MOVING MOUNTAINS – A MATTER OF FAITH
MARK 11: 22-24
22 ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. 23 ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11: 22-24)
Jesus has entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This is now Tuesday, and the disciples are amazed to see a fig tree, that Jesus has cursed, withered. The symbolism is clear: we are called to be “fruitful” – when we produce no spiritual fruit we will wither and die.
The “mountain” that Jesus speaks of is Mount Zion upon which the Temple was built. It was very real and very much in their view. The symbolism is clear: the mountain may be problems or troubles or fears – all things which are humanly insurmountable.
OPENING THOUGHT: THE BASIS OF PRAYER
Pete Grieg, and he is a man with great experience and understanding of prayer, declares that “prayer is relational and not transactional”. This is the basis of prayer and as such needs a bit of unpicking.
Prayer is “relational”: it is us, the children of God, communicating or relating with our Father in Heaven.
Prayer is not “transactional”: it is not formulaic. It is not a case of “if I stand in the right way, say the right words, perform the right rituals, do the right works, then I will get what I ask because I have paid for the right answer”. It is not a transaction. It is not a “business deal”.
A child knows two things about their loving and powerful father:
- That because of his love for them, they can ask him for many things, and he will answer their request on the basis of his love for them rather than anything that they have said or done.
- That because of his love for them, they can speak in their father’s name before someone who threatens them or asks them for something – for they know their father well and they know what he wants.
And so it is with us as children of God…
How many people have lost faith – even turned away from the faith – because they have asked God for something – I mean REALLY asked God for something that they REALLY wanted to happen – and…nothing happened. They look at passages like this and say “well, it just isn’t true is it!”
…must be the phrase “and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen”.
“Does not doubt” can be turned around to say: “is absolutely certain about it”.
What would make a person “absolutely certain”?
It’s not “I’m absolutely certain because I know that when I ask God for anything then I know He has got to give it to me and if I ask in faith then I have to get what I want”. This is arrogance! Let us not forget who God is. We do not order Him around!
No. It has to be “I’m absolutely certain about this because I am absolutely certain that this is what He wants”.
And the Greek words actually used make it clear that THIS is the key to moving mountains.
The key is being absolutely certain that what we want is in line with what God wants.
Does this mean that He will only answer our prayer if it is what He has already decided in any case? No. I am not saying this. A child who knows he is loved by his father will go to him with confidence on many matters having faith that what he is asking of his earthly father is something that his father can provide and is going to be happy being asked to provide.
LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT THE GREEK TO UNDERSTAND THIS BETTER
I am really fortunate in having a friend who is a philosopher, a Bible scholar and having expertise in New Testament Greek – and it is this friend who opened my eyes up to understanding this tricky problem.
The key words that we must look at are “not doubt” that in the Greek are “me diakrino”
διακρίνω (diakrinō) (Strong: G1252)
Strong’s analytical concordance gives the many following meanings for this one word:
“to separate, sever; to make a distinction or difference, Acts 15:9; 1 Cor. 11:29; to make to differ, distinguish, prefer, confer a superiority, 1 Cor. 4:7; to examine, scrutinize, estimate, 1 Cor. 11:31; 14:29; to discern, discriminate, Mt. 16:3; to judge, to decide a cause, 1 Cor. 6:5; to dispute, contend, Acts 11:2; Jude 9; to make a distinction mentally, Jas. 2:4; Jude 22; in NT to hesitate, be in doubt, doubt, Mt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23”
For our purpose the key one is that the root of the word “diakrino” is that which speaks of “discernment”.
So, “does not doubt” suggests that the person who is speaking to the mountain is one who discerns that this is what the Lord wants them to do and so believes that it shall be so! They do not speak until they are certain – have the discernment – that what they are asking is in the will of God. This is no “I just want this”; this is a real “I am certain that God wants this…” or “I am certain that God is going to give this to me…”.
And this certainty – this discernment – implies a really intimate relationship with God. Jesus had this intimate relationship (“I and the Father are one” – John 10: 30) and we too are called to have this deep, intimate, relationship with God (“Our Father in Heaven” – Matthew 6: 9)
IF THE KEY IS RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, THEN HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT WE CAN ASK HIM WITHOUT DOUBTING?
Now, interestingly, Jesus answers this question Himself, probably later the same day when He quotes what is known as the “Shema” from Deuteronomy:
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[e] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”[f] 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[g] There is no commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12: 28-31)
We are going to look at this in a lot more detail when we come to our series on Worship in a month’s time.
But we can simply say that when you love Father God then you will know what He wants.
You will know it in your:
- Heart – what does your heart, the seat of emotions, tell you is right?
- Soul – what does your soul, your spirit, God-given, tell you is right?
- Mind – what does your brain, the source of logic and understanding, tell you is right?
- Strength – what does your whole passion, your whole body, tell you is right?
When you are certain that something is right in all these areas then you can pray without doubting. You can pray in the certainty that this is right. You can pray with confidence. God will give us what we ask for.
A CHALLENGE FOR US – THIS PASSAGE IS SAYING SO MUCH MORE!
It is good to pray.
It is good to pray continually.
But, maybe the challenge for us is to pray more meaningfully – to really think things out before we commit it to God in prayer; to not rush in to asking God anything but to spend more time preparing our heart, soul, mind and strength BEFORE we come before God in prayer.
So that when we DO come to Him in prayer, we are absolutely certain – through a time of reflection – that we discern what His will is and what is really right.
So that when we DO come to Him in prayer, we do not doubt but are certain that what we say WILL come to pass.
However…MAYBE IT IS EVEN MORE THAN THIS!!
It might be good in our own hearts, with our friends, with our church family (In Housegroup meetings for example) to discuss this whole episode in the light of authority and command.
For, maybe this passage is saying that once we have faith, and do not doubt, because we have discerned (through consideration and prayer) what the will of God is, then WE can command the mountain and it will move. This is radical (in the true sense of returning to how it was always meant to be) and awesome. The suggestion here is that Jesus is saying that when we are certain that this is right then WE (having been sent out in the authority of Jesus – Matthew 28: 18-20) do not have to ask Jesus to do something but that “in the Name of Jesus” we have authority to command things to be.
Just a little – but very important – note here: if you begin to move in this attitude of faith and delegated authority beware of seeing the answer as due to YOUR power. Jesus clearly states –
it will be done for them (v. 23)
In other words – you ISSUE the command, but Jesus DOES it- lest anyone should boast.
This authority – recognising the source of the authority – is most clearly seen in the command of Peter at the Gate Beautiful to the cripple when he commanded –
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3: 6)
WOW! This is worth thinking about a bit more – isn’t it?
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT – ALONE OR WITH OTHERS
- What has struck you from reading this message?
- What do you think of the call to “pray more meaningfully”?
- Compare what Jesus says in Mark 11 with the healing of the cripple in Acts 3. Now discuss the challenge that we are given the authority to “say to this mountain” or to a cripple. Are you comfortable with this? Does it change the way you think or the way you should act?
- What do you have to do to “discern” the will of God?
- How are you going to be different from now on?