Without faith its impossible to please God, and, without faith it is impossible to move God. And if we don’t move God, we won’t move any mountains.
In 1968 the world came together to save the famous ancient Egyptian site of Abu Simbel. For 3,000 years it stood until in the 1950’s the Egyptian government built a dam across the Nile river. They soon realized that as the dam caused water to backup the water threatened to submerge the Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel is two temples carved into the mountainside and has 4 statues standing 70 feet high at the entrance. The whole site was literally taken apart, moved and rebuilt 200 feet higher up the mountain. The project required 4 years to complete, over 2,000 scientists and engineers and laborers, a total of more than 10 miles worth of cuts; 31,000 tons of stone, 16,000 stone blocks and $40M from more than 50 countries.
Perhaps man can move mountains. Of course, Jesus said there is a different way: pray.
Our sermon title this morning is Mountain Movers and it comes from Mark 11:20-26. Jesus talks about praying and moving mountains in a peculiar moment. Peter sees the fig tree that Jesus cursed has withered and rotted and he points it out to Jesus. When Jesus responds to Peter He doesn’t even mention anything about the fig tree. Instead He explains the way to get what you ask for in prayer. It’s another one of those “pedagogical pivots” Jesus does.
What’s the connection? Well, knowing Jesus, there is a connection. Clearly Jesus had prayer on His mind, earlier in the Temple He said, “My house will be called a house of prayer….” So, here’s what I surmise: Jesus’ power is the focus. Peter was awed at the fig tree’s dying merely by the curse Jesus gave it. Now Jesus is going to use that as a teaching point about prayer: the same miraculous power and divine authority Jesus has to destroy that fig tree by a mere word is the same power available to the Apostles when they pray in faith. Prayer is the theme, and praying in faith is the lesson. Look at how explicit Jesus is in verses 22-24. Is there something for us in this?
Mountains are difficult obstacles. They are situations that humanly cannot be overcome. And Jesus tells the disciples in this text how to be mountain movers.
There are 3 things to becoming a Mountain Mover: Asking, Believing and Forgiving.
#1: A Mountain Mover Asks
Look at verse 24, “whatever you ASK for in prayer…” Nothing will be done if nothing is asked for. “You have not because you ask not” James said (Js. 4:2b). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knok and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt.7:7-8).
Asking is born out of our relationship with God. God knows us and we know God. If we know God then He is who we turn to and ask of.
We ask repeatedly. My rule is that as long as I have not yet received what I’m asking for I’m not going to stop asking. If it is for God to move in someone else’s life, and that person is still alive, then I not stop asking. Be the widow of Luke 18. Be the Gentile woman of Mark 7.
#2: A Mountain Mover Believes
Read verses 22-24 and look at the language. Again Jesus points us to faith. Without faith its impossible to please God, and, without faith it is impossible to move God. And if we don’t move God, we won’t move any mountains. Now, moving mountains is a figure of speech.
- When the disciples couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy Jesus told them it was because their faith was so small. Had they faith at least as small as a mustard seed then they could tell a mountain to move and it would move. (Mt. 17:20). Jesus essentially was saying that they were trying to do something spiritual apart from faith in Him: apart from me you can do nothing, He said. With you this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Let’s ask ourselves how often we try to do the “Christian life” without faith. The disciples tried to cast out the demon without faith and it failed.
- When the disciples were overwhelmed by Jesus’ demand to forgive 7 times 70 in a day, He told them “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mulberry tree ‘Be uprooted and planted by the sea’ and it will obey you.” (Lk. 17:6). The mulberry tree, a big tree with strong roots, was a picture of unforgiveness. Jesus said faith was the key to one’s ability to forgive. Mountains and mulberry trees are figures of speech for things that are very difficult – if not impossible – for humans.
- Paul wanted to show how important love was compared to doing amazing feats, so he spoke with hyperbole in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2…if I have faith that moves mountains but have not love I am nothing…. Moving mountains is a figure of speech.
Mountains refer to something difficult or impossible. When something is brought up people laugh at it because it’s ridiculous to think that that something could happen. And there are things that are ridiculous to think could happen if you’re not factoring God into the situation.
Do we look at situations as though God is real and a factor in the situation?
Let me give you some examples.
- “We’re dead Moses! Thanks for leading us to the Red Sea. Now we’ve got nowhere to run! Pharaoh and his armies have us cornered with the Red Sea behind us.” (Ex. 14). They see their situation as though God is not part of it. All they see is themselves, Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. Then God splits the Red Sea, saves the nation and drowns Pharaoh.
- Here’s another one: “Where are we going to get water Moses? Thanks a lot for leading us out into the desert just so we could die of thirst!” (Ex. 17). That’s what the leaders of Israel complained about. All they saw was them, the desert, and no water. Then God brings water out of dry rocks.
