"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it." Mark 11:12-14
"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" 22"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:20-25
I had a dream this morning about figs. I don't think there was much significance about the bulk of the dream, but I woke up remembering figs- and seeing figs in a basket. And I knew I was supposed to teach someone about these figs. What's kind of funny about that is the only figs I've ever eaten have been in the form of cookies you buy at the store. We just don't have figs around here, so I've never had one. I do remember being puzzled in the dream because I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to teach about figs when I knew nothing about them.
So of course, I hop over to my computer, plug in the word figs and see what scripture it spits out. There were a few, but it was this specific passage that leaped off the screen, and it was like, ah, here it is. But as I'm reading these verse through a few times, I admit that I'm wondering which direction to tackle, because there is so much good stuff here... could be a candidate for writing these verses down and doing an in-depth word study. But in the meantime...
What strikes me first about these verses was Jesus cursing the tree. Actually, the whole interaction with the tree was just strange to me. Figs grew in abundance in that area, so you would think that Jesus would know when a fig tree should be bearing fruit. But He was hungry, and saw the fig tree, and somehow that that maybe, just maybe God would have put an early fruit or two out for him? I don't know what Jesus is thinking, but then he comes to this tree that has no fruit- and shouldn't since it's not the season, and he gets angry with the tree. His anger comes out in the form of a curse to the tree. All the disciples heard this too, and we don't find out until a little later why they heard it.
But think about the disciples- what is going through their minds at this point, and shortly thereafter? I mean, here they are following this guy who is supposed to be all about love and compassion, and he took the time to curse a tree that shouldn't have had fruit in the first place. Even more so, as we read on in Mark, Jesus goes from cursing the fig tree to the temple, where his fuse is shortened even further, and he starts turning over money tables and throwing out the people who are selling there. Sure sounds like Jesus was having a bad day, and he was displaying it for all his followers to see.
But then the following morning, as they are leaving the city, Peter's gaze travels to the fig tree, perhaps thinking about the hoopla that tree started and marvels at the fact that it has actually withered overnight. It is here that we learn one of the greatest truths in the Bible- and that is that our words carry some weight and have some power.
Right now I am conducting my own little non-scientific science experiment. I have three tomato plants growing in the house. Two are upstairs, and one downstairs, both in full sun windows. The ones upstairs I speak nice words to- I bless them. I call them blessed and tell them to bear abundant fruit in Jesus' name. The one that is downstairs is being ignored with words. It is getting watered and fertilized, but I say nothing to it. ( I am not cursing it- that is an experiment I will do next year, add the cursed plant. ) I'll tell you, the tomato plants upstairs are almost a full foot taller than the one downstairs. Their leaves seem to me to be a little larger, and overall they just look extremely healthy and wonderful.
My words are having an impact. Our words always have impact- and we really should be more careful about what we say and how we say things to people. You know, when I was in high school, I was walking in the hall with my friends when a rather popular, kind of snobby girl walking past us looked straight at me and said "she is so ugly." I can still hear her say that to this day, and I really think that those words had some impact on my life for a time. I never thought of myself as attractive in the least, but these words sunk right in, and I heard them a lot over the years. Just the simple thing- I would be out trying on dresses or looking for something new to wear, and as I'd look in the mirror I would see ugly.
But you know what? God didn't make anything ugly. He didn't create anything that isn't perfectly beautiful, and last fall, God gave me a gift. At one of our conferences last fall, God took those words away and had people speak new ones into me. I cannot count the number of people who, in that one weekend alone, came up to me and gave me a hug. And always, with that hug, people would say "you are so beautiful". Almost those exact words, every single time. God took that one person's "she is so ugly" and replaced it with at least 50 "you are so beautifuls"- isn't God so cool? That weekend I really and truly felt like something broke off of me- I have no idea what impact that really had on my life, but something definitely changed, and I have so much more self-confidence than I had before then. All because people spoke kind words into my life.
The spoken word is so real. But that is only one part of what these verses are saying to us. Did you read the second bunch of verses? Here it is again:
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:22-25
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Oh, wait an amazing lesson of faith! While I really enjoy refreshing my mind on the power of words, these are the verses that speak life into me this morning. I have been in such a season of trusting and patience, and while I just feel that all that patience is about to be rewarded, I also feel that I am on a cusp. I am on a cusp where I am holding on to my faith, but it won't take much to push me over the edge into the area of disbelief- the area where I start second guessing God's promises and start taking matters into my own hand, trying to do what I can myself, stressing myself out the whole while.
Thank God for these wonderful words found in Mark. They give me the courage to stand on my faith just a little longer, because God loves me. God knows my heart, He knows what I have been patiently waiting on Him for, and the day will come when that patience will be rewarded and the faith will be answered, and boy, are we going to have an amazing testimony of God's goodness. I can't wait to shout it from the rooftops- Look what my God has done for us! He can do it for you too, because He loves you so much!
The day will come. But in the meantime, I can spend time in His Word, reading all these wonderful verses of love and encouragement. And I can look at the example of Jesus, and the things that He did and see that He really was human. He had bad days too- but in the end, those bad days ended up being great examples of faith. Our bad days can be the exact same way. When we feel we are just having a day we wish was over, we can remember that Jesus, too, had His off days, and find compassion and understanding. He knows. And His love will get us through to the next day, where we can look back and say "oh yeah, now I see."