WOW Statements of Jesus
Your Faith Can Move a Mountain
November 16, 2008
Everyone has faith. Atheists have faith, agnostics have faith, Christians have faith. But what do we put our faith in? Faith in our own ability? Faith in our mind? Faith in progress? Faith in God? Jesus radically spoke to his disciples about their faith saying, “Your faith can move a mountain.” If you want to grow in your faith relationship with God, you have got to be intentional. Join Ben as he looks at this WOW statement of Jesus. He will walk through four different types of faith that are revealed to us through the story of a father and the healing of his son.
When I was in high school, I had a weight problem, believe it or not. As a senior, I was the same height I am now, which is about 6 feet, but I weighed 135 pounds. For those of you who are slow in math like I am, that’s pretty skinny! I had to dance around the shower just to get wet! When I got to college, I wanted to put on some weight. A friend of mine who had gone to a rival high school back in Houston and was a body builder worked out, so we worked out together 5 days a week for about an hour and a half a session. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but I continued to do it because I wanted to gain some weight! You know the sayings, right? “No pain, no gain! No weights, no dates! No curls, no girls!”
I bought into the whole deal and continued working out. Then I realized that working out was simply not enough to put weight on me! It didn’t work! I had to eat. I went on the full meal plan there at the cafeteria at our school. I ate all those starchy foods! I had to start eating stuff I hated, like eggs. I was scarfing down three meals a day. Then at night before I’d go to bed, I’d go get a Wendy’s double cheeseburger and fries, and a Frosty. Or we’d order a Domino’s Pizza and scarf that down.
Finally, after months and months of doing that, working out and eating like an absolute hog; I finally put some weight on, and believe it or not, one or two muscles! But the bottom line was when I was in that mode, I had to be very intentional about the way I was living my life. If I was going to gain weight and get stronger, I had to work out. I had to eat, and I had to sleep.
It’s the same thing if you’re on the other side of the problem. You say, “I’d like to drop 10, 20 or 30 pounds.” To do that, you’ve got to be very intentional. You can’t just see some abdomenizer 2010 exerciser that supposedly you use for two minutes a day and expect to look like a washboard, and think you’re going to get results. No! You’ve got to be intentional! You’ve got to have a plan of action.
This same thing is true with so many areas in your life, isn’t it? If you’re going to make it through this tough, tough economic time that we’re already in which is probably going to get tougher; you’ve got to be intentional about your finances, and about how much you make, spend and save.
If you want to become a better athlete, you’ve got to be intentional about the way you shape your life. If you want to become a better student, you’ve got to become intentional about the way you study, who you study with. So much of life and growing in life is about intentionality. But for some reason when we come into the church, I know this has happened to me before; I think I can just kind of let go and let God, and I’m going to have a big, strong faith! That’s not true! If you want to grow in your faith relationship with God; if I want to grow, then we’ve got to be very intentional.
We’re going to talk about intentionality today. I want to do that within the context of the story. Maybe one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible is found in the first book of the New Testament, Matthew 17, verses 14 through 20. We’re in a series called WOW statements of Jesus. These statements make you want to go, “Wow!” Some are like, “Yeah!” Some are like, “Uuuhhh…” Jesus gave these statements, not as some little pithy side-bar, fortune cookie. No. He gave these radical statements to conform us so that we would live out the K.O.G., the Kingdom of God wherever we go and whatever we do.
Here is the context of Matthew 17. Jesus, Peter, James and John had to have this mountain-top experience literally. They’ve come down from the mountain, and there is a fight going on. When they reached the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before Him. “‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire and into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not heal him!’ ‘Oh, unbelieving and perverse generation!’ Jesus replied. ‘How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to Me!’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed (which is the tiniest seed they knew at the time); you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you!”
This story is basically about a man who has a problem that is absolutely beyond his control. He can’t change the situation. He can’t help it get any better, and he’s been trying for years and years and years. He is frustrated and desperate because he has a child who is sick, and he wants that child to be well. That’s the heart of the passage. We’re going to get back to this father and son, this guy who has this problem that’s absolutely beyond his control to change or fix.
This story reveals to us not only the story of a father and son, but it reveals to us four different types of faith. The first type of faith we see here is what I call zero faith.
That is this faithless generation that Jesus refers to as He is rebuking His disciples. He calls them a perverse and unbelieving generation.
Most of us know who Ted Turner is. He’s the billionaire, entrepreneur, philanthropist who started CNN and TNT. Basically he’s the person who took cable television to a whole new level about 30 years ago. Ted Turner was a Christian, and at age 17, he had wanted to become a missionary. Did you know that? Something happened to Ted when he was 17. His sister developed this debilitating disease where the body kind of starts to eat itself. For three years, Ted watched his sister being eaten alive. She finally passed away when Ted turned 20 years of age. When that happened and he saw how his sister was devastating; he stopped believing in God. His faith weight went all the way down to zero. Maybe some of you can relate to that.
Sometimes a tragedy will happen in our lives, and it causes us to doubt everything we believed and trusted. We see that God didn’t intervene the way we wanted Him to, and that’s what happened to Ted Turner. He ran away from God and stopped believing in Him. Others of you have experienced tragedies that you couldn’t explain, fix or control, and that tragedy led you to God. So many times, pain and suffering polarizes us. It either draws us closer to a relationship with God, or repels us from God. But when I say zero faith, really no one operates and lives with zero faith. No one does! Everyone has faith. An atheist has faith; an agnostic has faith; a rationalist has faith; an empiricist has faith; an existentialist has faith. You can’t escape faith assumptions and live your life in this world. It’s absolutely impossible! So if you say to yourself, “I’m going to run away from God” or “I don’t believe in God” or maybe “You can’t know God;” you’re simply exchanging your faith in God to faith in someone or something else.
What is faith? There are many definitions. One would be that faith is believing without conclusive proof, but with convincing evidence. So if you’re wanting to move from a place of zero faith in God in Christ in your life; I want you to know that you are not taking a leap into the dark. You’re taking a leap into the Light. But everyone has faith.
I like the quote by Michael Guillen, a former science correspondent for ABC News and a theoretical physicist. Here is what he says, “Truth is, every one of us believes. Every one of us has faith. What divides us are the different objects of our faith; our different gods.” So the idea that you can put faith in God, or put faith in religion and find some philosophical system, some scientific method that’s going to allow you to have an air-tight, beyond-a-doubt world view; that simply doesn’t exist.
If you’re into science and stuff, look for terms like this: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; Bell’s Theorem; Gödel’s Theorem. Those words are synonyms for faith! Everybody has faith, but in what? Faith in your own ability? Faith in your mind? Faith in progress? Faith in God? We all have faith. But there are people who have zero faith when it comes to faith in God in Christ.
The second kind of faith we see here that maybe we’re a little more familiar with is skinny faith. It’s that anemic, anorexic faith of the disciples. What’s up with the disciples? What was their context? The disciples were on one of those emotional highs. Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt like God was so near, and you’re just out there, and it’s like, “Yeah! I’ve got it all figured out!” Well, the disciples were kind of having one of those moments. They’d been on tour, so to speak, and they’d been healing people. Not fake healing people; not knocking over crippled people like the folks on T.V. who claim to be healing people! No, no, no! They’d been really healing people! Blind people were seeing; deaf people were hearing. People who were in bondage to all kinds of things were being freed and liberated, and all of a sudden, this father comes who has this son that has had this problem for a long, long time. The disciples try the old formula, and it doesn’t take! The disciples are like, “What is going on? What’s happening here?” Maybe they were relying on some type of formulaic faith. But basically with the disciples; what worked last year wasn’t working this year. The faith that got them where they were a year ago was not working right now, and that is so true in so many areas of our life. What got you to where you are is not going to get you to where you want to be! So we can’t rely on last week’s faith, or yesterday’s faith, or faith from two years ago. We’ve got to have faith today! Trusting God now! Trusting God with what’s going on in our world and our context now, today. It’s about the object of your faith. Anyway, we’ll talk about that later.
What happens? How do you develop skinny faith? Some things happen unintentionally. You unintentionally kind of just stop serving. You serve so long, and you stop to take a break. You stop leading. You stop teaching. You stop giving. You stop really diving into the Word of God. You stop praying. You stop telling people about this relationship with God that He has given to you, and the great things that Christ has done and is doing. You just stop doing that. Sometimes, you unintentionally fall into this place where you wake up, and you look in the mirror, and your faith is all gone! It is skinny, and you want to get out. That’s the second kind of faith that you see here.
There is a third kind of faith, and it’s also in this story. Let’s go back to the father and the son, because the father has this problem, a problem he cannot fix. He loves his son. He wants his son to be well. He will do anything to see his son healed, but he can’t do it!
The problem is absolutely beyond his control. Have you ever been there? Have you been in a situation or a crisis, and there is really nothing that you can do to change the situation? That’s where this dad is at.
To figure out what happens here, and to see this third kind of faith; we need to look at another passage. The story of the father with the son who’s hurting is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Look at Mark 9, verses 21 through 24. It gives some more details. Jesus is interviewing this father once he comes to Him, asking about his son. “Jesus asks the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into the fire, or into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ Jesus said. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes!’ Immediately (the man almost interrupted Jesus) the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me over come my unbelief!” Or as another translation says, “But help me with my doubts!”
This father represents the third kind of faith, and it’s the kind of faith that I want all of us here to have. That is a growing faith. You say, “What do you mean a growing faith? He has doubts!” You see, that’s the problem. Many times we think that doubts are something that shows us we have a weak faith.
Let me ask you a question. Some of you know this answer; don’t answer it. What is the opposite of love? No, it’s not hate. The opposite of love is not hate. If you are in a relationship and someone has broken up with you, or they want more space; they hate you and are still mad; you’ve got a chance! The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference! Apathy! If someone has broken up with you, and they are kind of apathetic and can talk about you in a cold, rational way; it’s over baby! You’re toast! Move on!
Let’s talk about faith. The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is unbelief! Doubt is kind of a wobbly suspension bridge, if you would, between belief and unbelief; between faith and unbelief. Doubt is in between, so doubt can lead you to faith. Read the Book!
John the Baptist’s sole mission was to point out who was going to be the Messiah, and he did that before anybody else could do it. He had that gift from God to do that. But when he was in a dark time in his life, in a situation he couldn’t change, he said, “Hey, find out, is Jesus really the One?” He doubted! Thomas, one of the close followers of Jesus, even after all his friends had seen Jesus alive from the dead, doubted that Jesus came back from the grave alive.
He said, “I’m not going to believe it until I see and touch Him.” He doubted! David, a man after God’s own heart—read the Psalms! He cried out to God all the time! “God, where are You? God, how come You are not answering me? God, have You forgotten about me? Hello? God? Can You drop me a line? An e-mail? A text?” Read the Psalms! David, this great man of faith doubted! Elijah doubted! Abraham doubted! Peter didn’t doubt; he denied Jesus three times! Hello!
If the Bible has changed through the years, why do they talk about all the dirt of all the heroes of faith? Why do they pull a TMZ on all our heroes of faith? If it is a piece of propaganda, it is a bad one!
This father demonstrates what I call growing faith. Listen—you don’t have to be doubt free to have growing faith. I like what Phillip Yancey says. If you want a dose of reality, read Yancy. He says, “The fact that we worship and trust an invisible God guarantees the fact that we’re going to have doubts.” I like that!
This guy has growing faith. You say, “Why?” You see, faith is a road and not a parking spot. Faith is not simply mental cognition to a bunch of facts. Faith is a relationship with a person, and this person says, “Come and stop! If you want to be My disciples, come and just stop. Sit there, feed yourself and get fatter!” No, no, no! Jesus said what? “Come and follow Me!” Faith is a journey, not a destination! Sometimes in your faith journey, you may be at zero faith; other times you’re going to be at a skinny, 135 pound faith. Other times, you’re going to have growing faith. Hopefully it’s all about growing faith.
This father had growing faith. Faith is a road and not a parking spot. It’s a journey and not a destination. Look at what this dad did! I love this father. I love him! Look what he did! The first thing he did was to take his pain and doubt to Jesus. We all need to do this! Remember I read that quickly earlier in Matthew? He actually knelt down before Jesus—“Jesus, please!” He brought his pain and doubt to Jesus.
How do you know if you have growing faith? You have growing faith if you’re willing to take the most precious thing in your life and give it to Jesus. Maybe you’re wondering, “Why do I need to give it to Jesus? Why can’t I give it to Buddha, or Mohammed, or Krishna? Why Jesus?” Well, Jesus is God who became a Man. God; the ultimate reality has entered into our reality. The infinite has entered into the finite.
If Jesus is real, and if He came out of the grave on the third day, which He did; then I can take anything to Him at any time. I can take that which is precious and fragile in my life and give it to Him.
The father did something else too. He looked beyond the failure of the disciples to Jesus. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to get caught up in the failures of our parents? Or maybe the failures of a priest, or of a pastor and say, “I’m not going to buy into the whole Christianity deal, because they are all about a bunch of hypocrites!” See, the father could have done this. “Oh, the disciples—they can’t heal! They can’t do anything! Look at this bunch of failures!” No—he looked beyond the failure of the disciples to the One who could fix the problem—Jesus. Perhaps you need to do that. Maybe you’ve been burned by a church, or by a Christian, or parents who claimed to be Christians, but really didn’t live it out. You’ve got to look beyond the failures to Jesus Himself.
The book of Hebrews says in Hebrews 12:1 and following, “Because we’re surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.”
I like that! Even our faith is a gift from God. The Bible says that when we’re faithless, He is faithful! I’m so thankful for that. I’ve been through seasons and time periods in my life where I’ve been faithless, and I know that God has been faithful. The father pressed past the failure of the disciples. He didn’t allow the disappointment with people to prevent him from looking to Jesus. He had growing faith.
There is a fourth kind of faith here. It is what I call strong faith. That is the kind of faith I want to have. I sometimes kind of get the strings from the hem of the garment of strong faith; but there are some men and women in this community in this church who have strong faith. That is where I want to be. You ask, “Who demonstrates the strong faith in this passage?” Jesus does. You say, “Well thanks a lot, Ben! Wow! He’s Jesus!” That’s kind of the point! Of course! Jesus had strong faith. He trusted in the Father. He only did what He saw the Father doing. What did Jesus say about the problem? “Oh you unbelieving, zero faith skinny people! Bring the boy to Me! Demon, get out!” The boy is healed instantly after having been sick his whole life!
I love Luke. He was a doctor who gave much more detail about Jesus’ life. Time and time again, he said this about Jesus, “He went up early in the morning and prayed.”
Jesus had a really busy, busy life; He had a lot of irons in the fire. That’s the problem with so many of you today. You have so many irons in the fire, you put the fire out! That’s a whole other message. But Jesus would get up early after a busy, busy day, and He would pray. Jesus prayed. If you want to have strong faith; you’ve got to pray. By and large, you’ve got to be intentional about it.
There is an aspect about your growth physically, whether you lose or gain weight that you can’t control because of your genetics. There’s an aspect about your spiritual genetics that you can’t control, but you can do certain things, and you can become very intentional about having a growing or strong faith.
There are four words I want you to write down quickly. They are four words you must have to have a growing or strong faith. First of all, you must have honesty. You’ve got to be honest. If you’re at zero faith right now; if you consider yourself an atheist or agnostic, then let me ask you a question: Do you really want to believe? Do you really want to believe there is a possibility that God made you? Do you really want to believe that there is a possibility that God came to earth? Do you really want to believe that there is a possibility that God has actually spoken through a Book? Do you really want to believe? Sometimes, we think we know in order to believe. Augustine, the great philosopher and theologian says, “We believe in order to know.” If you’re skinny, and you’re weighing in at about 135 pounds of faith right now, let me ask you a question: Do you really want to grow? Do you really want it? I wish I could make you want it! At times, I wish I could make me want it! I can’t do that! But I can come to God and say, “God, I really don’t want it.” If you really don’t want it…“But God, make me want to want it! Change my heart to make me love You and want to grow in You.” Do you really want to grow? You’ve got to get honest! I love this father. He was honest about his doubts. “Yeah, Jesus, I believe You can do it; but I don’t really…I have some doubts. Help my doubts!” Go to God with your doubts.
The second word is eat. We’ve got to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat! We’ve got to eat God’s Word, and do God’s Word. You’ve got to get the Word into you, and you’ve got to live it out! You’ve got to pray. We have to get to a point where prayer becomes a lot more natural for us. It’s a difficult thing to do! If prayer is easy for you, please see me in the guest reception afterwards. Write the book! I want to buy it! Please! Prayer many times is a struggle; it’s a battle. But we need to get to a point where prayer is like breathing. Trust me; times are going to get so tough; we’re going to have to learn what that passage means in Thessalonians that says, “Pray without ceasing.” We’re going to have to pray all the time. God’s breaking up Disney World, baby! I don’t mean that literally!
But you’ve got to pray. I’ve got to pray. We all have to pray. You might say, “Ben, I wish I had your job, working at the church all the time. That’s all you do is pray and read the Bible!” I wish! It’s a lot easier for me to talk about prayer—pray, pray, pray, than for me to pray. Remember, there’s an important point we heard today that’s really deep, and that is that Jesus prayed.
The third word is connection. We’ve got to be around people who know what they’re doing. You’ve got to be around other Christians who are strong in their faith, or they’re growing faith. You’ve got to be around people like that. Whenever I get into a certain field, I want to find out who is the main man? Who is the main woman? Who is the expert in leadership? Who is the expert in business and finance? Who is the expert in this sport or this endeavor? I want to find out. If I can’t get with them, and talk to them and pick their brain and question them; I’m going to read their stuff or listen to their stuff. It’s the same way! You’ve got to connect yourself with other like-minded people! You can’t go on this faith journey and be intentional by yourself. It isn’t going to work! You need other people! God is a community. He’s One; He is Three. He has created us in community to relate and to have relationships, and to be accountable, and to love and encourage and uplift one another. You need to have community. It’s called the church. You’ve got to be part of a church. You’ve got to be plugged in to that church. You need connection.
The fourth word you need is the word focus. You’ve got to have focus. Here’s the deal about faith: Faith is about focus! It’s about the object of your faith. What’s holding you up right now? What’s preventing your epidermis from splatting on the gym floor? Is it your faith that’s holding you up right now? This is deep here—I’m sorry! It’s the chair, right? It’s the faithfulness of the chair! It’s the object.
When you get on a plane tomorrow to go on a business trip; what’s going to get you there? Your faith? No, no, no! One person gets on the plane tomorrow that has never been on a plane, and they’re just white-knuckled, gripping the chair arm—“Oh, we’re not going to make it! Oh, there’s turbulence!” They’re not expecting turbulence—“We’re going to die!” Another person gets on there, and he’s got the Wall Street Journal. He’s got the suit on, the briefcase, and he’s in first class. He’s chilling, and he’s cool. There is turbulence, but he doesn’t care, right? There is another guy who just flies a little bit, but all three people wind up at the same city at the same time, though some had no faith! The other one was like, “Yeah, I totally trust the pilot and the plane!” What got them there? Their faith? No! It’s the Boeing 737! It’s the faithfulness of the plane, and the capacity of the pilot!
So when you are thinking about growing your faith, don’t try to examine your faith by always taking your spiritual pulse. You can’t think about faith and grow in faith at the same time. It’s kind of strange. That’s like I’m really concerned about my vision, so I’m going to take my eyeball out to try to observe myself seeing. You can’t think about kissing and evaluate kissing at the same time. It’s about the object of your faith.
There was a business man who finished a hard day at work in a downtown city. He comes out and sees a little boy there. The little boy is on the block, but he’s not on the corner of the block. He’s kind of mid-way in the block. The man goes up to the little boy and says, “Hey, can I help you? Do you have a problem?” The little boy goes, “No, no. I don’t have a problem. I’m waiting on the bus.” The man says, “Well, the bus does not stop right here in the middle of the block. You’ve got to go two blocks down the road and take a right, and the bus stops there.” The little boy said, “No, no. The bus will stop here. It’s going to pick me up. I just believe it’s going to do that. I have faith the bus is going to stop here and pick me up!” The business man said, “Well, good luck to you, but I’ve got to go catch the bus!” So he walks down the two corners and takes a right hand turn. The bus pulls up, and the doors open. He walks in, and seated on the very front row of that bus is that little boy! The little boy looks up at the businessman and says, “Mister, I want to introduce you to my daddy!”
Our faith, our trust is always in a person. All you’ve got to do is get on the bus, and you’ll be in for the ride of your life! You will. Let’s pray.
God, I thank You, thank You, thank You for being patient with us. Thank You, God that You want to take us to another level of faith and trust in You. You want us to move from skinniness and zero faith to growth and strengthen in our faith. God, we need Your help to do that. We need Your help to be intentional about all the things we need to work out and do.
God, I pray for those who are here right now who don’t understand it totally. They don’t fully grasp it, but they know they desperately need You, and they need to stand and walk down front in a few moments and say, “God, I need You in my life. God, I need You to rescue me. God, I’ve really messed up, and I need for You to forgive me. I want to follow You. I don’t understand it all. I never thought I’d ever do this and walk down front in a church, especially in a gym, but today I know is my day. For some reason, You’ve been speaking to me today.” Father, give them the courage to stand and come down front in a few moments.