Luke 13:6-9 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’
Have you ever been in a circumstance where it felt like you weren’t getting anywhere? You toil and strive to complete a work but it seemed that for every two steps forward you were taking 3 steps back?
I have known the pitfalls of not progressing, in more ways than one. I was once working on a project, actually trying to repair an RV, and the task from the onset seemed relatively straight forward until I started the project. Once I tore into the ceiling that needed replaced I found rotten wood, when I took out the rotten wood I realized the plumbing needed replaced, then it was the electrical, followed by sealing all the leaks. It seemed the project would have no end, every time I thought I had it figured out, something else would crop up. The day my wife and I sold that RV was a day that couldn’t come soon enough. I would have paid someone to take that off my hands.
Have you ever felt like that spiritually?
You strive and strive to walk in a way that brings glory to God, only to find your weaknesses are far more overwhelming than you thought? The process of going from victory to defeat then back again can have its toll on the one who desires to be more like Christ. The lack of consistency is a big factor in those who suffer from self defeat or depression.
What is it that prevents us from living victoriously in Christ?
Is there a way to live that is always victorious? What happens if we never gain the upper hand in the trials where we seem to consistently fail?
These questions are ones I have asked myself for years.
Proverbs 24:16 “For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity”
1st—Falling does not imply complete failure. It is a reflection of our spiritual condition.
When a person falls or stumbles, the focus must be on the path and not on the predicament. What caused us to stumble? What did we stumble over? The answers are ones we sometimes don’t want to face. We know our weaknesses and yet aren’t willing to change our lifestyle to strengthen our position against the pitfalls of the enemy.
If we are being led down a path that is arduous and full of danger, we must consider a few points that lead to success.
A. Keep your eyes on the leader. Our leader is Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. His omniscient power will never lead us astray. He knows where He leads, our responsibility is watching Him. (Hebrews 12:2)
B. Don’t look back or to the left or the right, maintain your gaze straight ahead. As Lot’s wife was instructed to not look back as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, we must not look back to the life from which we were delivered. (2 Chronicles 34:2)
C. If you begin to venture off the path, get back on it as quickly as possible. Correct the error of your way by listening to the conviction of the Spirit. He will lead you in all truth. (John 16:13)
D. When you stumble, recognize what led to the fall and be more prepared next time. Wisdom is learning from your mistakes and not making them again. The way to do this is by changing the behavior that led to the stumble, this is wisdom gained from experience. (Psalm 145:14)
E. When you fall, repent of your sin and get back up, the Lord is gracious. His grace never runs dry, it is unconditional, and His love does not diminish. It is the Lord who picks us up and restores us. (Revelation 2:5)
Romans 14:21 “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”
2nd—It is our responsibility as those called by the Lamb of God, to live in such a way that doesn’t cause others to stumble.
Our purpose as the body of Christ is to build up one another with love and good works. Encouraging each other and using the spiritual gifts God has given in strengthening the Body. If we do offend a brother, we are to quickly make amends before it gets out of control; this requires humility. If we lack love, we might cause unbelievers to stumble over us.
Romans 2:21 “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?”
3rd—When we lack understanding of the Word of God, we cause people to stumble if we misrepresent the Truth.
Malachi 2:8 “But you have departed from the way;
You have caused many to stumble at the law.
You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
It is important to have a right understanding of God’s Word. Don’t allow your faith to be based on emotion or hype. The world will try to declare what is good or right and there are many false teachers ready to lead you astray. Look at God’s Word as a whole, learn God’s character and allow His Spirit to lead you into all truth.
4th—If we judge one another unjustly, we stumble over God’s law and falsely misrepresent God’s justice.
As believers in Christ, we are called to render judgement to other believers (by the Word of God). Not by bringing condemnation…that is only for God, but we correct one another in love by the Word of God. We do not judge unbelievers, they already stand condemned.
In regards to believers…..
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.”
In regards to unbelievers…..
John 3:18 “But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”.
5th—-Unbelievers stumble over Truth.
1 Peter 2:7-8 “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,”A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.”
Unbelievers stumble because the Truth of God is spiritually discerned. The element of God’s Word that is designed for them is the law and grace. The gospel is meant to be an introduction and a call.
Jesus is the only path to God. This exclusivity to life and godliness is a major issue for those who want to choose their own way. Since Jesus is one part of the godhead, reality shows there is only one door into God’s presence, there is no other way. The way God leads us into His presence without condemnation is through His Son. Jesus opened the door by dying upon the cross, now all you must do is walk through it.
How do we know if we abide in Christ?
His Spirit which dwells in the hearts of every true believer, reveals Himself in and through us. The art of progressing is by staying obedient to the Spirit of God’s lead in your life. The leading may be through correction, through an expression of a gift He gave you, or by remaining silent and waiting for God to speak. He isn’t slow, He is always faithful.
Patient endurance with contentment is the mark of a mature believer. Trust the Lord for all He is doing in your life and you will see His reward…the growth and maturity which marks a faithful follower of Christ.