God’s Big Promises – 6. You Can Move Mountains God’s Answer to Impossibility Mark 11: 22 - 24
God’s Big Promises – 6. You Can Move Mountains God’s Answer to Impossibility
Mark 11: 22 - 24
“If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11: 23 We all have the same question when we read these words: Is this for real? When Jesus talks about a mountain being cast into the sea, should we take him seriously? I have never seen a mountain cast into the sea. I’ve done my share of traveling and have been to some amazing places. I’ve been amazed more than once and left speechless many times. But I’ve never seen a mountain cast into the sea. That’s precisely our problem with this text. Jesus invites us to talk to a mountain and command it to be cast into the sea. Not only have I never seen a mountain cast into the sea, I’ve never talked to a mountain either. As I think about it, I don’t know anyone who has. To go one step further, I’ve never thought to myself, “I wish I could cast that mountain into the sea.” Why would anyone want to do that? What are we to do with this text? Our first inclination is to explain it away somehow. We’re in a series called God’s Big Promises: God Says You Are, You Have, You Can, You Will. It would be hard to find a bigger promise (or a more unlikely one) than this one. I invite you to take a journey with me. Let’s see if we can discover what Jesus is saying to us.
1. The Command
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. Mark 11: 22 How simple this is. Only 4 words—“Have faith in God”—yet how revolutionary they are. Either God is or He isn’t. And if He is, that changes everything. The voice from the burning bush told Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent you. What does that mean? The only further explanation is “I AM that I AM,” which points to God’s eternal self-existence. If you know that “God is” and that He is the great “I am,” you know the most fundamental truth in the universe. In Psalm 81: 10 God gives a wonderful invitation to his children, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Ask what you need, God says, and I will do it for you. People often call Jeremiah 33: 3 “God’s telephone number” because it contains a very clear promise: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” So much of what we pray is just details. That’s a challenging thought. It’s not that the details don’t matter. They do, but sometimes our prayers suffer because our vision is so small. If we want to honor God, we will believe what he says and then act on that belief by praying large prayers that require an Almighty God to answer them. During a drought, a pastor called his church to a special prayer meeting to ask God to send much-needed rain. Though it was a bright and cloudless day, Mary came with an umbrella. Why? “Since we’re praying for rain, I thought I should bring an umbrella.” Everyone chuckled and the minister laughed. As they were praying, the winds rose, the clouds rolled in, and sure enough, the heavens opened and down came a shower of rain. Mary was dry while the congregation went home wet. That’s what faith does. It brings an umbrella to a prayer meeting when you are praying for rain!
2. The Example
“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11: 23 In one sense, this is clearly hyperbole: Jesus uses an absurdity to point out the great possibilities of prayer. But the words are literal in this sense. When he says “this mountain,” I think he was standing on or perhaps pointing to the Mount of Olives, a literal mountain the disciples had walked on many times. That particular mountain might be cast into the sea. It’s not as if Jesus is saying, “Peter, you can do this. You can take the Mount of Olives and cast it into the Mediterranean Sea.” That’s not the meaning. Peter couldn’t do it, neither could James or John or any of the apostles. For them, it was a total impossibility. But it wasn’t impossible for God! That’s the whole point. Remember the context. Jesus has just cursed the fig tree, and the disciples marveled that it withered so quickly. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “So you were amazed at what I did to the fig tree? What I did to the fig tree, I can do for any mountain you face if you have faith in God.” For a disciple to cast a mountain into the sea, 2 conditions must be met, both humanly strange: He must talk to the mountain. He must not doubt in his heart.
What’s the hardest part about casting a mountain into the sea? Most people would probably answer, “Having faith,” or “Not doubting in your heart.” I submit that the hardest part is having the courage to talk to the mountain in the first place. What kind of person looks at a mountain and talks to it? If you do that on a regular basis, people will begin to question your sanity. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus tells his disciples they must do. When you speak to the mountain of impossibility, you are doing what Jesus said to do. Here’s Philip Yancey’s definition of faith: “Faith is believing in advance in something that will only seem logical when seen in reverse.” Sometimes (often, in fact) God calls us to believe him for things that humanly speaking make no sense. But when we dare to believe God, we see in retrospect how logical it was. But we must believe God first even when it defies “common sense.” We all have mountains of difficulty in our lives. Sometimes they are great tasks laid before us and we have little personal strength with which to meet them. Sometimes those “mountains” are broken relationships or habits of sin. Your “mountain” may involve believing God regarding a health issue or a loved one who is far from the Lord. Or it may mean trusting God amid a failing marriage. One major part of seeing the mountains move in your life is having the courage to speak to the mountain because you believe God can cast it into the sea.
3. The Application
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11: 24 This promise has 3 parts - It is comprehensive - “Whatever you ask for.” It is conditional: “Believe that you have received it.” It is definite: “It will be yours!” Note the change of tenses: There is the present: “whatever you ask for.” There is the past: “you have received it.” There is the future: “it will be yours.” We are to pray in the present, with the assurance God has already granted our request, even though the answer will not come until the future. Because God is God, we may be sure he is at work answering our prayers even before we pray them. Because God lives outside of time, the prayers we pray today are certain of fulfillment yesterday, even though we won’t receive the answers until tomorrow! Think about that for a while. One other point should be made. Sometimes when we pray, we have a promise of a specific blessing and we may then pray with total confidence. But often we pray not knowing what God will do. Not every prayer falls in the category of v. 24 because God doesn’t always give us that kind of faith. Jesus Christ is God. He is the King of Kings. He governs the universe. Sometimes when we pray, God gives us faith to believe for amazing things. Other times we pray with less certainty, still trusting that the Lord knows what is best. In light of Jesus’ teaching, we may draw the following applications. When we pray, we should: Pray for something definite,
Say it out loud,
Don’t question God’s ability,
Persevere in prayer,
Wait for God’s answer.
Let no one think that these words of Jesus don’t apply to us today. Mountains fly into the sea all the time. We don’t see it because we’re not looking for it.
No Prayer Offered in Faith Can Fail
Sometimes God answers exactly as we have prayed. Often his answers come in a different fashion. The answer may be delayed, or the Lord may substitute something better, or he may give us grace to bear what we asked might be removed from our lives. Yet in all this, God still answers prayer. God always answers believing prayer. Always! The only limit on prayer is the will of God. If our prayers are within the circle of God’s will, we may ask what we will and God who knows all things will answer our prayer according to his will. That’s the Big Promise for today: You can move mountains. It’s in the Bible, and we can all read it. Are we willing to believe what Jesus said? There is another way to say it. By yourself, you can never move a mountain, but God can. So ask him! Ask him to do what only he can do. When faced with a mountain of impossibility, go to the Lord and beg him to move that mountain for you. In the end prayer is not a burden, not a duty, but a blessed privilege. We should not pray because we must but because we want to. Why bother praying if you don’t believe God will answer you? Let us pray with confidence, expecting God will answer our prayers. Nothing is too great to ask and nothing is too hard for the Lord.
So let the people of God keep on praying. Claim God’s promises. Say to the mountain, “Be cast into the sea.” Then stand back and see what the Lord will do.