"Have Faith In God"
Jesus said, "have faith in God." The scene was Jerusalem and the
time a few days before His death. In the immediate context, He had (the day
before) used a fig tree with "nothing but leaves" to illustrate the barren state
of Israel due to unbelief. He cursed that tree, and on the next day Peter
commented on the withered tree. "So Jesus answered and
said to them, 'have faith in God'," (Mark 11:22).
I am convinced, the next two verses in Mark eleven cannot be well understood or authentically applied - if we fail to tie them to these four simple words in verse 22: "have faith in God." Let's see how this works.
In the next verse the Lord said: "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says," (Mark 11:23). Verse 23 is about the power of "faith in God." A topic is announced in verse 22 ("faith in God"), then something is said about it in verse 23 and 24.
And it will be useful for us to keep in mind, this passage is not about faith in general; it is about "faith in God." There are people in the world who have faith in the sense of self-confidence. There are people with faith in men (religious leaders, dead and alive). There are people with faith in various religious systems, human creeds or philosophical methods. Mark 11:22-24 is not about generic faith; it is about "faith in God." We must let the Lord's statement in verse 22 identify and limit the subject.
Verse 23 should not be taken as a blanket promise or command to change terrain. We have no record in the New Testament of an apostle, gifted Christian or believer changing terrain (moving mountains into the sea). Nor do we have any record of a camel literally passing through the eye of a needle. The language is designed to create a visual picture; as we re-create the picture in our minds - we are led to the point. In this case, the picture evokes images of great strength and power, and the point is: Peter and the other disciples would need this kind of faith (as opposed to the unbelief demonstrated by the withered tree). L.A. Stauffer says it well: "Casting mountains into the sea is not a specific objective of the will of God or Christ, but does illustrate vividly and memorably the unlimited power of God when working through men who believe and doubt not (see Jas. 1:5-8). That is all Jesus intended by this instruction," (Truth Commentaries, Mark, by L.A. Stauffer, p.#270).
There is something in this picture for us to contemplate. We can face and conquer great difficulties by faith in God. The challenges we face in life often seem like huge mountains we cannot climb and cannot cross. Deeply rooted, active faith in God is our strength to confront these mountains and move them out of the way.
This same contextual approach (the connection back to verse 22) ought to be used with verse 24: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."
The only way to spin this verse into a blank check to get anything you ask for, is to ignore the context. Remember, the topic is identified in verse 22: "have faith in God." I cannot use verse 24 for anything that would not harmonize with faith in God. Using prayer to get anything I want does not harmonize with faith in God (see James 4:3, 1 Jno. 5:14,15). Within the realm of obedient faith in God and dependence upon His will, prayer is effective and yields good results.
When I think, live and pray by faith in God, I do not wither away like the barren fig tree; I grow and produce the fruit of faith, to the glory of God. Jesus said, "have faith in God." Do you?
"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!"
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 9.1; January 2002