Matt Hall: The year that can make a difference

Several years ago, my pastor preached a message from Luke 13:6-9 called “The Year That Made the Difference.”

In this passage, Jesus shares a parable, an Earthly story that explains a spiritual truth, about a man whose property contained a fig tree. For three years in a row, the owner came to this particular fig tree expecting to harvest figs at harvest time.

The only problem was for these three years, there were no figs.

Frustrated, he said to his gardener, “…Cut it down! It’s just taking up space in the garden.”

In turn, the gardener offers to give it special care and plenty of fertilizer. He asks the owner to leave the tree for one more year.

After that year, he offers to cut it down if it doesn’t bear any fruit, but leaves the owner with the possibility the extra care just might pay off.

I always think of this passage at New Year’s.

Many people take the time to reflect at the end of a year and set goals for the coming year. They may be monumental goals of dramatic weight loss or drastic lifestyle change.

Those goals may be personal goals about managing time or resources better.

The goals may yet be about family or relationships.

Regardless, statistically, many of us never meet those goals.

Within a few short weeks, we get tired, distracted or fed up and go right back to the same old patterns.

We let those lifestyle changes, those relationships, that financial determination become that fig tree.

Like the owner in the parable, we become frustrated with the lack of results and tired of expecting while not seeing anything really change.

Instead of special care, we opt to remove the goal completely.

Perhaps we don’t really know how to accomplish what we’re endeavoring to do.

Maybe we just don’t have the determination to see it through. It’s so much easier to quit than it is to give extra care.

I believe it is God’s grace that gives us new years. Not just in terms of living to a new year, but that from creation, he instituted times and seasons, knowing that we needed moments to mark change and begin anew.

I believe God gives us the right to cut things down in our life. Some things aren’t good for our life and need to be removed.

I also believe Jesus was telling us that special care can facilitate actual change in our lives.

The owner wasn’t the only one concerned with the tree; he had a gardener. Someone else shared his concerns and goals. Someone else had a voice into the care and development of the tree. Someone else had a plan.

In John 15, Jesus tells us God the father is the gardener.

God has a plan. God has a methodology that can bring life back into the dead areas of your life.

I hope this new year has found you well. If not, I pray the God of Heaven and Jesus Christ will intervene in your year, for your good.

I also hope you will take the opportunity God has graciously given us all to seek out help from the gardener of our souls.

With His help, His plan and His methodology, maybe 2020 can be the year that can make the difference in your life.

Matt Hall is the youth pastor at Church of the Living God in Winchester. He can be reached at