- Here’s another one: “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are. They are too large for us. We are like grasshoppers compared to them. We cannot go into that land and defeat them.” (Nu. 13:31-33). Essentially its the same thing as saying God can’t help us.
I call it practical atheism: meaning we believe God is real but we don’t think about our situations as though He is real. If God is factored in it changes your perspective. “Enemy advancing against me? No worries, God is with me.” “No water? No worries, God can bring water from anywhere” Like that time in 2 Kings 3 when God told the Israelites to dig ditches in the desert because He was going to send water. They dug, and they drank.
Here’s a situation where God was factored in: “They’re out of wine at this wedding.” (Jn 2). Mary, Jesus’ mother wasn’t fretting or worried. She pointed out the problem to Him, she brought the problem to Him because she knew with Him the problem could be solved! If you approach Jesus like Mary did, you will get answers.
We see that when you factor God into a situation you now see there is the possibility for something to happen that otherwise couldn’t happen if God weren’t part of it. And, you also see that when you factor God into a scenario you seek Him out to do something about it. For example, we hang all our bikes up on the ceiling of the garage. The kids cannot get them down by themselves. If I’m not home, then I’m not part of the situation so the situation is hopeless for them.
However, when I pull in the driveway, I’m now there, I’m now a factor in this domestic dilemma. Now there is hope for the bikes to come down. Guess what they do? They run up to me and ask (and ask and ask and ask) that I get the bikes down for them. You see? When they know I’m there they know the situation can be different and the seek me out to do something about it.
THAT IS PRAYER!! Judge how much you factor God into your life situations by how much you pray and seek Him out regarding those situations. If I came home and my kids just sat on the porch moping saying “Dad can’t do anything, he can’t get the bikes down” and they ignored me when I pulled in the driveway, that I imagine is how we tend to act. But they know I can do what they can’t. They know I can move that mountain for them and get those bikes down. That’s why I am given no rest until I give them what they want. 🙂
#3: Mountain Movers Are Bitter-Free
verse 25….Read Mt. 18:23-34…..
The Christian lifestyle is a forgiving lifestyle. Forgiving others blossoms out of the awareness that God has forgiven us. Our bouts with unforgiveness may just be due to the ignorance of just how much God has forgiven us. The Unforgiving Servant (Mt. 18:21-35).
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness means to cancel a debt. It means that you no longer view someone in light of what they did to you to hurt you. You “erase” it from your perspective. The Bible uses phrases like “God will take your sins as far from you as the east is from the west.” Or, “I will remember your sins no more”. Or, “I will blot out your sins”. It all means the same thing: that God is no longer seeing us in light of our sins against Him. That’s how we forgive. Here are 3 proofs if you’ve forgiven someone:
- You no longer bring it up to the other person. If you still use what they did against them and throw it in their face or use it as leverage then you’ve not forgiven. You can’t weaponize someone’s past faults if you say you’ve forgiven them.
- You no longer bring it up to other people. Every conversation just seems to lead back to the same issue with so and so from way back when. We keep reliving what they did in every conversation with other people and venting on everyone our anger about it. But we say we’ve forgiven.
- You no longer bring it up to yourself. If you’ve forgiven then you won’t keep thinking about their fault and playing it over and over again.
Don’t pretend with forgiveness. If you’re bringing it up to the person, to others and to yourself, you haven’t forgiven. Think about it: Is that how God forgives? God doesn’t “forgive” us, and then keep reminding us of our past sins He forgave us for. God doesn’t bring up our sins to other people anymore when He forgives us. God doesn’t bring up our sins to Himself anymore. He “remembers them no more”. He “puts them behind His back”, meaning basically He puts them out of His view.
Your prayer life suffers as your bitterness succeeds. You won’t pray much if at all, and, you won’t have answers to your prayers. You’ll never move mountains. This is what Jesus is getting at. If we want God to act for us we must act like Him. He’s forgiving. God won’t answer our prayers if we don’t forgive others. Isn’t it sad?
Worse, it says he won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others. Here is that idea of justice again: God treats us how we treat others. It’s not karma, its God.
How many Christians will never have a prayer answered their whole lives because they won’t let go of anger and bitterness and grudges towards someone? God expects forgiveness because He Himself is forgiving. “Bear with each other” Colossians 3:13 says, “and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
- Are you sinning with bitterness? Do keep saying you’ve forgiven but you keep bringing it up? To them, to others, or to yourself? Take some time here to silently reflect and confess your bitterness to God.
- Are you sinning by unbelief? Do you not come to God in faith when you do come to Him? Do you just go through the motions, thinking that God is pleased with the mechanical motions and the mindless reciting of prayers? Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.