The Lesson of the Fig Tree – Part Two

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Part Two

“Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away”
Matthew 21:18-19

The lesson of the fig tree is one of great value to those who seek truth. Its message is for our growth and development.

Jesus came to the fig tree looking for figs. He came looking for fruit consistent with its capability. So it is with us. The righteousness of God prevents Him from an expectation that is beyond the ability of the tree to produce. The God who measures the talents to every child of His according to their ability, is the same God who holds each of us accountable to Him for that gift. This truth brings our accountability into perspective. It is also meant to be instructive to us as parents and ministers of God that we walk in His wisdom regarding the lives of our own children and of every believer. We are not to expect Paul to minister as Peter, nor Jude to speak as Apollos. Such expectations are the result of religious doctrines and confines. The Life of Christ within regards the individual gifts and capacities of others and looks for the corresponding fruit. When the fruit of an individual is consistent with the call and the gifts of God given, there should be a collective rejoicing unto the Giver of all good things. When the fruit of a life is missing or lacking the vitality of its call and capability, there is great need for the ministration of exhortation and admonition. Ministers who fail in this vital aspect of ministry will find themselves accountable to the Chief Shepherd of our souls.

Stewards and Shepherds

We are stewards of the grace of God and as such we are to shepherd His flock with a desire to see Him glorified in each and every child of His. It requires a pure heart to walk in such things knowing full well our own accountability unto Him. The fear of the Lord is the ground upon which His true ministers walk and function. John the Apostle declared that he had no greater joy than to “see his children walking in truth”; the truth of what has been given to them. The one who has been given prophetic insight, that is the thing to which God will hold them accountable (1-see below). The one who teaches must teach the truth of God to the end that every life will grow in the holiness and wisdom of God. (2-see below). Those who exhort must do so with purity and simplicity (3-see below) As to the Apostolic, there is to be a faithfulness to call God’s people to the obedience of faith (4-see below). The list is as endless as the diversity of God’s creation.

(1) “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (Romans 12:6)
(2) “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28)
(3) “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3)
(4) “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5)

In the book of Romans, Paul exhorts God’s people to receive all of these diversities as the gifts and the wisdom of God. Those who refuse these expressions deny God’s wisdom and subject themselves to His judgment. Division is the result of man’s wisdom and pride.

“Only by pride cometh contention…”
Proverbs 13:10

The Lesson of the fig tree is that He comes to each of us looking for corresponding fruit. His expectation is consistent with His grace given. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with one talent was judged severely for his faithlessness to the gift given (Matthew 15:30). In the Parable of the Vine, the branch which bore no fruit was “cut off” (John 15:2,6). The lesson of the Fig Tree was meant for our admonition and learning to that same end.

The response of Jesus to the two individuals who were faithful to their respective talents was the same! Different talents yet the same reward for their faithfulness to God’s measure.

“His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”
Matthew 25:21,23

The purpose of these diverse ministrations is:

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,
being fruitful in every good work…”
Colossians 1:10

Brian Troxel

Spurgeon and the Cholera Epidemic 1854

Spurgeon and the Cholera Epidemic of 1854

It is worth noting that the global pandemic in which we find ourselves is  not comparable to epidemics of former times.  There were not the communications systems and infrastructure in place back then yet, during those times, Christians continued to reveal the love of God through their compassion and good works. There are a lot of considerations today with regard to quarantines and other precautions and there is a love and a wisdom in which we are called to walk. May our lives be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit in this time. All things are for our learning and growth.  There is a fine line between presumption and faith; may we walk circumspectly.  Love to you all.
BT

The following is an article I found interesting:

SPURGEON’S WALK AN EXAMPLE TO US

“As a young village preacher, Charles Spurgeon admired the Puritan ministers who stayed behind to care for the sick and dying during the Great Plague of London in 1665.[1] Now in the fall of 1854, the newly called pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in London found himself pastoring his congregation amid a major cholera outbreak in the Broad Street neighborhood just across the river.

How did Spurgeon respond?

