In Mark 11:20-24, Peter forgets his “umbrella.” After Peter and the rest of the disciples hear Christ curse a barren fig tree in Mark 11:14, they are shocked the next day to see the tree’s condition. Peter then blurts out, “Behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away” (Mark 11:20, 21). It was not a declaration of faith but a statement of shock. He did not expect that God would do exactly what He said He would. How do we know that Peter did not have faith? Directly after Peter’s statement, Christ never again addresses the tree. Jesus simply goes directly into His three lessons on faith: the imperative of faith (v. 22), the impossibilities of faith (v. 23), and the impact of faith (v. 24). These lessons seem to have a progression with them. It first starts with the command of faith (the imperative), which leads to the life of faith (the impossibilities), that pours over into the prayer of faith (the impact).
Let’s start with the imperative of faith, the four word command in verse 22. “Have faith in God,” Jesus says. The very fact that He tells Peter and the others to “have faith” proves the omission of their faith. How often do believers omit faith by simply being shocked to see God do what He clearly declared He would do? Christ also states the object of our faith when He says “in God.” One may ask, “Isn’t God’s Word the object of our faith?” We must not separate the promise of God from the Person of God. The word of someone is only as trustworthy as the character of the person. If we have known a trustworthy person for some time, then we will believe what he says. So then why do so many believers worry? I don’t believe that they think the character of God is untrustworthy. I believe it is another reason. Let me illustrate it then explain it. Imagine you receive a knock on your door one evening. You then open the door to see a somewhat shady character staring at you. You then find out that this stranger has a suspicious story of traveling to visit his Aunt Mildred and running out of money. He then asks you for $100, which is followed by your stunned silence. Realizing your hesitation, he then promises he will pay it back next week when he travels back through town. What would you do? The bottom line is that you are not going to give $100 to a suspicious stranger with an unlikely story. The reason is because you do not have an intimate relationship with him. In fact, you do not even know him! Are you worrying about God’s provision for you right now? Does the One promising to repay you seem to be a stranger at the door? Perhaps you do not trust the Promises of the Savior because there is a lack of intimacy with the Person of the Savior.
Let’s hear the second of Christ’s lessons of faith – the impossibilities of faith. These impossibilities only occur in the life of one who has obeyed Christ’s command. Jesus says in verse 23, “That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Speaking of moving actual mountains, Jesus promises that miraculous impossibilities will come to pass. Here we see that the life of faith exercises expectancy. In the middle of the verse, the Bible says, “and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass.” Faith not only passively thinks that God can, but also actively expects that He will. When a believer exercises faith, he is fully convinced that God can do what He said. And he fully expects that God will do it, even if it means the impossible.
Are there some impossibilities in your life that you need God to take care of ? Although Jesus speaks about literal mountains, let us first apply it to moving some figurative mountains in your life. Maybe the mountain of financial worry needs to be moved. If a financial strain is stopping you from giving as the Spirit directs, you need to exercise faith by obeying God’s command to give, thus expecting Him to provide. Would you trust your Savior if He were asking for $100 at the door?
Can we not experience miraculous life changes in areas we have counted impossible to transform? What about those strongholds of the flesh and of Satan in the areas of bad habits? I am addressing especially those areas of sin that have been in our lives for years. Perhaps the sin of complaining has been in your life for so long that you have excused it as part of your personality. Maybe the habit of your constant short temper has been counted as “It’s just who I am.” In today’s times, addictions of the flesh run wild. Alcohol, drugs, nicotine, pornography, and overeating are the mountains in many believers’ lives. God can and will move these mountains if Christians will believe.
In light of the fact that faith expects, we need to see three areas that are not included in the life of faith. First, there are no exclusions. Our Savior uses the words “whosoever” and “whatsoever.” The first includes anyone and the second includes anything. Can you list on paper the “whosoevers” and “whatsoevers” not included in these two categories? No. Therefore, no one is excluded from any area in the life of faith. No one can say, “Well, I am not a preacher” or “My area of life is different.” Second, the life of faith is not based on experience. Peter had never experienced a fig tree being cursed; but he should have known it would wither because of expectant faith. I remember a young believer telling me that he did not believe in prayer. He did not believe, because God had not answered his requests. His basis was his experience. To refute the young believer, one may argue that God does answer prayer, because they have seen Him answer their own requests. Although exercising faith can help build greater faith for the future, our life of faith is not based on our experience. The life of faith is based on what God has said, “He shall have whatsoever.” We now can see the third element not included in the life of faith– experimentation. We need to remind ourselves that Jesus said “and shall not doubt.” Some will try to move mountains for the sake of an experiment. They would like to see if this really works. When God says to prove Him, He is not speaking of a half- way experiment. He is speaking of placing our full trust and confidence in Him.
The final lesson is the impact of the prayer of faith. Verse 24 says, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” The unlimited possibilities of “what things soever” are repeated throughout scripture in verses like these: Matthew 21:22, Mark 9:23, and Ephesians 3:20. The impact being made around you is directly related to the effectiveness of your prayer life. When I first realized this, it was quite convicting. Let me ask what happens “when ye pray”?
Let me challenge you to “have faith in God.” As you expect God to do what He promises, it is then that God will do the amazingly impossible through your life. Oh, one more thing. Don’t forget your umbrella.