But if you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move.'
Most of us are quite interested in moving our mountains. It's much easier, it seems, to get the mountain to move than to simply deal with it. We struggle with things like disease, debt, disaster. And Jesus does say that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we should not have to struggle. We can simply say to these mountains, "Move!"
And they will.
One of the problems we have with this is that many of us come to our mountains and bow our heads. We bury our heads in the sands of prayer, and we just don't feel the earth shake beneath our feet. We look up and our mountain is still there. We open our eyes, and life as we know it still stands between us and the sun.
Have you had this moment? Most of us have. We come upon our mountain (or more likely, it comes upon us), and our first reaction as faithful people is to pray. O Lord, we might begin, You see this mountain that has come into my life. You see all the potential trouble it may cause. You know that ain't nobody got time for this, Lord. But You've also said that anyone with faith as small as a mustard seed can move this mountain. And my faith...my faith is but small, but perhaps it's just that big, Lord. Perhaps my faith is as big as a mustard seed. I believe. I believe You can move this mountain. I believe You can make this mountain move. So move it, Lord. Move this mountain and cast it into the sea. In Jesus' holy, blessed, amazing, beloved name, on account of the incredible sacrifice the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lamb made for me, by faith in His word and His promises and Your Son, O Lord, I pray these things. Amen.
(Yes, that last bit is a bit of satire.)
Then we take a deep breath, open our eyes, and start to lift our heads. Out of the corner of our eye, we see it: our mountain. It hasn't moved a single inch. It hasn't trembled at the power of the Lord. It seems to be mocking our very prayer, our very prayer of faith. What gives?
What gives is that we have not done what Jesus said. We have not taken Him at His word. Jesus never said, But if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can pray to your Father about this mountain, and He will move it for you. He never said, But if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, whatever you ask in my name will be granted you. (That's a compilation of a couple of different verses.) What Jesus said was, But if you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move.'
You have to speak to the mountain.
That means you don't bury your head in prayer. It means you don't avert your eyes, bowing before the power of the Lord. The mountain just thinks you're bowing before its own awesome majesty. When Jesus says you can say to the mountain, Move!, you have to actually say it to the mountain. You have to believe that faith has the power over the mountain, not God.
This is a hard one for a lot of us. It's because we've been taught, and even trained, as Christians that we have to take everything to God, that our first response ought to be prayer, that it is God who can do anything. It is God who moves mountains. But God says no. It is not He who moves mountains; it is faith that moves mountains. And if you have faith, you can move them, too.
It's hard because we believe faith is going to God again and again and again. Going to God first. Going to God believing. But the truth is that faith is sometimes believing what God has already said. It's knowing that He's spoken the truth. It's trusting that what He's said is real. Faith doesn't always mean bowing your head. Sometimes, faith means lifting your eyes and declaring, Move!
I could probably write a great deal on how often we turn to God to do the things He's already told us that we should do. About how we use God as a crutch so that we don't have to act ourselves. About how it's so tempting for us to believe that prayer ought to accomplish everything when in fact, God's response is often that we act and not just pray. (And look - there is an incredible power in prayer, and certainly, it has its place. But if all we do as Christians is pray, we have severely missed the mark of what God requires of us in this world. If we think that 'faith' is 'prayer,' we're missing it.) I could probably write a great deal about that.
But this week, we're talking about mountains. And when it comes to mountains, the teaching of Jesus is this: if you want the mountain to move, you have to speak to the mountain. You don't move mountains by praying about them; you move them by telling them to move.
Now, that doesn't mean all mountains move just because you tell them to. Even when faith is involved. Because something else we have to remember about mountains is this: not all of them are meant to move.
More on that tomorrow.