Towards the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus was hungry one morning as He traveled to Jerusalem. When He saw a fig tree, He only found bare leaves though He searched for fruit. The Gospel records that it was not the season for figs. Jesus was obviously disappointed; he commanded, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away (Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14, 20-21).
This tree could not provide fruit to its Creator at the moment He was hungry.
My recent visit to Turkey, one of the world’s largest fig producing countries, gave me more insight into these verses. I learned that mature fig trees can produce fruit more than once in a year—plenty in season, and a few out-of-season. Fruit produced out-of-season is the breba crop, grown in the previous year’s wood. The Creator knew the capacity of the tree and looked for fruit out-of-season—the only time he wished for fruit. The barren tree was punished by its Creator and it withered away.
We are going through an out-of-season experience in these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are waiting for the ‘good season’ to come back so we can resume being fruitful for God and others again. However, we would do well to remember that the Creator, who knows our capacity, wants us to produce fruit out-of-season too. Imagine the tree telling Jesus to come back “in season” when it would provide fruit.
In his last epistle, Paul gave a powerful commissioning to his spiritual son Timothy, in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, to preach the Word and be ready “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Paul personally had an out-of-season experience in the prison at Rome. He chose to use prison as an opportunity to write about half of all the epistles he wrote. Though he was in chains, he knew the Word of God cannot be chained and he changed his style of ministry accordingly (2 Timothy 2:9).
We see medical staff members, police, defense personnel, and others ‘working’ hard in a time like this. Lockdown does not mean that we abstain from working, nor does it let us be lazy. On the contrary, it is an invitation for us to adjust and be willing to change. It is a call to give more time to things that we usually do not do very often.
Prayer and intercession are one kind of work. Fasting, studying God’s Word, writing, connecting with people and encouraging them, reaching out physically to help the needy where it is permitted—these are work. For many of us, this could also be a time to rest, rejuvenate and prepare for what is ahead.
We know what our capacity is and God will ask us all for an account of the time He gave us. Why should we wait for some changes, while our Creator is looking for fruit in us today? May God help us to be fruitful even in this season of a worldwide pandemic.