For those of you who work out, you know that it is extremely tough to push yourself to your maximum potential when you are working out alone. It’s only when you have a trainer or workout partner that your full potential is pulled out of you. Because of this, during my freshman year in college, my baseball coach paired me up with an upperclassmen in order that he might push me to get everything out of me. At the beginning of the year he was a lot stronger than I was, but by the end, I had surpassed him and started to push him to work harder.
In Luke 13, Jesus tells a story that captures this concept. This is what He says:
“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ” ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ” (See Luke 13:6-9 NIV84)
This fig tree is just like us. We start out growing, producing and then, all of a sudden, we reach a place where we plateau. We end up becoming complacent, comfortable, and fail to reach our full potential. Just like when you wring out a towel when it’s wet in order to get out that last drop, we need to have someone in our life that will push us to constantly keep growing, working, and striving. Paul talks about this in Philippians 3, where he says that he hasn’t achieved his maximum potential yet but he presses, strives, and strains on to reach that goal (See Philippians 3:13-14).
I played baseball from tee ball all the way up to the professional ranks. At every level I was at, I always worked out with someone that was at the next level above where I was trying to get to. I did this because my Dad always told me to shoot for the next level. I knew if I worked out with someone at the level above where I was at, I would eventually make it to that level.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are stagnant and you don’t know why you can’t move up to the next level, take a step back to reevaluate your circumstances. Have you tried everything you know you can do? Do you have someone in your life that can push you to that next level? Start to break up the ground around you and fertilize the soil, so just like a fig tree’s roots dig deeper when the ground is disturbed around it in order to reach untapped soil, you will reach deeper inside of yourself so that you can access potential that you have never touched before.
The part I love about this parable of the fig tree that Jesus tells is that it portrays exactly how God treats us. When all hope was lost, God did not give up on us. Everyone else would have cut us down and thrown us away, but God said there is still something I can do. He said that I haven’t done everything possible that I can do in order to save us. So He sent Jesus. Paul writes “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (See Romans 8:28 NIV84) Even when we have given up on ourselves, Jesus never gives up on us. Even when we quit, Jesus never quits. Even when we fail, Jesus never fails.
Work it out today!