Faith to Move the Mountain
“Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea.’ And does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24)
This past Sunday was one of the hardest sermons that I’ve ever had to preach. It wasn’t theologically complex, it wasn’t a sensitive subject, and it wasn’t in response to any given situation. No, I had to stand before a church full of people and honestly tell them “Have faith in God. Whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Really? So, if it’s not obvious, here’s why this was so hard to preach. First, there are no qualifications. No “but’s!” No “what about(s)!” Jesus will be crucified by the end of the week and with some of his last words he urges radical faith without a “counter balance,” if you will. Secondly, isn’t this dangerous? Doesn’t this lead to despair? Doesn’t this pin the lack of the miraculous on your lack of faith? What happens when the mountain isn’t tossed into the sea? Thirdly, do I even believe this? Am I telling God’s people to do what I myself am unable to? #conviction
So, what did I do? I preached it. Despite my stumbling, mumbling, and bumbling… I preached it. Here’s why:
- Faith Qualifies Itself. Faith is simply trusting God. It’s interesting how Jesus highlights faith as central to what he says in Mark 11:20-25. So, think about it… If we are trusting God, sincerely, then we trust that God loves us, that his wisdom is perfect, and that he desires what is good in our lives (in conformity to his Son). Therefore, faith doesn’t have to demand that the mountain be tossed into the sea. In fact, faith doesn’t demand that God has to work in any particular way. True faith, or trusting in God, is resting in his wisdom. If necessary, yes, he can and will move the mountain. But, faith doesn’t “rebuke it in the name of Jesus.” Faith is not demanding. In fact, I would argue that it cannot be demanding if it is authentic. We cannot say we “trust God” if we require God to work like a genie in the bottle and grant our every desire. No, faith says to the mountain, “My God is bigger! My God loves me! My God knows what is best for me! You cannot compete with my God!” So, yes, there are times when our faith pours out of us words of power over the mountain. But faith knows that it is not we who are able to move it. God alone moves mountains according to his eternal and sovereign decree. So, genuine faith qualifies and regulates itself.
- God Didn’t Cast Mt. Calvary Into the Sea. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death. “Let this cup pass from me.” Or, in other words, “Cast this mountain into the sea.” The next day, he was crucified. Did Jesus lack faith? Of course not. As we all know, he followed up this request with, “nevertheless, not my will…” If faith regulates itself, then we accept the reality that sometimes God would have the mountain remain right where it is. Sometimes, faith requires us to throw our will into the sea rather than any mountain. So, Jesus’ words are not cause for despair. Just because the mountain isn’t moving doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of faith. No, Jesus was encouraging his disciples to believe that the impossible is possible, not leading them into hopelessness. Moreover, at least three of the disciples that were present for Jesus’ words in Mark 11 were present in the Garden with Jesus a few chapters later. They apparently saw no contradiction between what Jesus taught and what he demonstrated. They came to understand that faith isn’t a magic potion that manipulates the hand of God according to our will. Faith yields to God’s wisdom.
- God Wants You to Believe the Impossible. That’s the point. The disciples saw the power of Jesus’ words when he cursed the fig tree in chapter 11. Jesus says this same power resides with every believer through faith (Mark 11:20-21). This is unimaginable, this is mind-blowing, this is hard to believe… Yes, says Jesus! You’re on the right track. Of course we all struggle with this (including pastors!)! But, faith is a gift and one that he himself sustains. Our prayer as we read this should be, “Help us to believe this wonderful truth.” Like the father of the young boy in Mark 9 we pray “I believe! Help my unbelief!” So, if you struggle with this, you’re in good company. In fact, it’s impossible to believe outside of the Spirit’s work.
So, yes, this was a difficult sermon. Jesus refuses to let us settle for anything less than a faith that believes God is able and willing to do amazing things. So, this week what mountains do you face? Do you believe that God is able to move them? Do you believe that he loves you? Do you trust him? Be blessed. Be bold. Be faithful.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett