“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “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. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – Mark 11:22-25
Jesus was responding to his disciples’ amazement when they realized his words had true power. He cursed the fig tree when it had no fruit to offer and the next day it was withered! (Mark 11:20) They cannot fathom this uncontainable spiritual power. Maybe we can’t comprehend it either.
We are a people that value preparation and proof. We forgive after we see repentance. We strike before someone strikes us. We are preemptive, proactive, decisive, and “powerful”. Or are we? Sometimes we even call this active way of being ahead of the game being “faithful”. Jesus describes faith differently.
Faith is not belief in ourselves. Faith is believing in God. Faith is not dependent on our taking matters into our own hands. Faith is yielding matters into God’s hands. Letting go of our limited way of getting things done, and acting with faith that God is the one who actually moves the mountains. Our spiritual power is found in prayer. It is a profound act of faith. It is a vulnerable place to be.
Jesus seems pretty powerful even when he is rejected. When faced with public scrutiny and accusation, he simply continues. His mission was not to please the crowds or the authorities. It was to do what God gave him to do. That meant showing up in places that “faithful people” didn’t typically go. It meant offering mercy to those with stones in their hands, and to those crouched in shame and fear as condemnation is hurled against them. It meant teaching what God wanted people to hear. Humbly. Boldly. With Love. And a lot of prayer.
My grandfather Lester was a farmer. A man of great faith. He believed God was faithful most of all. He planted and tended the land. There were good years and hard years. Sometimes a field failed to produce a crop for unknown reasons. Occasionally weather and disease ruined entire harvests. P.E. Lester farmed and tended the land in all of those seasons. When resources were lacking, he and Grandma made sacrifices so the family had what they needed for the basics in life. They shared with their neighbors.
Grandaddy was certain of a greater vision. He knew his faithful tending would change the land and thus the harvest over time. He knew that most of it would be seen in other generations. His days were filled standing in the context he was given, and serving faithfully from that place. All the while, trusting that God was doing what he could not. He believed every seed would produce when it was given the right soil and the right environment. Grandaddy’s part was farming. The harvest, however and whenever it came, was in God’s hands. That faith grounded all of his work.
It is no surprise that his favorite chapter of the Bible was Hebrews 11. It begins like this: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. – Hebrews 11:1-2
A wise person who I only knew as a partner in prayer once shared with us, “we are not held accountable for what good things we do in the world. We can do many ‘good things’ in the world. We are held accountable, however, only for what God gives us to do.” That is what Jesus did. (John 5:19-20; John 12:49)
I’m accountable to do what God has given me to do. Moses was to lead a people out of slavery. Joseph was to marry Mary and raise a family. Paul was to plant churches and write. Martha was to show hospitality. Mary Magdalene was to proclaim the resurrection. Lydia was to provide financial support. The stories go on and on. Yours too. How are you standing in faith while you do what God has given you to do today?
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:39-40
Lord, thank you for the ways you bring forth your fulfillment in due time. Forgive us when we march ahead of you. We are so eager that sometimes we forget to trust that you are working all things for good. Stir us when we become complacent or fearful. We do trust you, Lord; and we love you. Help us today to simply move steady on with you. Thank you for not giving up on us! Amen.