it would be done for them.
Hardly God’s will for a centuries old mountain to suddenly vanish into the ocean, huh?
So – I took all this to mean that my watered-down, powerless prayers were due to my lack of faith – how I believed that a prayer I muttered would be answered only if God willed it to happen. If He didn’t will it to happen it wouldn’t. So, why be concerned about faith? I was told to pray, so I did. That was the end of it. And, as a result, I seldom saw answers to my petitions to God.
Yet, with these five words God rekindled my understanding of the power of belief. Doubt is just as powerful, and I started to finally understand that. I began to practice praying and not doubting. I prayed confidently, less concerned with this internal debate about God’s will. Amazingly, I started seeing answers to my prayers – some small but some rather big. This increased my faith even more.
I should include a disclaimer about how you shouldn’t test God with selfish motives and inappropriate requests, but I think we all understand that.
Something to think about …