1) Prioritize local ministry

During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying. I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow.[2]

Spurgeon’s popularity had grown throughout the Fenland villages outside of Cambridge during his pastorate at Waterbeach. Even after arriving in London, he continued to be invited to preach in those villages during the week. But during the outbreak, Spurgeon recognized his responsibility to be present with those who were sick and dying. This was not a time to be an itinerant preacher. This was a time to focus on caring for his church and the community in which he lived. He would not outsource this task to his deacons or other church leaders but remained in London in order to fulfill his duty.

2) Adjust as needed, but continue meeting if possible

The Broad Street Cholera Outbreak of 1854 occurred in August and September of that year, and its effects would continue to be felt in the weeks and months following. The neighborhood where Spurgeon’s church met was not quarantined, so they were able to continue meeting throughout those months. Interestingly, no record of the sermons Spurgeon preached during those days remain.[3] Perhaps the outbreak forced the congregation to adjust some of their previous practices, including the transcription of sermons. Additionally, Spurgeon was likely too busy in those days to edit sermons for publication.

However, we know that the congregation continued meeting during those days because the church’s minute books contain records of congregational meetings carried on throughout the fall of 1854. In those books, amid all the pastoral challenges of the outbreak, Spurgeon and his deacons continued to receive new members, pursue inactive members, observe the Lord’s Supper, and practice all the other normal activities of a church. Not only that, but in retrospect, it was particularly during this time, when news of death raged all around the city, that Spurgeon found Londoners most receptive to the gospel.

If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.[4]

In other words, not only did Spurgeon gather his church amid the outbreak, but he saw in these gatherings a powerful opportunity for the gospel and proclaimed the gospel boldly.

Pastors need to exercise wisdom when it comes to gathering as a church, especially when the health and lives of people are at stake. Certainly, adjustments will need to be made and priority will have to be given to only the most important aspects of our gatherings. But when such gatherings are possible, pastors should realize that they can be tremendous opportunities for preaching the gospel to those who are desperately looking for hope.

3) Visit the sick

As the pastor, Spurgeon not only continued to gather his church, but he also made himself available throughout the week, working tirelessly to visit the sick and grief-stricken.

In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighborhood in which I labored was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave.[5]

In these visits, Spurgeon prayed with the sick and grieving, and pointed them to the hope of the gospel. But more than just bringing gospel content, his presence communicated something of God’s comfort to his people. Though these visits were often fearful and full of grief, there were also glorious occasions of faith and joy.

I went home, and was soon called away again; that time, to see a young woman. She also was in the last extremity, but it was a fair, fair sight. She was singing, — though she knew she was dying, — and talking to those round about her, telling her brothers and sisters to follow her to Heaven, bidding goodbye to her father, and all the while smiling as if it had been her marriage day. She was happy and blessed.[6]

4) Be open to new evangelistic opportunities

Spurgeon did not limit himself merely to visiting members of his congregation but was willing to visit “persons of all ranks and religions.”

All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and. saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.[7]

On one occasion, at three in the morning, Spurgeon was summoned to visit a dying man. Surprisingly, this was not a Christian, but someone who had opposed him:

That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips.[8]

Spurgeon went right away, but by the time he arrived, there was little he could do.

I stood by his side, and spoke to him, but he gave me no answer. I spoke again; but the only consciousness he had was a foreboding of terror, mingled with the stupor of approaching death. Soon, even that was gone, for sense had fled, and I stood there, a few minutes, sighing with the poor woman who had watched over him, and altogether hopeless about his soul.[9]

Not every evangelistic opportunity will result in dramatic conversions. But during times of disease, surprising opportunities may arise. Therefore, take advantage of any opportunities you might have to preach the gospel to those who are suffering.

5) Entrust your life to God

As Spurgeon gave himself to this pastoral work, he soon found himself physically and mentally exhausted. Not only that, but he began to fear for his own safety. Yet, amid his fears, he learned to entrust himself to God and to His faithfulness.

At first, I gave myself up with youthful ardor to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions; but, soon, I became weary in body, and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.

I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when, as God would have it, my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Great Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore, in a good bold handwriting, these words: —

“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying, in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The Providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window, I gratefully acknowledge; and in the remembrance of its marvelous power, I adore the Lord my God.[10]

Here, Spurgeon does not promise that no Christian will ever die of sickness. Rather, the Christian “[needs] not dread [sickness], for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death.”[11]

Once again, pastors must exercise wisdom and take appropriate precautions as they visit those who are dying. At the same time, our security cannot be in those precautions, but it must be in God. As we entrust our lives to God and faithfully carry out our responsibilities, we have an opportunity to demonstrate what hope and peace look like in the midst of death.

