Matthew 21:19 “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.”
One of the incidents in Christ’s ministry that has always grabbed my attention is when Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered away. It is obvious that this incident grabbed the attention of the disciples as well. They were amazed at how quickly the tree died after Jesus cursed it because of its lack of fruit. However, I believe one truth that is missed is that the moment that the fruit stopped growing was when the tree began to wither away. Jesus said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” The next two words show this tree's death sentence when it says, “And presently…” The word “presently” means at the moment or immediately. In other words, the tree immediately began to wither when the fruit stopped growing. That tree needed to keep bearing fruit in order for it to live.
This principle is critical to every believer and church. The death sentence of every believer and church is when they stop bearing fruit. Many large churches today are dying because they stopped bearing fruit. Just because a church is large does not mean that it is not dead. Many trees still stand and have leaves on them, but inside that tree is rotted. The need for the church or believer to bear fruit is critical to keep living. There are several observations that I would like to point out about the death sentence of fruitlessness.
First, the fruit from the past doesn’t suffice for fruit today. It didn't matter that this tree had likely bore fruit in the past; it only mattered that this tree presently had no fruit on it. The fact that your church or life used to bear fruit doesn't excuse your lack of fruitlessness today. God is not interested in what you used to do for Him, but He is interested in what are you doing for Him today? You are dying a slow spiritual death if the only fruit you have to talk about is the fruit from the past.
Second, the moment that fruit stops is the moment that death steps in. You will notice that the fig tree IMMEDIATELY began to wither away at the moment when there was no more fruit growing on the tree. Likewise, death sets into the church when that church no longer bears fruit. The reason it ought to bother a pastor when nobody is being saved or baptized is because that is the moment that death sets in. All it takes for a church to have death set in is for one week of no fruit from any church member. Let me also say that the first week you stop having fruit as a believer is the very week that death begins to corrupt your spiritual life. If you don't want to die spiritually, you must keep bearing fruit weekly.
Third, fruitlessness is a result of powerlessness. To wither means there is no power left. My friend, it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to bear fruit. You ask why some bear fruit and others do not; the answer is simple, the Holy Spirit’s power is not empowering the work in that church or believer. The need for the church or believer to be empowered is critical to the fruit of that church or believer.
Fourth, the death sentence of fruitlessness is a slow death. Many churches are slowly withering away because they have stopped bearing fruit. Many believers who once used to be vibrant and contributed to their church are slowly withering away because they stopped bearing fruit. You had better keep bearing fruit if you don't want to die a slow death.