The Fig Tree Series, Part 5: The Fruits of Unforgiveness
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]” (Mark 11:25-26, NASB)
Well, friends, we’ve been in this place for five weeks now, and I think I’ve just about covered all the amazing little reminders this funny passage of scripture has revealed to me as of late. But I don’t think I could move on and call this series closed without covering the last two verses in this section of Mark
11,which is one last little point Jesus teaches us about prayer.
Last week, we covered the first half of it: When we pray, we must pray with faith in God; but also with the faith that God will fulfill our prayers only when our request falls in line with His will. It sounds a little bureaucratic, maybe, but basically it means that we should pray with the belief that God can do anything. He could throw a mountain into the sea if we asked Him to. But it also means that when we ask something, and He hears it, if it doesn’t come to be, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have faith. It just means our prayer, however good-natured it might be, did not fall into the will of God.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NASB)
The keywords there? “If we ask anything according to His will.” And the Greek word for “will” is better translated to His “desires.” So just because the mountain could be thrown into the sea, doesn’t mean it will, especially if removing that mountain means that your faith would be weakened.
And everyone loves talking about that part, right? The part about telling your mountains to move in faith, and they will move? Of course we do, because it makes us feel powerful. It’s a comfortable message. But I find it funny that we all very quickly forget the second part of Jesus’ teaching on prayer at the foot of the withered fig tree. You see, the second part is a lot less comfortable.
In fact, it’s something the Church doesn’t really like to talk about because it puts every single one of us on the spot: forgiveness.
It’s a super important topic when it comes to Christianity, because it’s something we struggle
with on a daily basis. We’ve all been offended. We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been slighted by someone. Some of us have a real talent for unforgiveness, holding grudges for decades.
But it’s no coincidence that Jesus talks about it while he’s on the topic of prayer, standing beside the dead and fruitless fig tree. Unforgiveness is an easy thing to start stacking up in your heart. It tends to snowball and accumulate into bitterness. It blocks us from real transformation because it’s something that Jesus has no stock in. Unforgiveness, just like sexual immorality or murder, is a serious sin. So much so, that Jesus makes it a point to tell us that before we pray, we should always search our hearts for it.
If we can live a life that isn’t stingy with forgiveness– if we can find it in ourselves to let go of the offense that we all carry against those that have hurt us– we’ll actually be able to stand before God one day and be forgiven in kind by our Father. If we can learn to forgive others, our prayers will be that much stronger. We won’t live with the spiritual blockage it can cause.
And believe me, I can use this message just as much as anyone else. I am someone who can stay mad for a long time, and I’ve been taught some big lessons in forgiveness over the past 2 years– lessons that I will continue to learn, no doubt, until the day I stand before Jesus.
But just think about it: If not forgiving others means that God will not forgive you in Heaven, then just think about how unforgiveness can affect you on this side of eternity. It’s still a spiritual blockage. If you want to pray clearer, stronger, and more devoted prayers? Deal with your unforgiveness. And that’s not to say that forgiveness will afford you more spiritual power to be superior to other Christians and make God love you more than any other Christian.
What it will do is change you. It will make you more like Jesus. It will bring you deeper into an understanding of faith and relationship with God. It will make the way you approach God different. You’ll pray prayers in the pursuit of simply being with Him and strengthening your faith. You’ll live out a faith that isn’t about what you get from being a good Christian, but is moreso about knowing your savior and glorifying Him.
And guess what that means? More fruit.
Yes, it’s intentional that Jesus addresses unforgiveness in the same vein as the withered fig tree. Because unforgiveness puts us on the path to becoming that fig tree. Unforgiveness keeps us from being able to draw nearer to Christ, which is the enabler for us to be able to bear fruit. Unforgiveness is a wedge that takes us farther away from the source that we long to be grafted deeper into. It removes us from our rightful place in His Church.
It disqualifies us and holds us farther from the essential things we need in order to be found fruitful in the eyes of God. So maybe we have to get a little bit uncomfortable and forgive those offenses we carry. Maybe we need to stop today and really be honest with ourselves about the things we’re holding against other people. And then we need to weigh those flesh-desires in continuing on in our bitterness against our desires to be nearer to Jesus and bear fruit.
So, as I close this awesome series revolving around the importance of the fig tree in Mark 11, I want to challenge you to think: are you treating your relationship with Jesus in a way where you’re trying to know him, or trying to get something out of him? Are you living in a way that brings you nearer to the Savior, or are you living good work to good work and waiting for His next blessing? Are you trying to be seen by God or seen by man? Because ultimately, although it’s nice to be someone that bears fruit, that’s not what we’re really supposed to be in pursuit of.
What we need to be in pursuit of is a deep and loving relationship with God, the life-source and the catalyst of any spiritual fruit that is to be found– or not found– in our lives. And when we find ourselves independent of the Vine of Christ, then we need to do a real search within ourselves to find the sinful nature we are falling back on that keeps us from seeing Him rightly.