Conclusion

In many ways, Spurgeon’s example during the cholera outbreak of 1854 follows the pattern of normal pastoral ministry on every occasion. Pastors are to be present with their people, lead in the gatherings of the church, care for those who are suffering, be faithful in evangelism, and continue trusting in God through it all. The main difference is that during an outbreak, there is a heightened reality of suffering and death. Therefore, the work becomes more intense and urgent, and the opportunities for the gospel multiply. As pastors and church leaders consider their response to the coronavirus in our present day, there is much to figure out practically and logistically. But the core of our ministry remains: Preach the gospel.

Speaking in 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, Spurgeon gave this charge to pastors and all Christians:

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that —

“There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”[12]

Copied from:
https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/spurgeon-and-the-cholera-outbreak-of-1854

A True Heart

The True Heart

“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;
try my reins and my heart”
Psalm 26:2

A true heart does not seek to cover sin; it seeks the Lord to expose every wrong and crooked way. Exposure is the path to purity and the hope of salvation and freedom. The Light of Christ penetrates the heart and His eyes burn through the very soul of man. The burning consumes pride, self-seeking and the desire for pre-eminence. It removes the religious fig leaves of those who cloak themselves in garments of piety and false humility.

May our God, as a consuming fire, burn within our hearts until there be no shadows or pretense. Let there be no hidden chambers for sin to hide. He alone can heal the broken and restore righteousness and holiness. He beckons us to the fellowship of the fire; the fellowship of His Light.

The prison of pretense is deep, dark and rooted in sin and hypocrisy. The foundation of this prison is built one lie at a time. Mercy was never meant by God to excuse sin; its purpose is to cause men to come to the Light, to free them from the misery of sin. Mercy’s true triumph is in men and women finding the courage to face the light and allowing it to shine into the hidden areas of their hearts, set free by the “spirit of burning”.

“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged:
and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil”
Proverbs 16:6

Purity of hearts brings us freedom and the liberty to express Him through the vessel of our redeemed self. As the gem, polished and cut, shines with the luster of its own being, so Christ has called each of us to be a distinct expression of His handiwork. Come to Him, present yourself to the light and fire of all that He is that you may know true liberty.

“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”
2 Corinthians 3:17

An individual’s liberty will be in proportion to their surrender to the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

Brian Troxel

Thought for Today – Eternal Life

Thought for Today

Eternal Life

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you are not having life in yourselves. He who is eating my flesh and is drinking my blood is having life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. He who keeps on eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in me is continually abiding and I in him”
John 6:53-56 (Wuest Translation)

The Wuest Translation brings out the correct Greek Parsing in these very significant verses where the “ing” speaks of a continuously feasting upon Him who is the True Bread of Life. They who feed upon the eternal living bread are filled with the eternal living life of Him. If an individual ceases to eat they cease to know of the fire and the life of Him who holds us in the mystery of His Life.

“The appetite grows for what it feeds on”
I.B. Wells

Brian Troxel

A Spiritual Checkup

A Spiritual Checkup

This is an excerpt of my own heart’s internal desire to remain current and alive unto my God and Saviour.

Spiritual Ignorance is the result of disobedience.

The Remedy:

“But he that doeth truth
cometh to the light”
John 3:21

Spiritual Stagnation is the result of fruitless living.

“Every branch in me that
beareth not fruit he taketh away”
John 15:2

Spiritual Apathy is the result of not abiding in Him.

“If a man abide not in me,
he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered”
John 15:6

Spiritual Poverty is the result of robbing God of the gift of ourselves to Him.

“Will a man rob God?
Yet ye have robbed me”
Malachi 3:8

The Remedy:

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship”
Romans 12:1

Repentance and godly sorrow is the great gift of God’s mercy to us. In turning we shall be turned, and in godly sorrow is found the wonder of His Joy. Humbling ourselves is the precursor to Him being magnified in our lives.

