“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.'” (Luke 17:5-6 NIV)
Perhaps you’ve occasionally been rebuked with these words: “You just need to have more faith!” Years ago, I received that rebuke. I knew that it was meant to boost my faith effort. But instead, I felt guilty for not believing hard enough; thus the “failed” miracle.
Yet, when Jesus’ disciples asked for increased faith, Jesus essentially replied, “That’s not the issue, because a little faith goes far.” Jesus claimed outrageous outcomes for tiny-sized faith: cataclysmic shifts in nature, mountains and trees hurled into the sea. Who prays for that? Not I! It’s too far-fetched. It’s outside the scope of my imagination.
But that’s the point! We tend to limit our prayers to manageable, logical outcomes. We want God to clear away stones and ruts, so that we can continue down the familiar road of life. However, God often keeps those obstacles in place, even with tremendous suffering, to draw our faith towards “great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3b NIV). It’s about God’s incomprehensible, colossal, mountain-moving project: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low” (Isaiah 40:4a NIV). It’s God’s plan to rescue sinners and grant them Christ’s new life, through radical inner transformation. It’s about building Christian maturity and growing the kingdom of God. That’s God’s unchanging oath to humanity! It’s a colossal promise. It’s over the top!
Is our faith up to that level?
Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22 NIV) Hudson Taylor, 19th-century missionary to China, said that the verse can also be worded, “Have (hold onto) the faithfulness of God.” This alternate wording helps me. It keeps me centred on God’s faithfulness, not on my frantic faith efforts. Hudson Taylor wrote, “We need a faith that rests on a great God and expects Him to keep His own word and to do just as He promised.”
Through Taylor, God moved enormous mountains in China. God hurled satanic strongholds into the sea and transformed the most unlikely characters. The kingdom of God expanded. Over time, churchgoers around the western world learned to embrace the faithfulness of God as never before. Many became involved, and China Inland Mission became international. Funding needs were never mentioned — because “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
Surely, God can still move mountains in our lands today! Or have we forgotten? Are we forgetting to lay hold of God’s faithfulness? Isn’t that why our prayers for stone-free paths aren’t getting answered? They’re short of the mark.
Jesus promised, “If you believe (that is, if you count on God’s faithfulness to His promises), you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22 NIV) Martin Luther expressed it this way: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”
Dear friends, let’s go for it!
Prayer: Mighty God, perform Your mountain-moving work within each of us personally. Remove the stony ground of cold, calloused unbelief so that in our praying, we can more fully lay hold of Your relentless, redeeming love for people, beginning with those whom You lay on our hearts. Amen.
Paisley, Ontario, Canada
Reprinted with permission from PresbyCan