Mark 11:20-25, ERV
The next morning Jesus was walking with his followers. They saw the fig tree that he spoke to the day before. The tree was dry and dead, even the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! Yesterday, you told that fig tree to die. Now it is dry and dead!” 22 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 The truth is, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, mountain, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, then God will do it for you. 24 So I tell you to ask for what you want in prayer. And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours. 25 When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.”
Every normal person wants to feel a sense of control over the circumstances in their life. No one wants to feel weak and defeated.
In Charles Allen’s book ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH PRAYER, he begins chapter 11 with the above quote. When I read that quote, I took it very personal. No person wants to feel defeated but yet at times most of us do. Our own personal weaknesses and flaws plus circumstances that are far beyond our control render us powerless and sometimes lead to thoughts of despair and hopelessness. Dr. Allen had a friend who was a Psychologist and he made it a habit to study people as they sat in the worship service. He concluded that those who do not sing and are constantly observing others are judgmental, unhappy, skeptical and sometime cynical. They may be feeling defeated, hopeless or even despair. Jesus had a remedy….”Have faith in God. “The AV translates verse 23 like this…For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” I like that phrase, “Be thou removed” and we will get to it in a moment but first…
- The OBJECT of our Faith….Have faith IN God. Jesus did not say, “Have faith in yourself….Have faith in mankind….Have faith in religion.” The object of our faith is critical: Jesus said have faith in God. An evangelist from the South went into Canada to do a revival and it was in the dead of winter. The pastor carried the evangelist visiting and their prospect was fishing in the middle of a frozen lake. The pastor parked the car, got out and started across the ice. “Wait just a minute,” said the evangelist, “How do you know that the ice will support your weight?” The pastor laughed and assured him that it would support the entire car if he had a mind to drive it on the ice. The evangelist was a doubting Thomas and he refused to follow. The pastor told him to get in the car and that he would return shortly. He went to the center of the lake, visited with his friend and returned to the car. The evangelist was ashamed and embarrassed…he said, “I wish that I had the faith to walk on that ice.” The pastor cheerfully replied: “It was not my faith that held me up, it was the ice. I don’t have great faith. I knew the ice would support me.” Jesus said “have faith in God.” He did not say “Have faith in your faith.” It is not our faith that sustains us; it is the object of our faith that sustains us.
- The OPPORTUNITY for faith…Whosoever. Anyone can put their faith in God. You do not have to be a Jew or of any particular race or origin. It is a wide open invitation…whosoever shall say unto this mountain. As the old gospel song says, “Whosoever surely meaneth me.” The great thing about this invitation is that it does not exclude anyone. No one can stop you from putting your faith in God. You have the same opportunity to believe as anyone else. This open invitation to faith is what makes the gospel the gospel.
- The OBSTACLES to faith…Mountains…Mountains are big and majestic. They symbolize things that are big, huge, overwhelming and unmovable. Obviously, God put the mountains where He wanted them so there is no real need for moving mountains literally. I think Jesus is talking about our huge, insurmountable problems. I think He is speaking of those things that simply overwhelm us. They are so big that they seem impossible to move or remove. Do you have any mountains in your life now? I do, I confess that I have some problems that are overwhelming: I look at them and say to my soul, “There is no way.” Unfortunately, I am like the evangelist in the story above. I am by nature a doubting Thomas. I am like the father in the N.T. who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief.” He was confessing, “I have some faith but it’s not perfect because I also have some doubt.” We really run into a problem when our doubt becomes greater than our faith. My faith is so fragile that I constantly feed my faith and make every attempt to starve my doubt. Zig Ziggler use to poll his audiences. He would ask them if they believed everything in the news paper then if they believed everything in the bible. No one believed the news paper was accurate and everyone in his audiences believed the bible. He would ask them how much time they spent reading the news paper and it was usually an hour or more. Then he would ask them how much time they spent reading the bible and it would be far less than the time they spent on the news paper. He would say, “Let me get this right, you spend more time reading something you do not believe than you do something you believe.” Don’t fed your doubts. Fed your faith and starve your doubts.
- The OBJECTIVE of our faith…shall not doubt. Our objective is to have perfect faith with no doubt. If we can remove doubt and pray in perfect faith, our prayers will move heaven and earth. Jesus made it clear that mountain moving faith has no doubt just as the pastor who went on to the frozen lake had no doubt. I have to confess here. Trust, I wish I could preach but I would be dishonest if I did, I struggle with having this doubt free faith. I know several lay people who have much more faith than I do. Three of our young men had a bad automobile accident about 3 years ago. One of them was severely injured and they transported him by med-flight to HH. Everyone I talked to gave me a bad report but his father said, “He is going to make it and not only is he going to make it, he will be out of this hospital in less than 30 days.” First of all, I didn’t think he would make and secondly, getting out of the hospital in less than 30 days was impossible. This father never prays out loud at church. He is not a big talker. He is a very quiet and gentle man but he was bold at the hospital. He told his wife, he told me, he told everyone, “Our son is going to be OK” and he was right on both counts. His son survived and was out of the hospital in less than 30 days. I have never seen anything like it.
Dr. Allen said there are three kinds of people when it comes to faith….
- Those who do not believe, period. I doubt that you fit this group. If you did, you would not be reading this sermon.
- Those who do not believe completely but they want to believe. These are they who struggle with faith. They believe in God and in Jesus His son but they realize that they faith is anemic and weak. They believe but they want to believe more. [Mark 9:24,
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.]
- Those who have incredible faith like the Roman Centurion who told Jesus not to bother coming to his home, “Just speak the word,” he told Jesus and “My servant will be healed.” In my personal opinion, I am stuck somewhere in number 2 and desperately want to get to number 3.