Recently I was reading the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13:6-9). Although the owner condemned it for not producing figs, and told the vinedresser to remove it, the vinedresser pleaded a stay of execution, asking permission to tend the tree particularly carefully and to see if it produced figs the following season.
As I reflected on this parable it occurred to me there is a parallel with us and the role leadership should have in our lives. We each have potential which God has implanted. However, frequently we do not fully achieve it. Jesus does not condemn us to being ‘cut down’ for being unfruitful yet I felt that this story showed me something of a leader’s responsibility, namely to help us recognise our potential and the fruit we should be producing, and then to ‘manure’ us to help us to make this fruit healthy. Gifts from God are for using to nourish others and need to be nurtured.
Possessional or situational?
Do we possess certain gifts or are they given by God for a particular situation? Pragmatically the answer has to be ‘yes’ to both. Clearly we recognise that people operate more comfortably with some gifts than with others. To that extent they ‘possess’ them. If you are seriously ill you may well seek out someone who has a track record with the gift of healing or of faith. However, there are also times when God gives a gift for a particular situation.
I remember many years ago visiting a man who was about to marry a friend of mine. I had met him only once and was concerned that he was not a believer and, with his agreement and that of my friend, I went to share the gospel with him. The date for their wedding was imminent to allow him to have surgery soon after the honeymoon to replace both hips.
After I arrived (having prayed in tongues the whole way) I asked him to read certain scriptures, but he was unable to do so as he had forgotten his glasses. Then, as I read them to him I noticed he was not concentrating; he appeared to be looking at the Bible on the seat beside him. He interrupted to say that he could see the words clearly, and finished reading the passage I had started.
At that point my faith soared. I told him that I felt his hips would be healed and that he could walk freely. He got up, went outside, and ran along the road! It was not difficult to persuade him that God cared for him, and I had the great privilege of leading him to the Lord.
Sadly, after their wedding his hips reverted. Why? I do not know. But I do know that God gave me faith for the situation beyond anything I had ever experienced previously although I have rarely prayed ‘successfully’ for healing and do not consider that I possess that gift. I am delighted to say, incidentally, that this man continued to walk with God.
Next time we shall begin to look at what constitutes a Spiritual Gift and I will suggest some categories as a way of helping to grasp some of their attributes.