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly way, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, which brings no regret”
2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Σ

 “Examine yourselves,
to see whether you are in the faith”
2 Corinthians 13:5

Brian Troxel

The Reward of the Righteous

The Reward of the Righteous

“He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly…
his waters shall be sure”
Isaiah 33:15-16

Righteousness in our walk and in our speech is the precursor to the sure waters of the Lord. His waters flow freely from a life that is compatible with His. Righteousness brings the freedom of His Spirit to water others with the goodness and grace of God. His flow is the portion of all who walk with integrity of heart.

As we walk in His righteousness, we discover that the waters of the Lord flow in times of plenty and in times of drought. In trials, tribulations and sorrows His waters will be sure unto those who have made Him their spring and source. Sure waters are the blessing of the Lord upon His own.

Those who are His know of His provision.

Deep waters pour from deep places and rich are the blessings unto others. He gives grace to the humble and the bread of life to the wise.

“And the Lord shall guide thee continually,
and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not
Isaiah 58:11

The reward of the righteous is God Himself.

“For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous;
with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield”
Psalm 5:12

Brian Troxel

The Fear of the Lord

The Fear of the Lord

“But you shall fear the LORD your God,
and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies”

2 Kings 17:39

Deliverance and freedom are fruits of the fear of the Lord. When we touch His Holy Presence there is a peace which settles over our entire being. Peace is the atmosphere of a life that is right with God. Through His Presence we come to know the wonder of the “fear of the Lord”. There is a sanctity which eradicates sin. The Seraphim (Fiery Ones) who stand before Him must shield their eyes from the majestic gaze of God. John in the Book of Revelation, who was walking in the fullness of the Spirit, fell down as one dead when he saw the Glorified Jesus. Men and women who do not fear God, do not know Him.

May He awaken us again to the benefits of knowing and walking in this wonder. In fearing Him we will once again discover the blessings associated with its beauty.

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever” (Psalm 19:9)
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him” (Psalm 33:18)
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence” (Proverbs 14:26)
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27)

SELAH
(Pause and Consider)

“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied
Acts 9:31

The early Church walked and lived in the atmosphere of the fear of the Lord. They knew well the consequences of the actions of Ananias and Sapphira. They understood His Holiness and Fire and walked accordingly.

God gives us the key to “understanding the Fear of the Lord”.

“Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; THEN shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God”
Proverbs 2:3-5

The understanding of the fear of the Lord belongs to those who have sought for it and have discovered it riches.

“By humility and the fear of the Lord
are riches, and honour, and life”
Proverbs 22:4

Brian Troxel

Thought for Today – Charles Spurgeon

Thought for Today

“For he satisfieth the longing soul,
and filleth the hungry soul with goodness”
Psalm 107:9

“It is well to have longing, and the more intense they are the better. The Lord will satisfy soul-longings, however great and all absorbing they may be. Let us greatly long, for the Lord will greatly give. We are never in a right state of mind when we are contented with ourselves, and are free from longings. Desires for more grace and groanings which cannot be uttered, are growing pains, and we should wish to feel them more and more. Blessed Spirit make us sigh and cry after better things and for more of the best things.

Hunger is by no means a pleasant sensation. Yet blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Such persons shall not only have their hunger relieved with a little food, but they shall be filled”
– Charles Spurgeon

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness: for they shall be filled”
Matthew 5:6

The Throne of Grace

The Throne of Grace

“Lord, lift thou up
the light of thy countenance upon us”
Psalm 4:6

Prayers of godly ones have been uttered throughout the ages and are eternal. His own of every generation have breathed this prayer, in one form or another, unto the Lord our Shepherd. Often these words are inspired in times of sorrow and testing. There are times when tears become the simple language offered to our great God. He who bears the title “man of sorrows” hears and feels the heart throb of His Own. His heart is near to those who in absolute trust and hope lift their eyes to the only One who can bring Light and Life into every situation.

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and we may find grace for timely help”
Hebrews 4:16

We have the privilege of drawing nigh unto The Throne of God; a Throne so high that all must bow in its presence, yet one that is available to the broken, the lost and the weak. Here the broken are mended and the lost are filled with a new determination and purpose. Let us worship the One who made this Throne accessible!

“And when He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having harps, and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints
Revelation 5:8

Brian Troxel